by Susan Minich CNM, MSN, MSOM, LAc
Photos by Deidre Caswell
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an ancient healing art and one of the oldest forms of healing, dating back to over 3,000 years. TCM is based on ancient Chinese Theories that focus on the whole body, by stimulating the body's own innate healing abilities. Acupuncture is a natural approach to diagnosing, treating, preventing disease and promoting our well-being as well as addressing the causes and symptoms of illness. This occurs by supporting the body's healthy energy called "Qi" and blood.
The TCM Practitioner determines the patterns of disharmony within the body based on certain examinations, such as the tongue and pulse. Acupuncture regulates the flow of blood and Qi within the body by inserting fine, thin, sterile needles at certain points, "acupoints" on the body. This flow of Qi and blood is carried throughout the body by a system of pathways called "meridians" or "channels" that cover the body, similar to the blood vessels and nerves. The flow of Qi and blood in the body is adjusted by the acupuncturist using the needles to increase the energy flow to areas of deficiencies or taking it away if any excesses.
By enhancing the health and balance of the body's internal organs with acupuncture, chinese herbs, moxibustion and lifestyle changes, a woman can improve her overall health and wellness.
“Tibetan Physicians have always considered a sound mind as a prerequisite for a healthy body”
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Acupuncture and Pregnancy + Childbirth
During pregnancy and childbirth, acupuncture is safe and comfortable and is effective in reducing the incidence and severity of common pregnancy symptoms. In Chinese Medicine theory, our spiritual energy manifests in the heart. The heart energy is the center of love and creation. All the acupuncture points have an emotional/spiritual aspect to them as well as the physical, connecting the mother's powerful energy to her baby. Acupuncture is used to promote maternal and fetal health.
The first trimester:
Women are seen for weekly acupuncture treatments to increase blood flow to the uterus, promote and regulate hormonal balance and prevent miscarriage and threatened miscarriage. Also, to prevent and control morning/daily sickness, spotting/bleeding, fatigue, back/hip pain, sciatica, edema, carpal tunnel, itching, cholestasis, migraines/headaches, heartburn, constipation, indigestion, hemorrhoids, psychological issues.
The second trimester to 34 weeks:
Women are seen one to two times a month to maintain a healthy pregnancy balance and treat and prevent the common symptoms that develop. Breech presentation is addressed at this time using moxibustion to help with turning the baby.
Beginning at 35 weeks to birth, treatments are to prepare the woman for childbirth. The physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of the mother and baby are still being addressed. Studies show that weekly acupuncture at this time helps with softening the cervix, increases energy and improves stamina for labor, relaxes the uterine ligaments, increases optimal positioning of the baby, decreases medical intervention and increases the effectiveness of uterine contractions.
Acupuncture promotes cervical effacement and dilatation, decreases fatigue, initiates contraction and relaxes the mind and body.
During this time, acupuncture is very helpful in restoring energy and promoting a quicker recovery after birth, increasing milk production and increasing stamina. It is also useful with healing mastitis, insufficient lactation, perineal pain, post-partum depression and also promotes quicker recovery of the uterus returning to the pre-pregnant state.
Acupuncture and Fertility + Conception
TCM successfully enhances the fertility process by bringing the body into a state of balance and harmony. Acupuncture helps to reduce stress and tonify and nourish the reproductive organs in both women and men. Fertility is not just about the physical state of being but about overall health and wellness of spirit. Our inner harmony and peace carries us through life's challenges, especially the stresses connected with fertility issues.
Significant improvement of fertility has been documented in patients who receive TCM. Acupuncture increases the chances for a natural conception, improves hormonal balance, increases the success rate with Assisted Reproductive Technologies and increases blood flow to the pelvic organs. It helps to create better quality of cervical mucus, regulates ovulation, promotes a regular menstrual cycle, enhances egg development, increases blood circulation to the uterine lining and improves sperm quality.
Acupuncture treatments are recommended for at least 3-6 months to optimize conception and having a healthy pregnancy and baby. Chinese medicine theory believes that we must "nourish the soil before planting the seeds." TCM is a patient medicine, taking time to support our health and wellness.
Susan Minich CNM, MSN, MSOM, LAc, Diplomate, Oriental Medicine has been a Certified Nurse-Midwife working in Women’s Health for 31 years. With her many years of experience in Western Medicine, Susan now integrates Eastern Medicine into her healing methods. In addition to her busy practice, Susan is a noted author, lecturer and teacher. She has been on Clinical Faculty in the Graduate Nurse-Midwifery Program at UCLA and the University of Pennsylvania. Currently, Susan is on the Clinical Faculty at Cal State University Graduate Nurse-Midwifery Program as well as mentoring Nurse-Midwife, Nurse-Practitioner and Nursing Students. She is involved in education and training for normal labor and delivery for the OB/GYN and family practice residents at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Los Angeles and is on Clinical Faculty at USC Keck School of Medicine.
Susan’s interest and passion for Eastern Medicine has led her to pursuing acupuncture humanitarian service work for women and children in Bali and providing care to the Tibetan women and children refugees living in Dharmshala, India. She will be going to Myanmar (Burma) in January 2013 to perform humanitarian work and acupuncture training in women and children's health.