So, if you're pregnant, use acupuncture to:
* reduce low back pain.
Other studies support that acupuncture is a welcome alternative treatment for women with back and pelvic pain during pregnancy. A Scandinavian study comparing acupuncture and physiotherapy found that acupuncture relieved low-back pain and reduced disability in pregnancy better than physiotherapy did (Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand, 2000; 79: 331-5).
A recent randomised study compared acupuncture plus standard treatment (consisting of a pelvic belt, an at-home exercise programme and patient education), standard treatment alone and standard treatment with additional exercises for pelvic pain, and found that acupuncture offered more relief than the specific exercises (BMJ, 2005; 330: 761).
Another acupuncture study showed increased pain relief with less pelvic and low-back pain, better capacity to work, walk and perform general daily tasks, and lower reliance on paracetamol (Acupunct Med, 2004; 22: 60-7).
* relieve labour pain.
In China, acupuncture is routinely used instead of anaesthesia in 99 per cent of caesarean sections, and sometimes for pain relief during labour (J Nurse Midwifery, 1982; 27: 15-22).
The use of acupuncture appears to cut down the need for conventional pain relief. A randomised, controlled trial of 90 birthing women found that women having acupuncture required less epidural analgesia and felt more relaxed than those who had conventional analgesia alone (Br J Obstet Gynaecol, 2002; 109: 637-44).
A larger randomised, controlled study the following year noted much the same: meperidine, a narcotic typically administered during childbirth, was requested by just 11 per cent of those receiving acupuncture, compared with more than three times as much among those not having acupuncture (Clin J Pain, 2003; 19: 187-91).
Babies and mothers who used acupuncture during pregnancy or labour (most often for pain and anxiety) have even been followed-up. One such study concluded that it was safe and effective, and without significant side-effects (Ugeskr Laeger, 2003; 165: 1023-7).
Or try these alternatives:
* Water aerobics. One high-quality study of low-back and pelvic pain in pregnancy reported that those who did water gymnastics took significantly fewer sick days during pregnancy than those who did not (Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand, 2003; 82: 983-90).
* Birthing pools. A randomised, controlled trial found that those who used birthing pools required significantly less analgesia and had fewer forceps deliveries than standard bed deliveries.