Preeclampsia patient sees positive results with acupuncture

[Allina Health Newsroom, October 13, 2023] When Kelsey Gustafson was 32 weeks pregnant, her blood pressure spiked in the middle of the night. It had been high throughout her pregnancy and was being monitored by her doctor. But with the spike, she was immediately admitted to The Mother Baby Center at United Hospital for preeclampsia, a condition that can threaten the life of both mother and baby if not treated quickly. The Mother Baby Center is a partnership between Allina Health and Children’s Minnesota.

"I was really nervous about the pregnancy and having a baby that early,” said Kelsey. “They did a lot of monitoring.” 

{{alt}}Yet she was confident in the treatment and impressed with the team of providers, including doctors, social workers, nurses and providers from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). “It made me feel like if anything happened, my baby was going to be in a great place and safe, and I wouldn't have to worry.”

Kelsey had dealt with preeclampsia in the final weeks of her first pregnancy. After she gave birth to her daughter, Amelia, she had acupuncture to help address high blood pressure and low milk production.

“East Asian medicine, including acupuncture and acupressure, has a long history of treating blood pressure,” said Zena Kocher, supervisor of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing inpatient services. “We recently completed a retrospective study of Allina Health patients that revealed that acupuncture and acupressure can help pregnant people with high-risk preeclampsia stay pregnant longer. That’s good news for parents, babies and providers, because it lowers the risk of complications.”

So, when acupuncture was mentioned in addition to the traditional pharmaceutical treatment for preeclampsia, Kelsey pursued the option. “If it could manage my blood pressure too, a little bit, that'd be even better,” she said. She had two sessions of acupuncture.

“The first time I noticed my blood pressure being lower than it had been. And then the second time, it stayed about the same, but I was much more relaxed, and I didn't have such high spikes.”

{{alt}}Atticus was born by Cesarean delivery at 34 weeks, weighing a healthy 5 pounds, 8 ounces. He spent 2 ½ weeks in the NICU where he was on continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and was intubated once. The time in the NICU allowed him to get bigger and stronger so he could latch on for breastfeeding. Two months after birth, Atticus was doing well and gaining weight. His older sister, Amelia, was thrilled with his addition to the family.

Kelsey was very pleased with the staff who cared for her. “Instead of telling me what's happening, they actually wanted me to be involved in my care.”

The nurses, in particular, stood out in her memory. “I think all the nurses are amazing. They work really hard and they're very diligent and they always come in with a great smile,” said Kelsey.

Holistic or alternative medicines are part of Allina Health's integrative services, and they are offered to all patients with high-risk pregnancies at the Mother Baby Center at Abbott Northwestern and United Hospitals. When patients need assistance during labor or postpartum, their doctors can place an order for integrative care.

“The Mother Baby Center is planning to expand integrative care by offering acupuncture and massage in the clinic setting to patients before and after their birth. We want to address the whole person and bring care to the continuum of a patient’s experience with us,” said Kocher.

“Every time I talk to people about babies…I always say that it's amazing that Allina Health allows for acupuncture and massage …because you don't typically get that covered. It's a nice asset.”

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