Acupuncture for Postpartum Depression

By Emily A. Pendergast, L.Ac, MAOM

In China, the first few weeks after childbirth are called “chan ru.” Chan means childbirth, and Ru means mattress. In traditional Chinese culture, women were prescribed bed rest for one month after childbirth. Female relatives would take care of both the new mother and the baby, allowing the new mother to restore her strength and energy. Specific herbal prescriptions were given to help shrink the uterus, stop bleeding, encourage lactation, and return vitality. In today’s fast-paced society, few new mothers have the luxury of resting for a month after childbirth. Most women need to return to taking care of family or work before their bodies have had a chance to fully recover from the birth experience. This can lead to further health issues down the road, and is why acupuncture during the postpartum period is so important. [1]


It is now recognized that 80% of women experience sadness, anger, or other mood and personality changes following childbirth, known as postpartum depression. This alone can cause increased guilt, worry, and anxiety in women, as they feel they are not “cut out” to be a good mother. Many women are unaware how common these feelings and symptoms can be, or that there is support for them. Acupuncture offers drug-free treatment to women and has the ability to address symptoms specific to each individual woman. Natural treatment is especially crucial for those women wanting to breast feed, as previous treatment for postpartum depression has been through medication. Acupuncture can also be used to help the spouse manage emotional symptoms that they too may be experiencing at this time.

Acupuncture for Postpartum Support

Acupuncture is extremely beneficial in addressing emotional symptoms, whether these symptoms are a result of hormonal changes, concerns or fears that come with being a new mom, lack of support, or other causes; acupuncture can help. Treatment can also help the body naturally regain hormonal balance as well as vital energy that may be lost or changed through the process of childbirth. Nutrition is also an important factor that women should be advised on in order to help prevent, or to help treat postpartum depression. Specific dietary changes can help maintain mood swings, increase energy and vitality, and aid in hormonal balance. Nutritional advice is commonly an integral part of acupuncture treatment.

Studies have shown that women experiencing postpartum depression had significantly higher response rates when receiving acupuncture (69%) over other modalities of non-pharmaceutical treatment (32%).[2] The acupuncture control group had an intermediate response of (47%).  It is also suggested that acupuncture may help in preventing the onset of postpartum depression.[3]

Below is list of specific symptoms that acupuncture can address regarding postpartum depression, as well as other accompanying symptoms following childbirth.

Emotional support[4]:

Overall hormonal balance






Pensiveness/Over thinking

Stress relief


Insomnia/dream-disturbed sleep

Frequent mood changes

Chest restriction/heart palpitations

Other Postpartum Symptoms

Low back pain

Perineal pain


Abdominal pain

Lochial Retention

Lack of Appetite


Lactation support


While a large majority of the female population experience symptoms of postpartum depression to some extent, it is critical that women know they are not alone, and that there is help and support for available for them. The first step is helping women recognize the symptoms, so they know when to seek support.  The next step is providing the support. Acupuncture is one modality that is effective and natural in treating, preventing, and supporting women through postpartum depression.

To Book an appointment with Emily please call (207)451-0769 or book online at Affordable Express Clinic appointments available too.

Sources Cited

Betts, Debra (2006). The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy & Childbirth. The Journal of Chinese Medicine, Ltd. East Sussex, England, p203.

Ignatovsky, Cindi, L.Ac. Postpartum Treatment.

Manber R, Schnyer RN, Allen JJ, Rush AJ, Blasey CM. 2004. Acupuncture: a promising treatment for depression during pregnancy. J Affect Disord 83:89-95.

3 Nonacs, Ruta MD PhD. Acupuncture for Depression During Pregnancy. Published Feb. 15, 2005.

[1] Ignatovsky, Cindi, L.Ac. Postpartum Treatment.

[2] Manber R, Schnyer RN, Allen JJ, Rush AJ, Blasey CM. 2004. Acupuncture: a promising treatment for depression during pregnancy. J Affect Disord 83:89-95.

[3] Nonacs, Ruta MD PhD. Acupuncture for Depression During Pregnancy. Feb. 15, 2005.

[4] Betts, Debra (2006). The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy & Childbirth. The Journal of Chinese Medicine, Ltd. East Sussex, England, p203.

