Don’t Press There! Acupuncture’s Forbidden Points for Pregnancy

Don’t Press There! Acupuncture’s Forbidden Points for Pregnancy

As the popularity of acupuncture has grown, so has the notoriety of the so-called ‘forbidden points’ of pregnancy. As someone who’s been through a couple of pregnancies, I know well the anxiety it can provoke to have such a small and vulnerable person so reliant upon your care. Pregnancy can make the most benign of daily encounters feel dangerous-turkey sandwiches, canned tuna, hair dye, pedicures, massages.

In acupuncture school, I learned (as all acupuncturists learn) about a certain set of points that should not be used in pregnancy for fear of causing labor or otherwise putting the pregnancy at risk. I do believe that knowing about these points is very important, but I also think that their danger has been greatly exaggerated, especially amongst the general population. Research looking at side-effects of acupuncture for pregnant women has not uncovered any increase in miscarriage, preterm labor, or any other danger to the pregnancy.

Pedicures & Massages

One area that I’ve noticed a lot of fear amongst pregnant women is around having a massage or pedicure. There is an unfounded belief that a massage therapist or nail technician could inadvertently press on one of the ‘forbidden’ points are cause miscarriage or labor. Please, I urge you, go get that massage or pedicure! There is no danger!

For an average, healthy pregnancy, no amount of pressing or prodding these acupuncture points will have a detrimental effect. To give a little bit of perspective, when I’m working with women who are at term and trying to get labor started, I’ll have them press these points deeply for several minutes at a time, a couple of times per day in order to jump-start the labor process. Even a deep massage won’t give the points that kinds of stimulation.

For women who have had threatened miscarriage or experienced pre-term labor, intense, direct pressure at the ‘forbidden points’ should be avoided. You may feel more comfortable in a massage situation if you are aware of which points can be problematic, just in case your therapist isn’t.

The ‘Forbidden Points’ of Pregnancy

Spleen 6

The point Spleen 6 is located on the inside of the lower leg, about a hand’s width above the ankle bone. This point is very commonly used for increasing circulation in the uterus and also used to induce uterine contractions to kick-start labor. As one of the most powerful points to cause contractions, it should not be used before 38 weeks of pregnancy.

Bladder 60

Bladder 60 Acupuncture Point

Bladder 60 is located on the outside of the ankle, just behind the ankle bone and in front of the achilles tendon. This point is most often used for low back pain as it is considered a highly effective point for opening up, creating space, and increasing movement in the low back. However, this point can also be considered problematic for pregnancy for the same reason. Holding a pregnancy requires a good deal of strength and holding in this same are of the body.

Gallbladder 21

Gallbladder 21 Acupuncture PointUnless you’ve mysteriously avoided using the computer for the last 10 years, you probably have a tight spot at the acupuncture point Gallbladder 21. This point is usually a favorite focus of any shoulder massage, and it feels great to have this area worked on. This point is generally considered to have a regulating effect on the pelvic floor, meaning it can be used to strengthen weakness and to relieve excess tension. The concern in pregnancy is that it will cause weakness in the pelvic floor, which is responsible for supporting the weight of pregnancy. If you have a history of incompetent cervix or preterm labor, it’s probably wise to be cautious and gentle when working this area. If you’re having a normal pregnancy, go ahead and get that shoulder massage. Especially in the third trimester, I find that most women are actually holding too much tension in the pelvis (which can be a source of weakness) and would really benefit from using this point. (When in doubt, ask your practitioner!)

Large Intestine 4

Large Intestine 4 Acupuncture Point

The last ‘forbidden point’ for pregnancy is Large Intestine 4. This point is located on the hand, in the thicker muscle between the thumb and pointer finger. It is typically quite sore with pressure. Large Intestine 4 is used in many different situations, but always has the general effect of getting things moving. It can be used to relieve and headache or aching neck and shoulders, get the digestion moving, clear blocked sinuses, and many other ailments. It is that strongly moving quality of the point that also makes it great for getting labor moving and helping the uterus to contract more strongly. Large Intestine 4, along with Spleen 6, are the major points for inducing labor or speeding up stalled labor. For these reasons, this point is avoided until mom and baby are ready for labor. This point does require a good deal of pressure to be effective, so unless you’re pressing hard enough to feel that achy soreness, it won’t have much of an effect.

Would you like to connect with me to see if I can help you with my unique and effective approach to pregnancy care?

Request a free consultation and we’ll meet to discuss your case. We’ll sit down, review your health history and goals, and see if you are a good fit for our services. You will have an opportunity to ask any questions about our approach and if you feel confident that I can help, you’ll have an opportunity to learn how to move forward and work with me.

Audrey and Charlie’s IVF Journey

Audrey and Charlie’s IVF Journey

When I first met Audrey and Charlie, they had been trying to conceive their first child for over 4 years. When it became clear after a year that a pregnancy wasn’t going to be as easy to achieve as they’d hoped, they began looking for answers. Not long after, Charlie was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma and went through 6 rounds of aggressive chemotherapy. Luckily, Charlie was declared cancer-free at the end of his chemotherapy treatment, but the side-effects on his fertility were devastating. Charlie’s treatment wiped out his sperm counts and left him feeling fatigued and anxious.

Audrey and Charlie decided to pursue the only avenue left to them to conceive a child of their ow, IVF, using Charlie’s sperm that were frozen prior to his chemotherapy treatments. At the time we first met, they had already completed two IVF cycles, unsuccessfully, and were preparing for their third.

