Acupuncture During Pregnancy (And Beyond)

Seattle, Tacoma & Bellevue Clinics

I value a blend of Eastern and Western medicine and the exceptional providers at Acupuncture NW & Associates and I collaborate to help the families I work with achieve their goals.  - Erica Wikan, CNM, 

University of Washington - Montlake Midwives (excerpt from full text found here)

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Pregnancy Card

Many people ask if acupuncture is safe during pregnancy and the answer is: yes! Just make sure that you see an acupuncturist that is trained in pregnancy acupuncture.

Here at Acupuncture Northwest & Associates, our Seattle, Bellevue and Tacoma acupuncture clinics specialize in pregnancy acupuncture. We treat women from the moment of preconception through pregnancy into the postpartum period and beyond. When we say the “moment of preconception”, we are drawing on the idea that as soon as you know that you want to have children in the future (this appies to both men and women) that is when you should begin preparing for pregnancy. For more information about the preconception period, see our fertility section.

Pregnancy Card

In this section, we will talk about acupuncture for pregnancy and how Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can support you through each of the trimesters and rebuilding afterwards for a healthier future and/or preparing for another child.

  • We will discuss how pregnancy acupuncture can help with miscarriage prevention and easing nausea in the 1st trimester.
  • Then we will look at the 2nd trimester and how pregnancy acupuncture can treat issues that arise during the second trimester.
  • In the 3rd trimester, we work on Labor Prep Acupuncture to prepare the body for labor and turning breech babies.
    • We also teach a Labor Prep Acupressure Class to help the couple prepare for labor at home and for the partner to learn effective strategies for pain reduction during labor. 
  • Finally, in the 4th trimester, the postpartum period, we will look how postpartum acupuncture can support the new mother through mother warming and acupuncture to support lactation, reduce depression, anxiety, pain and other postpartum issues. 

We are fully committed to helping you give birth to a healthy baby and want to be with you every exciting step of the way.

Learn more about what Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine has to offer in each of the 4 trimesters.

First Trimester

Often to a woman’s surprise, the time of pregnancy can be as emotionally and physically difficult as the preconception phase. Many of our patients have struggled so long to even get pregnant that one would think that pregnancy would be a time of joy and elation. Instead it is often a period filled with fear and anxiety for this group of newly-pregnant women.

Fear of miscarriage or pregnancy loss often drives the anxiety. Even though miscarriage is a very common and natural event (25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage), after the long road of a fertility patient, this is just an added worry along the way to parenthood. That’s why Chinese medicine can be so reassuring at this stage of the journey. For centuries, Chinese medicine has worked with newly-pregnant women to prevent a miscarriage. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can often help during the First Trimester with common issues such as:

  • Miscarriage prevention
  • Alleviating morning sickness
  • Spotting or bleeding (which can be perfectly normal)
  • Reducing fatigue

We often see patients weekly through the First Trimester. Because we are a fertility practice, it has often been a difficult road for many of our patients to get pregnant and they like the help and comfort that acupuncture brings.

Click here to read an excerpt of Stephanie Gianarelli’s book about Chinese medicine and the 1st trimester.

Acupuncture Northwest & Associates has pregnancy acupuncture clinics in Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue.

Second Trimester

As women pass out of the First Trimester, the chance of miscarriage drops, and they often begin to feel better physically. As we tell our patients, it takes a lot of energy to make a baby (in the First Trimester), but it takes less energy to make a baby bigger, which is what happens in the Second Trimester.
Women typically receive treatment once a month during the Second Trimester, although some patients want or need to come more frequently depending on how they are feeling, what their history of pregnancy is and complications they may have. We encourage patients to call us (as well as their Western provider), whenever new symptoms arise.

Below is a list of some common ailments that are often well treated by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Hypertension
  • Back pain
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety/Stress
  • Carpal tunnel
  • PUPPPS (skin itching)
  • Incontinence
  • Swelling
  • Fatigue

Call with any other symptoms that arise and talk to one of our practitioners (also call your Western medicine provider).

Third Trimester

As the woman heads into the Third Trimester, the honeymoon of the second trimester gives way to preparing for labor. The weight and size of the baby often begins to become more difficult as well.
Mothers to be will often get acupuncture during the Third Trimester to help with:

  • Labor preparation
  • Aches and pains
  • Breech positioning

Labor Prep Acupuncture

Labor Prep acupuncture and acupressure is one of the best kept secrets of Chinese medicine. When a woman prepares for labor using acupuncture at the office and acupressure at home, the results can be dramatic. If we have a very committed couple doing the acupuncture and acupressure leading up to delivery, it is amazing the stories they come back with how well the birth has gone! It is highly worth it to take the time to prepare for labor with acupuncture and acupressure.

Our goal is to have every pregnant person go into labor already dilated to 8 cm. We work very hard with women from 36 weeks onward to help them and their bodies get prepared for labor. We use acupuncture and have support people do acupressure both towards this end - prepare for labor so that the birth is efficient and the woman's body is prepared.

Labor Prep Acupuncture and Acupressure Can:

  • Reduce stress hormones. Stress can cause oxytocin levels to drop and labor contractions to slow down.
  • Help to dilate and ripen the cervix.
  • Help prepare the body for labor to start naturally.

Learn About Labor Prep Acupressure

Breech Position Acupuncture

During the last trimester, it is possible for your baby to turn (or not turn) in such a way as to be considered a breech position, i.e. not in the accepted cephalic or head down position. If this happens and you want to avoid a C-section, Traditional Chinese Medicine may offer help in turning the baby.


Treatment is generally given between weeks 30 through 38, with week 34 being the optimal time.Treatment involves the burning of an herb called mugwort (moxa) over a point on the fifth toe.


Applying heat to this point appears to stimulate production of placental estrogens and prostaglandin, both of which are maternal hormones. This hormonal increase encourages uterine contractions, which in turn stimulates fetal activity.


In a 1998 study in The Journal of the American Medical Association, 75.4% breeches successfully turned in the moxibustion intervention group compared to 47.7% in the control group.  260 pregnant women diagnosed with breech positioning, who were otherwise healthy, were randomized into two groups: the intervention group received moxa treatment; the control group received no treatment other than routine care. All were at 33 weeks gestation. This study has been replicated several times with as high as a 90% success rate. See the Research Page to read the studies.

(Please note that insurance doesn't cover acupuncture to help turn a breech baby. They should, feel free to contact your HR department. The good news is that it is only 1-2 visits. See the I'm new page for costs.)

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I send all of my OB patients for labor prep to Acupuncture Northwest & Associates
- Tacoma OB/GYN
I call Matt the baby whisperer. My body went into labor shortly after seeing him.
- Anonymous
Thanks so much for the effort to induce my labor back in August. I think that the work you did helped soften up my cervix to really make things go smoothly and quickly.
- - T.D.