Acupuncture – could it be a new mother’s epidural?

There is an Instagram post currently doing the rounds that expresses something along the lines of: “Do not fear childbirth – that’s the easy part. There’s no epidural for motherhood.” And it’s that very sentiment that has women across the globe nodding their heads in enthusiastic unison...

We often prepare ourselves so very carefully for the ‘perfect’ birth. Whether it’s grand plans of an all-natural essential oil filled affair, a last-minute spray tan and blow dry, or hours of calm breath practice and deep savasana – we start out on this motherhood journey with the best of well-planned intentions.

However, as most new mothers will attest, it’s only when we’re released from hospital, with those brand-new babies in their shiny new car seats, our breasts bulging out of their frozen cabbage leaves, and a whole heap of hormones running ragged with our emotions, that the real fun begins.

With no ability to pop the baby back up there for a quick nap to recoup, no instruction manual to refer to (apart from a very dangerous one by the name of Google), and perhaps most crushingly, no anaesthetist to call upon to administer an epidural to just take the edge off – we can have all the ingredients for a hot mess, new mother recipe.

So where are we to turn when we can’t have a handy needle to numb us from the waist down (or perhaps from the waist up in those early weeks)? If not to a jar of Nutella or the local barista who can whip a killer double shot in the time it takes our baby to stir, perhaps we need to be looking for a needle of a different kind to cure our new mother woes. Enter acupuncture. I spoke to Amy Forth from Sydney’s Acupuncture Pregnancy Clinic and Darling Street Health to find out if this might be the biggest untapped resource for new mums. The result? It very well may be. (Can I hear a collective “hooray”?)

Words: Amy Malpass Hahn | Image: Mirza Noormohamed | Go to

What are the most common complaints you hear from new mothers?

Most new mothers will – at least at some point – experience fatigue, mood swings or a low mood, anxiety, insomnia, back pain, feeding issues (whether a low supply or mastitis), post-birth pain (whether they delivered naturally or through a caesarian section). Fun times!

Can acupuncture help with any of these issues?

Absolutely! We are often called in to help mothers boost their energy, stabilise their moods, and to reduce anxiety. Acupuncture can also be helpful for insomnia, and what’s more, we can offer treatment for mastitis and low supply feeding issues. If a new mother is struggling with her recovery from birth, we can also help with her healing. If she has a caesarian section scar, we can use a technique called “scar bridging,” which helps to improve blood flow to the scar, so it can heal more quickly and reduce pain.

What are some of top benefits a new mother will get out of an acupuncture session?            

Most mums will be experiencing some level of fatigue, anxiety, or physical and emotional hardship (it’s not easy!). So, acupuncture can step in to offer an increased sense of wellness. Often, patients will report that they feel particularly calm after a session, and even liken it to having a good night’s sleep! (Which can obviously be a life saver for a new, tired mother.) We love getting involved to help with this overall sense of wellbeing, as well as quickening the birth recovery time, so the mother has her own cup “filled up” that she can pour from as she cares for her baby.

What are the top points you would focus on to increase a new mother’s vitality?

The key point is called Stomach Thirty-Six, which is a point just below the knee. Offering moxa on this point has been known to improve energy and increase white blood cell count. It’s great for boosting energy, the immune system and blood circulation, as well as improving digestion. We’d also look at Spleen 6, which is a point on the ankle that’s famous for its effect on the reproductive organs. We often Moxa this point as part of the post-birth “mother warming” as it can help to promote healing, blood flow and circulation to the uterus following childbirth.

Are there any go-to acupressure points that women can use on themselves (or get their partners to do!) while they are in the trenches of new motherhood?

Yes! Spleen 6 the point mentioned above be great for relieving post-birth pain and passing the placenta, which can be offered immediately following the birth, and for a few days after. I always incorporate time spent on how to find the location of these points into my sessions with pregnant women so their partners know where to apply pressure while the mother is doing the hard yards during and post labour. Other winners are the acupressure points that can be used for feeding, to help with milk quality, supply, let-down and potential mastitis issues. Two of these are located above the shoulder and within the shoulder blade, and the points are called Gallbladder 21 and Small Intestine 11.

Do you think acupuncture is an untapped resource for new mothers? 

Absolutely. However, the biggest challenge for most new mums is simply leaving the house, so many acupuncturists now offer home visits for this reason. Also seeing acupuncturist before you give birth is the best way to prepare, to get handy hints for labour and post labour, and also have someone you know to call on for a home visit after the baby has come, as outings become harder and fewer. If you’re facing any of these challenges (and really, what new mother isn’t!?), it could be a great, natural way to start regaining a sense of wellbeing.

If nothing else, an hour of laying down without being at the mercy of a tiny dictator sounds really quite delightful. Forget the anaesthetist – I’m calling the acupuncturist.