Monday, February 11, 2013

A is for Acupuncture

I held the following post back until after she decided to arrive. I didn't want to jinx myself.

Thursday was 41 weeks. I continue to feel fine and the baby seems to be doing well, but she is taking her sweet time. So at our doctor's appointment, we asked about acupuncture. The doctor did not have any concerns, so we made an appointment with the Acura Acupuncture clinic, which is often referred by one of the primary ob/gyn doctors serving the ex-patriate community in Tokyo.

The acupuncturist mentioned that he has women who begin seeing him as early as 36 weeks and I wish we had gone sooner than 41 weeks simply because it was fascinating. Acupuncture falls into the category of things that "can't hurt, might help" to encourage the onset of labor. Evidence is mixed on the effectiveness of it, but the primary shortcoming of most studies is that the sample sizes are quite small. A study showing it to be ineffective from Australia had about 150 women. Another study from Norway showing it to be effective had about 100 women. So, again, can't hurt, might help.

But I enjoyed the session and will definitely consider acupuncture in the future for other purposes. No the needles do not hurt, but most people are aware of this since it has become more commonplace in the US.

My treatment lasted about an hour and a half. We had a short intake interview and he described the process. I changed into a pink smock that zippered in front and buttoned in back so that he could access various areas, but preserve some modesty. He also checked the position of the baby and briefly listened to her heart. We did not place any needles in or near my stomach.

Then he started to find tender spots along my legs, feet, on my forehead, etc.. I was amazed that he could just feel these spots that I've never even noticed. Sometimes he would ask if one spot was more tender than another, but he found them as if he had special radar fingers. When he located the most  tender spots, he inserted a thin, flexible needle. He then connected the the needles in my legs to a TENS machine, which emitted short, non-painful electrical pulses and turned on a heating lamp over my legs. He left me for 10 minutes and then returned to repeat the process on my left and right sides, finding points along my lower back and hips and adding some additional heat treatment. At the end of the session, another staff person did an odd head massage with a heated metal tool and he manipulated some of the points in my legs again.

TENS machine attached to a needle in my lower back.
So will it work? Who knows. At 41 weeks, this baby is ready to come out no matter what we do. But I had two distinct sensations that were clearly related to the treatment. First, the baby was very active during this session. At the same time, I definitely experienced some surges/waves/contractions. Yes, I've been having these, but these felt a bit stronger. Neither of these things were painful, and of course, it's always reassuring to feel the baby moving. Second, I noticed a very obvious endorphin-y happiness come over me. It was as if I'd received laughing gas or some other happy drug. Although I was relaxed and peaceful, it was a different feeling than the relaxed sensation you get from a massage. Simply speaking, I couldn't stop smiling. And like laughing gas at the dentist, the effect began to wear off within an hour or two of leaving the office.

I'm not faking this relaxed look.

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