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Can I acupuncture migraine treatment whilst pregnant?

Q: I am seeking a bit of advice. I suffer from migraines and acupuncture has been extremely helpful to me which was suggested by my neurologist. I am now 16 weeks pregnant and I am having another episode where I am struggling to function the same as they were 12 months ago. The physiotherapist that treated me with acupuncture previously has refused to treat me this time due to the risks of miscarriage due to where the needles should be placed. Could you advise me if this is the case and that I should avoid for the foreseeable future?

A: The BAcC has been giving advice on its website for years which says:

How can acupuncture help during pregnancy?
Many conditions which routinely crop up during pregnancy would benefit from a natural solution. Acupuncture, when provided by a trained practitioner, can give relief for a range of pregnancy related conditions:

  • Morning sickness
  • High/low blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Tiredness
  • Constipation
  • Tender breasts
  • Migraine and other headaches
  • Back ache
  • Pelvic pain (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction)
  • Varicose veins

This very much reflects what Debra Betts, one of the leading acupuncture experts in the field of obstetrics says on her own website

The problem usually arises when people use formula acupuncture, that is a kind of 'cookbook' approach where each condition with which someone presents has a specified group of points which a practitioner can use. There are, indeed, a number of points which we avoid during pregnancy because they have a strongly downward and expulsive effect, and it is highly likely that some of these are in the cookbook which the physiotherapist is using.

However the great strength of traditional acupuncture is its self-contained and completely systematic understanding of the system which means that there are many alternative ways of addressing the imbalances in the system which are causing the migraines. This may mean that you have to seek treatment with another acupuncture practitioner, but we have always taken the view that in the hands of a properly qualified and trained practitioner there should be no risks at all in treating migraines and many other conditions during pregnancy.

There are an increasing number of BAcC members who now take specialist postgraduate training in obstetrics, and in the foreseeable future we expert to recognise them as 'expert practitioners.' When this happens we will be able to offer a list of possibilities, but for now you will find that using google and searching under 'acupuncture and pregnancy' alongside your area will generate a number of hits of our members with specialist training. These may be the best bet, because they will probably have a more in depth understanding of the energetics of pregnancy.

We mean no disrespect to the physio, by the way, but because the majority of their work is western medical acupuncture and within their scope of practice it is not surprising that they are cautious when taking on more specialist areas of practice, and for that your practitioner should be commended.

We wish you a peaceful and stress-free pregnancy, and hope that treatment brings you the relief you need. We also hope that if you do see a BAcC member with specialist training they can perhaps help you with some of the later stages of the pregnancy.

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