Labor Pain: What EVERY Pregnant Woman Needs to Know

by Jenny Everett King, childbirth educator and prenatal yoga teacher

Because we promote natural childbirth at Healing Hands, some people assume that our practitioners are opposed to epidurals and other pharmacological methods of labor pain relief. This is absolutely not the case. Rather, what concerns us is the idea so prevalent in today’s culture that women need medication for labor pain. We encourage natural pain relief methods because we want every pregnant woman who walks through our doors to know that non-medicated birth is a viable option.

Some mothers who plan to use medication for pain relief do little else to prepare for the discomforts of labor. But women who plan on epidurals for labor and delivery still need other coping techniques. If you go into labor at home, you will still need to cope with contractions during the car ride to the hospital as well as the admission process. Even at the hospital, the window of opportunity for receiving an epidural can be relatively small – typically between four and eight centimeters cervical dilation. Request it before 4cm, and you’ll have to wait until your labor has progressed. Request it at 8cm or more – for most women, this is the most intense part of labor – and you’ll likely be denied because the “pushing” stage is imminent. It’s also a good idea to let an epidural wear off somewhat before pushing begins, so that you can feel your contractions enough to work with them. That means that you’ll probably have some discomfort during the second stage of labor. Additionally, epidurals do not always provide total pain relief. Planning in a scheduled cesarean? In the absence of medical need, it’s unlikely that one will be performed before 39 weeks gestation. But full-term labor can happen as early as 37 or 38 weeks. Every pregnant woman, therefore, needs to prepare herself to deal with labor contractions.

Our childbirth workshops teach several ways to cope with and minimize labor pain, including relaxation techniques, the best positions for labor, massage, counter-pressure, acupressure, and vocalization. We also discuss epidurals at length, so that parents who are interested in them can make an informed decision and know when pain medication may be the right choice.

The other services we offer at Healing Hands, particularly pregnancy chiropractic, acupuncture, and prenatal yoga, are extremely useful for minimizing labor pain, because receiving these treatments during pregnancy can help your baby get into the best position for birth. The worst discomforts women feel during labor are usually due to the baby being in a less-than-optimal position. (The horror stories told to vulnerable pregnant women about “back labor” are really stories of a baby facing backwards for birth!)

Our practitioners welcome your questions about handling labor pain and optimal fetal positioning. For more on coping techniques in labor, please join us for “Love Your Birth” on January 26th or April 20th.


By Christina Wolf, LaC

Congratulations on your pregnancy!  What’s that?  You’re too nauseated to celebrate?  Unfortunately, this is the reality for many women in their first trimester (and sometimes in the second and third as well).  Nausea, dry heaves, vomiting and heartburn can all eclipse the joy of knowing you’ll soon be a mother.  Luckily, there are tried and true ways to combat “morning sickness” (in quotes here because it isn’t just confined to the morning):

  • Try to eat frequent, small meals.  For some women, keeping their stomachs full will considerably reduce nausea, even though it seems counterintuitive to eat while you’re feeling queasy.
  • Ginger is a wonderful, readily-available herbal remedy that’s been prescribed for thousands of years by Chinese physicians.  Put a raw slice of ginger under your tongue, chew on a piece of crystallized ginger, drink ginger tea or take ginger capsules frequently throughout the day.
  • Trust your cravings!  Avoid the foods/smells that seem to make your stomach lurch and eat the foods you are craving, sometimes those foods will stave off nausea for a few hours.
  • Acupuncture can be very helpful for reducing the nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy.  Pericardium 6, an acupuncture point located about two inches above your wrist crease, on the inside of your forearm, between the two big tendons there is well known for treating any kind of nausea and vomiting.  Some pharmacies sell wrist bands that apply pressure to this point and can be worn all day long.

Still sick after following these suggestions?  Get some help!  Your acupuncturist has other Chinese herbal remedies that may help you, the ND can offer homeopathy and other supplements, your chiropractor can make any necessary adjustments, etc.  Of course if you are seriously ill and cannot keep even water down, you may become dehydrated, so it’s important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

Remember that this too will pass and the rewards of parenthood will far outweigh the discomforts of pregnancy.  Hang in there mamas-to-be!

To make an appointment for acupuncture with Christina Wolf, Lic Ac, click here.

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