Acupuncture for headaches during pregnancy

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It is fairly common during pregnancy to experience headaches. This is true regardless of whether or not you were prone to headaches before you fell pregnant. Your hormone levels are flooding, your blood flow is being shunted from its regular course to the developing contents of your uterus, and your overall blood volume is increasing. This can produce a significant change in the circulation of the fluids and the energies of your body. And as the TCM saying goes, “Where there is pain; there is no circulation. Where there is circulation, there is no pain”.

A recent study published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine examined whether acupuncture could safely help pregnant women who were suffering from tension headaches. They divided 43 women who were being conventionally treated with lifestyle modifications and stretching into 2 different groups. One group received the routine care only, and the other group received routine care plus acupuncture treatments.

The researchers assessed the severity and disability caused by each woman’s pain (including its affects on mood, sleep, and work) using a Numerical Rating Scale (NRS). The researchers measured the differences in scores between each woman’s first visit and her last interview after 8 weeks of treatment. They then compared the scores of the 2 treatment groups.

The women who received acupuncture demonstrated statistically significant improvements in their pain. They also reported using less medication and had a greater improvement in mood and sleep when compared to the control group. And importantly, there were no reports of any important adverse effects related to either the acupuncture treatment or to the outcome of the pregnancy.

This prospective, randomized, controlled study suggests that acupuncture safely alleviates tension-type headaches during pregnancy. So, if resting and a cold compress aren’t helping to ease your pain, there is another option available which can reduce or eliminate your need for pain killers (which are best avoided if possible during pregnancy). I have worked with many women who have indeed found benefit by incorporating acupuncture into their pre-natal care plan.

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