Can you have Acupuncture while Breastfeeding?

Those looking for acupuncture in Cheshire in the postpartum period, may be interested to know if they can have acupuncture while breastfeeding?

There are a number of reasons women may have acupuncture while breastfeeding. Some may wish to use it as a drug-free treatment for sciatica pain or pelvic girdle pain that hasn’t cleared up after the pregnancy ended. Some may want to use it to treat problems they are experiencing with breastfeeding itself. So, what is the evidence for using acupuncture while breastfeeding?

Traditional Chinese medicine argues the case for acupuncture used at specific sites can promote the production of prolactin and oxytocin. These two hormones are both involved in the production of breastmilk. However there is no evidence for the use of acupuncture to help with breastfeeding problems, in part due to the difficulty in producing a double blind study using acupuncture as people are pretty aware of whether they are having needles poked into them!

One study in Poland looked at the impact of acupuncture on prolactin levels in women who had breast milk secretion for 1-9 years after stopping breastfeeding. It found that the acupuncture’s effect was not due to prolactin secretion, suggesting using acupuncture for this particular method of action is unsupported with evidence.

A survey of 50 Swedish maternity units in 2007 found that 60% of hospitals used acupuncture to treat engorgement, 18% used acupuncture to treat mastitis, and 2.2% each used it for painful breastfeeding or to improve milk supply. The authors found there was no evidence to back up its continued use for breastfeeding issues.

One systematic review found that acupuncture of sites around the ear resulted in a positive effect on milk production, onset of lactation, serum prolactin, breast fullness, neonate states, and frequency of newborn urination and defecation. 

There have been no studies done on the impact of acupuncture applied to the mother on their breastfed babies, though there have been no reports of adverse effects either. The reason for the lack of evidence is that there are some ethical issues to do with running studies on babies that are unlikely to be of benefit to them.

However, observational studies could be useful here, would have little to no impact on a baby, and the results could be beneficial for a number of families.

So what if you are looking at using acupuncture to deal with a problem unrelated to breastfeeding, is it safe? The answer seems to be yes. This is as long as it is given alone and not alongside any herbal medicines, which could affect supply or the breastmilk itself.

In fact, acupuncture is often used on pregnant women due to its drug-free nature, though we would suggest a specialist practitioner is sought due to the positions a pregnant women can adopt for extended periods of time being limited, much like with massage.

If you want to talk to us about your postpartum issues and the options for acupuncture treatment then get in touch asap so we can go through your needs and design a plan just for you.