Case Study: Acupuncture for Gestational Diabetes

A 34 year-old pregnant woman in her sixth month came to me worried about how her newly diagnosed gestational diabetes might affect her baby’s health, and that of her own in the long term. She had not previously suffered from diabetes, although she explained that her father had had type-2 diabetes since his forties. She did not have high blood pressure, was not overweight before becoming pregnant, and neither did she have any of the other risk factors associated with gestational diabetes. This was her third baby and she had not had any issues associated with her previous two pregnancies.

The patient presented with fatigue in the late afternoon/evening as well as occasional back pain and she also complained of feeling a little cold in the evenings. She said that before becoming pregnant, she had always maintained good eating habits but did not exercise very much. Part of her worry with the gestational diabetes was that in this case, exercise did not seem to help regulate her blood sugar levels and she was concerned about taking too much insulin. She also wanted to prevent the possibility of her baby gaining too much weight in utero and possibly having other complications.

As she had been told by her doctor I explained that taking insulin while pregnant cannot harm the baby, but she hoped nonetheless to minimize the amount she had to take. I explained that acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine might help regulate her blood sugar levels but that she should continue to also follow her doctor’s advice and monitor her levels and also take insulin as directed by her specialist.

She began to see me once a week for acupuncture and Chinese herbs. My approach was aimed at strengthening her Spleen and Kidney (words capitalized here indicate differentiation from their scientific definitions) energy systems to combat the fatigue and manage her blood sugar levels by essentially helping her digestive system (i.e. her Spleen) function more efficiently.

Her pulse was choppy and slippery, and was also somewhat weak. Since she had occasional back pain recently and tended towards feeling a little cold in the evenings, I attributed these signs to a slight Kidney deficiency, possibly brought on by a third pregnancy. We used point such as DU 20, BL 17, BL 20, BL 23, ST 36, KD 2, KD 6.

The herbal formula used in this case was You Gui Wan, meant to tonify her Kidney deficiency to, in effect, support her Spleen and improve the efficiency of her digestive system. In this case the lower energy and feelings of cold indicated Kidney Yang deficiency.

Over the course of two months, with treatment nearly once per week, the patient was able to manage her gestational diabetes well and needed insulin injections most often only at night. In her last month of pregnancy, her specialist advised her to decrease the amount of insulin she was using, and we were able to reduce our frequency of treatments as well.

She came back to me two months after giving birth, and was happy to claim that her baby was in great health, and that her own blood sugar levels were back to normal and she no longer would need any insulin.

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