Acupuncture for Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

A Question & Answer with Holly Crafts Colasanti, The Motherhood Center's Pregnancy and Postpartum Acupuncturist

Acupuncture has been used to address illnesses for over three thousand years. But the western world has only recently discovered and used acupuncture as a tool to promote and restore a healthy self-care routine; and for many great reasons, acupuncture has evolved into being known as one of the best alternative medicinal treatments in the world.

Since its creation, ancient Chinese acupuncture has revolved around Qi, an internal energy force that can regulate your body’s balance and energy. When factors like a stressful commute or family fight disrupt your body’s Qi, it is said to create anxiety, disease, and pain offsetting the body’s median.

In today’s society, our bodies are in a constant fight or flight response. Acupuncture can help relieve that tension and anxiety our bodies feel,

says Holly Crafts Colasanti, a New York City Acupuncturist and mother of two. Here, at The Motherhood Center, we believe acupuncture can be a wonderful addition to any new or expecting mother’s self-care routine. Below is our interview with Holly Crafts, TMC’s perinatal acupuncturist:

What type of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders does acupuncture help manage?

Acupuncture helps manage several symptoms, but the most common are: anxiety; depression; OCD/ruminative thinking; PTSD; panic disorders and general stress.

From a scientific perspective, how does acupuncture work?

Depending on which body points are targeted and where the needles are inserted, acupuncture can,

  1.   cause the nervous system to produce painkilling chemicals, or neurotransmitters;

  2. jump-start the body’s natural ability to heal itself by resetting the nervous system from its fight or flight activation to rest and digest setting;

  3. and/or stimulate the part of the brain that releases feel-good hormones and controls emotions, including depression and anxiety.

Is acupuncture safe for women while pregnant?

Yes, it is absolutely safe for pregnant women!

If so, does it also treat the baby- as well as the mother?

There’s an old saying in Chinese medicine,

treat the mother, treat the child,

which is to suggest that what is beneficial for the mom, is also beneficial for the baby. Because, acupuncture can promote relaxation by lowering blood pressure, mitigating the release of stress hormones, and promoting healthy circulation in mothers, the same can also benefit the baby. Any good habit you adapt into your lifestyle, like sleeping, exercising, eating nutrient dense foods or getting acupuncture, is just as good for the child as it is for the mother!  

How often should a woman receive acupuncture treatment in order to see health improvements?

Although it depends on the individual, and her health history, generally, the mother should seek treatment for 4-6 weeks in order to see health improvements. This is a great way to create a healthy lifestyle habit and incorporate acupuncture into one’s overall healthy self-care routine.

Besides addressing PMADS, how else is acupuncture helpful?

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be an invaluable part of post-labor recovery, helping with lactation promotion; stress management; pain relief; promotion of healthy digestion; improved quality of sleep; addiction, and withdrawal side effects; general immunity, including seasonal allergies; skin issues, in both mother and child; healing of tissues (incision/tearing), post-surgical and wound recovery; improving blood production; and recalibrating hormones as the body transitions from pregnancy through labor and delivery.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can also be extremely essential in: the 1st year postpartum by… reducing anxiety, helping promote calm and positive moods; improving the quality of sleep; supporting healthy thyroid & pituitary function to balance hormones; promoting a healthy appetite and digestion; easing body aches and muscle spasms, before they become chronic pain patterns (like the nursing hunch and the “baby back” low back pain); and reducing overall stress.

What is the difference between Chinese acupuncture and western acupuncture?

The essential difference between Western acupuncture or “dry needling” vs Chinese acupuncture, is that the latter is part of a larger philosophy of health, including herbal medicine, manual therapy and lifestyle modifications.

Western acupuncture, including dry needling, can be practiced by non-licensed practitioners (ie. a chiropractor or physical therapist), though this is without the training and experience of a lengthy master’s acupuncture program.

Do they both treat perinatal mood and anxiety disorders?

No, western acupuncture (dry needling) only treats musculoskeletal pain.

Does acupuncture hurt?

Acupuncture needles are solid and so thin that they can be tied into a knot.

The most common response to the first needle is ‘that’s it?!’

Beyond the initial pinch of insertion, there might be warmth, heaviness or a tingling sensation. There could also be a deep and dull, weighted feeling, or ache. However, most commonly, people are surprised by the sensation, expecting it to feel like a shot, but it often doesn’t feel like anything!

If I am pregnant, can my baby feel the needles?

Needles are only inserted right below the skin to the superficial layer of the muscles. As far as we know, your baby can only feel the calming effect of your nervous system response.

How long is a typical session, and do I have to go every week to see improvements?

A typical session lasts between 20-45 minutes. It is recommended to go every week; however, it is not necessary.

Will the more I go the better I feel?

Yes, acupuncture is similar to exercise in that it has a cumulative effect.

Can my toddler get acupuncture with me? Is it safe?

Acupuncture is safe for children as young as 1 day old, though the treatments for children only last a few moments. As long as it will be relaxing for you to have your child nearby, and there is adequate staff on hand, it is fine and safe to have your child in the room.

Do you individually treat women depending on their symptoms?

Yes, each treatment is tailored to the unique presentation and current needs of the individual on that day, at that moment. At the same time, there is also similarity in treatments and point selection across the same health concern or condition.

If I am not experiencing a PMAD, should I still receive acupuncture to help address any symptoms?

Absolutely! Acupuncture is one facet of medical based prevention methods! Supporting the body’s hormones to stay in balance, maintaining healthy blood pressure and appropriately responding to stress, will help prevent any myriad conditions.

The Motherhood Center offers a weekly acupuncture group session with Holly Crafts Colasanti for pregnant and postpartum women on Mondays from 3 to 4 PM.

Holly is a licensed acupuncturist and received her master’s degree in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in New York.

The Motherhood Center would like to thank Holly Crafts Colasanti for speaking with us about acupuncture, and allowing us to interview her for this blog post.  

Please find her information and class sign up linked here: