Chinese Medicine and Preventing Preterm Labor
November is recognized as Prematurity Awareness Month. According to the March of Dimes, preterm birth rates have risen in the United States for the second year in a row. A preterm birth is considered anytime before the 37 week mark and affects one in 10 women. Risk factors include a previous premature baby, multiple births, an interval of less than 6 months between pregnancies, IVF treatment, stress or trauma, problems in the uterus, placenta, or cervix, poor nutrition, not enough weight gain during pregnancy, infections, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Maintaining a healthy pregnancy full term, 37 to 40 weeks, is the ideal to give the baby the optimal time to develop in the womb and prevent infant mortality rates the first year of life. It also protects mother during her postpartum phase.
Did you know acupuncture is helpful for mothers at high risk or with a history of preterm labor. Regular treatment will help to support a woman’s qi and blood, reduce stress, support mama and baby during pregnancy, and prepare the body for a healthy labor and delivery.
The developing baby goes through incredible changes throughout the whole pregnancy; the final weeks prior to delivery see particular changes in the liver, lungs, and brain. Babies born prior to 32 weeks may be at risk of breathing problems, difficulty feeding, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, and hearing and vision problems not to mention the emotional toll it can take on the mama and family. Warning signs of preterm labor include contractions consistently every 10 minutes prior to 37 weeks, pelvic pressure, change in vaginal discharge, low backache, and period cramps. If you believe you are experiencing preterm labor call your care provider right away.
Premature babies usually have low birth weight, length under 18 inches, fine hair all over the body, low body temperature, labored breathing, and weak reflexes affecting sucking and swallowing.
There are many reasons preterm labor may occur. In Chinese medicine it is believed that this arises from a deficiency in qi and blood, weak spleen function or stress that aggravates the liver qi, and excess pathogenic heat in the body. These triggers affect the uterine environment and may put the fetus at risk due to the premature ripening of the cervix and promoting contractions too early.
Your practitioner will support you by addressing these issues and nourishing the fetus. Moxibustion, the art of heat therapy, may also be used to warm the uterus and harmonize the Chong and Ren meridians which are strongly related to reproduction. In clinical practice I find acupuncture is best used bi-weekly in the 1st and 2nd trimesters and weekly in the 3rd. If you have been given a diagnosis that puts you at risk of preterm delivery by your care provider call your acupuncturist today to see how they can help!