Pregnancy Changes…Are you ready to integrate Eastern and Western Medicine perspectives when treating pregnant women?  For those practitioners who have never heard of Debra Betts, her book The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy & Childbirth is an excellent, concise, and inclusive text on acupuncture and how it relates to pregnancy and childbirth in modern times.  Here is a sneak peak on what type of information she shares about pregnancy changes:

PregnancyChanges – Physiological

During pregnancy, a woman’s body becomes a state of change.  In Western medicine this is largely due to hormonal fluctuations and changes.  In Eastern Medicine this is due to changes of the quality and quantity of Qi and Blood, especially in relation to the Zang-Fu organs.  Often times these are a part of the bodies’ process, not pathological.  Betts outlines these changes specifically:

  • Increases in Blood
  • Increase in heat
  • Increase in dampness
  • Increased Liver energy
  • Decreased Kidney energy

She notes that these changes will be reflected in the tongue and pulse, and care needs to be taken to ensure normal versus pathological diagnosis.  She gives a couple of examples:

  • A slippery pulse at 6 months is normal, a practitioner does not have to resolve dampness
  • A faster and wiry pulse in the Liver position is also quite normal, a practitioner does not have to clear heat or soothe the Liver, unless there are other signs of disharmony

Pregnancy Changes – Pulse

Practitioners are generally aware that the pregnancy pulse is one that is defined as slippery as Qi and Blood become more abundant.  According to Sacred Lotus, the slippery pulse is defined as: “comes smoothly, flowing and uninhibited; feels smooth like pearls rolling in a dish.  Beats come and go fluently and smoothly, feeling slick to the fingers.”  The trouble is that to an unexperienced person or practitioner, the diagnosis of pregnancy through the pulse can be difficult, and when and where exactly the pulse becomes slippery in a pregnancy is up for debate.  According to Betts, it is more often a reliable indication if the left front position (Heart position) is slippery.


Dangerous Situations

Chinese Medicine and acupuncture is extremely beneficial to the vast majority of pregnant women but care must be taken as to when an expectant mother should be referred to their midwives or doctors.  Here in the West, it is the doctor that diagnoses and ensures the safety of the woman and fetus.  Given the slightest doubt, always refer your patient to a physician or midwife.  The following is a list of symptoms where a patient should be referred immediately:

  • Persistent Vomiting & Dehydration Signs
  • Severe Abdominal Pain: can be a sign of ectopic pregnancy or placental problems
  • Vaginal Bleeding: may be an indication of miscarriage
  • Frontal Headache, Intolerance to Bright Lights, Sudden Edema: this can be caused by hypertension or pre-eclampsia, both very serious conditions.


Debra Betts’ book is full of great information about Chinese Medicine, acupuncture and pregnancy and so is her Facebook page.  Check it out!


Caroline Prodoehl, R.Ac, R.TCMP



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