Ashley Graham Has Been Getting Acupuncture While Pregnant, But Is That Safe?
The model uploaded a video to Instagram documenting the experience and says the procedure has made her feel "so good".
New mom-to-be Ashley Graham is eight months pregnant and says she feels amazing. From striking yoga poses to sharing workouts on Instagram, she's clearly doing everything she can to stay active and healthy during this new phase in her life. Now, Graham's opening up about another wellness ritual she says is keeping her body "feeling so good" while expecting: acupuncture.
In a series of videos uploaded to her Instagram, Graham is seen with green needles sticking out of her jawline and lower cheeks.
ICYDK, acupuncture is an ancient eastern alternative medicine practice that "involves the insertion of small, hair-thin needles into specific points (or meridians) on the body that correspond with various health issues and symptoms," explains Ani Baran, L.Ac of New Jersey Acupuncture Center.
"I have been doing acupuncture throughout my whole pregnancy, and I have to say, it's been keeping my body feeling so good!" she captioned the clips. Graham went on the explain that she was there to receive a face sculpting treatment (aka cosmetic acupuncture) from Sandra Lanshin Chiu, LAc, and acupuncturist, herbalist, and founder of Lanshin, a holistic healing studio in Brooklyn.
This isn't the first time Graham has experimented with cosmetic acupuncture. The podcast hostess previously gave fans a glimpse inside a facial gua sha appointment, which is a treatment where flat, smooth crystals made with materials such as jade or quartz are massaged into the face, on Instagram back in April. Facial gua sha is said to increase blood flow and collagen production and reduce inflammation to enhance your skin's natural glow, Stefanie DiLibero, a licensed acupuncture practitioner and founder of Gotham Wellness previously told us.
Not only are acupuncture treatments safe during pregnancy, but they can also offer physical mental and emotional relief from the stressors that come during these nine-plus months. It can help reduce feet or hand swelling, lower back pain, headaches, boost your energy levels, help with insomnia, and can serve as some much needed "me time," explains Baran. Facial acupuncture specifically, which is what Graham is seen getting in her video, can relieve stress and help with anxiety during pregnancy, says Baran.
When used for this expressed purpose and permitted by your doctor, Baran says acupuncture can even kick start labor if that's medically recommended. There are plenty of postpartum benefits to reap too, such as aiding milk production for breastfeeding, pain alleviation, and assisting in shrinking of the uterus back to its natural shape.
While it is safe to get acupuncture while pregnant, the logistics of the treatment will change a bit.
For example, during traditional acupuncture treatments, needles can be inserted in the abdominal or pelvic regions, which isn't permitted during a pregnancy treatment as certain acupressure and acupuncture points can stimulate the uterus or cause contractions to start prematurely, says Baran.
"We [also] avoid any acupressure and acupuncture points that can stimulate the uterus or cause contractions to start prematurely, and do not have our patients lay flat on their backs when they are pregnant as that is contraindicated as well," says Baran. (Related: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Acupressure)
You might notice that Graham appears to be lying on her back during her acupuncture session, and while Baran reiterates this isn't always "ideal" for expecting moms uterus and fetus, the strictness around this rule of thought has been altered the most recent published opinion by American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Rather, now the organization recommends that pregnant women simply avoid spending long periods of time on their backs.
TL;DR, as long as you make it clear to your acupuncturist that you're pregnant and let them know how far along you are, acupuncture treatments can be customized to be the safest for you, explains Baran.
Ob-gyns seem to agree that acupuncture treatments are safe for pregnant women, as long as they are in the hands of a licensed, experienced acupuncturist and the acupuncturist has been briefed on the status of the pregnancy, says ob-gyn Heather Bartos, M.D., founder of Badass Women, Badass Health. In fact, some ob-gyns recommend that expecting mothers receive acupuncture treatments for symptoms such as nausea/vomiting, headaches, stress, and pain, adds Renee Wellenstein, M.D., who specializes in obstetrics/gynecology and functional medicine.
However, there are certain circumstances in which pregnant women should not receive acupuncture treatments—especially women with high-risk pregnancies. For instance, "women with first-trimester bleeding or anyone who has had recurrent miscarriages may want to forgo acupuncture until 36-37 weeks," says Dr. Wellenstein. By this point, pregnancy is near full-term, so the risk of miscarriage is decreased substantially.
Wellenstein also recommends women carrying more than one child (twins, etc.) should also forgo acupuncture until nearer the end of pregnancy (at roughly 35-36 weeks along), while women with placenta previa (where the placenta lies low and often partially or completely on top of the cervix) should avoid acupuncture altogether during their pregnancy, as they are at a greater risk for bleeding and other pregnancy complications, such as hemorrhaging, preterm labor and delivery, and miscarriage, explains Wellenstein.
There are also claims that acupuncture can effectively help turn breech babies (whose feet are positioned toward the birth canal) into the preferred head-first position, says Daniel Roshan, M.D., F.A.C.O.G. In fact, when new mom and actress, Shay Mitchell found out her daughter was breech, she opted to try acupuncture over an external cephalic version (ECV), a manual procedure that involves a doctor attempting to turn the baby around in the womb. Though Mitchell's baby ended up turning on its own in-utero before her delivery, it's unclear whether acupuncture played a role. Unfortunately, there isn't enough scientific evidence "to prove that [acupuncture] can get a baby out of breech position" Michael Cackovic, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn from Ohio State University Wexner Centre previously told us.
The bottom line: Acupuncture is safe during pregnancy, as long as you get the OK from your physician and are communicative with the acupuncturist about your health status.