By this time, Audrey and Charlie were quite anxious about every aspect of their fertility. They were feeling frustrated to be heading into yet another IVF cycle without an understanding of what had caused the first two to fail or how to improve their chances of success. They were anxious to begin the next phase of their life – as parents – and the longer it was taking, the more out of reach it felt. They were worried about the toll their fertility journey was taking on their bodies, spirits, finances, and relationship.

Although in a very challenging situation, Audrey and Charlie had all the qualities that help couples to persevere and go on to have a successful pregnancy and healthy baby through IVF. They worked hard to fine-tune every aspect of their health, and understood that anything that would improve their overall health would also boost their chances of IVF success. And they knew how to seek help and get assistance in their journey.

Fertility, like every aspect of health, is incredibly resilient. Our bodies already inherently know how to heal. The goal of any holistic healing practice is to help us step out of our own way and create the space for our bodies’ innate healing mechanisms to unfold. In my practice, I use acupuncture, herbal medicine, and shiatsu massage as tools to create that healing space for my clients, as well as helping my clients find their own tools to continue that journey at home.

Everyone needs help to heal. What most people ‘know’ about healthy living might actually be pulling them further away from their goal and true health. Finding the right help and the right path is the hardest part of healing. I always encourage my clients to learn to listen to their bodies, follow their body’s guidance, and ask for help when they need it.

To help Audrey and Charlie prepare for their third IVF cycle, we began weekly acupuncture sessions, along with customized herbal recommendations, and a few small adjustments to nutrition and stress management practices. Within a few weeks, both were feeling less anxious, more energetic, and better able to handle stress.  After initial testing revealed that Charlie’s sperm counts were still at zero, and it became clear that they would be using frozen sperm again this cycle, we continued sessions only for Audrey.

With Audrey, we focused on regulating circulation, managing stress, and the quality of her sleep, all of which improved quickly. We continued with weekly sessions through the IVF process. Audrey and Charlie conceived that cycle and Audrey continued treatments until the end of her first trimester. The following spring, Audrey and Charlie welcomed a beautiful baby boy into their family!

A couple of years after I last saw Audrey, I had the pleasure of running into her and her son at the store. I was so happy to see them and to see how well they were doing. I was delighted to see that Audrey was pregnant again with a miraculous ‘surprise’! I’ll never know for sure, but I like to think that our work together started them both on the pathway to healing that made such an amazing surprise possible.

You may have heard people say the natural medicine isn’t powerful. I disagree. I think that our bodies’ ability to heal is profound and amazing, and that anything that can help the body along that path, however gentle, can also be profound and amazing. That healing path can be yours to find and follow, so if you’re ready to transform your health, choose to never give up, and seek the help that can guide you along your way.


Would you like to connect with me to see if I can help you with my unique and effective approach to IVF support?

Request a free consultation and we’ll meet to discuss your case. We’ll sit down, review your health history and goals, and see if you are a good fit for our services. You will have an opportunity to ask any questions about our approach and if you feel confident that I can help, you’ll have an opportunity to learn how to move forward and work with me.

How to Schedule Acupuncture Sessions During IVF

How to Schedule Acupuncture Sessions During IVF

Egg Ovum Acupuncture is a very effective supporting treatment for women undergoing IVF (in vitro fertilization), making the process more comfortable, less stressful, and increasing odds for success. Some studies show more than double the chances of conception for couples utilizing acupuncture alongside IVF. Acupuncture should be scheduled carefully to have the best chance of success. In Eastern medicine, each person is treated individually, so recommendations may vary depending on your health and history.

Before an IVF Cycle

I recommend a woman start weekly acupuncture sessions 3 months before starting an IVF cycle. For women with complex or especially challenging health situations, 6 months would be even better. During this time, we focus on general health and wellbeing, increasing a woman’s reserves, and fine-tuning circulation. Starting treatment prior to fertility medications also opens up the possibility of utilizing herbal medicine alongside acupuncture, which can be vital for some people.

Priming Phase

During the priming phase we will continue weekly acupuncture. For most cycles, women take medications to temporarily suppress the ovaries in preparation for stimulation. This phase is typically around a month long. We may continue with herbs during this phase depending on the woman’s condition and the medications being used at this time. For clients who are just getting started with acupuncture at this point, I recommend sessions twice per week.

Stimulation Phase

Embryo GrowingWhile using medications to stimulate the growth of eggs in the ovaries, continue with weekly or twice weekly acupuncture. This phase can vary in length from cycle to cycle and will be monitored closely.

1-2 days Prior to Retrieval

Once ovarian follicles are at the correct stage and size, you will be given a trigger to complete egg maturation in preparation for retrieval. Acupuncture within the day or two prior to retrieval can help with the eggs final maturation.

Between Retrieval and Embryo Transfer

After eggs have been retrieved you may have some cramping and discomfort from the procedure.  At this time, acupuncture is focused on relaxing the uterus, increasing circulation, and preparing the body for embryo transfer. We will schedule one acupuncture session during the 3-5 days between egg retrieval and embryo transfer.

After Embryo Transfer

Studies have shown that acupuncture just before or after an embryo transfer will increase the odds of a successful pregnancy. As transfer procedures are typically scheduled for the early morning, I will most often aim to schedule acupuncture later the same day or the following day, with a second session 3-4 days later. After embryo transfer and through the end of the 1st trimester, we will continue with weekly acupuncture to support a healthy pregnancy.

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