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The Power of Community Acupuncture for Birth and Beyond

The first time I experienced Community Acupuncture was when I was living in South Korea. As a public school English teacher I received health benefits that included Chinese Medicine for a mere $5. After a friend’s recommendation I went to see her Doctor. I walked into a beautiful office and was lead into a large treatment room with beds and chairs all around, some with curtains for privacy and others open to the room. I was led to a bed and made comfortable. The doctor did my intake and the needles were carefully inserted. Meanwhile all around I could hear, see, and feel the other patients. The room was abuzz with all the healing patients were experiencing. It was such a unique experience for me at the time, having always seen a doctor in a private room. Here healing was not a private thing to be endured alone, but was a communal experience. Family members could be with their loved ones, and in their common desire to heal each patient offered a smile and nod to each other.

When I returned home it was several years before the first community acupuncture clinics began popping up in Vancouver. Though this model was slightly different, the decor was more western, no family members were around, and there were no curtains, the energy was still the same: the energy of people coming together to heal in community for an affordable price. It is important for us to be reminded that we are not alone on our journeys, that others also have difficulties and challenges. This can build our resilience. This is most crucial throughout the journey of pregnancy, birth and postpartum. This is a time when we need to find our inner strength and be supported by those who have walked the path before us and those who are walking it with us. Gathering together and sharing the experience of pregnancy; the joys, the worries, the aches and pains, the nausea, the flickering of fetuses, can make our experiences much richer and more bearable.

In the final weeks of pregnancy, as we prepare for birth we look to our sisters, mothers, friends, aunties and peers for support and reassurance. At this time community acupuncture can help your body prepare for birth. Cervical ripening, sometimes called pre-birth acupuncture, begins at 36-37 weeks gestation. It consists of a series of treatments given once a week, based on your unique experience. Specific points are chosen on the hands, arms, legs and feet to help support the body’s natural process of preparing for birth while balancing any discomforts that you may be experiencing with your pregnancy.

 

Some of the benefits of pre-birth acupuncture include:

  • Cervical softening/ripening/dilation
  • Increasing blood flow to the Uterus
  • Supporting, regulating hormonal levels leading up to labour, including enhancing oxytocin release
  • Calming the mind and balancing emotions – fear & anxiety prior to childbirth, post-partum depression
  • Encouraging optimal fetal positioning and/or addressing breech/posterior positioning
  • Potentially decreasing pain and exhaustion during labour
  • Enhancing efficiency of labour, and shortening active labour
  • Reducing the rates of medical interventions
  • Addressing ongoing issues throughout pregnancy such as musculo-skeletal pain, gestational diabetes, edema, anemia, etc.
  • Potentially a faster recovery, less complications following childbirth
  • Promoting lactation, supporting breastfeeding

Throughout my own pregnancy I received acupuncture for a variety of discomforts but it was the cervical ripening treatments in community acupuncture that allowed me to take the time and space to settle into my body, to be reminded of all the women who went before me and connect into all the support that existed in my own community. Research has shown that cervical ripening acupuncture can create a more effective and shorter labour with a reduced rate of medical interventions. My experience as a mother, doula and treating women in clinic supports these findings.

I am delighted to be offering community acupuncture at Mothering Touch on Friday afternoons from 2:00-5pm. I invite you to come and be apart of this affordable community healing experience.

 

Marika Reid Hall BA HDP RAc

 

References:

Kubista E Kucera H. (1974) Geburtshilfe Perinatol; 178 224-9

Rabl M, et al. (2001) Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labour at term – a  randomised controlled trail. Wien Klin Wochenschr; 113 (23-24): 942-6

Tempfer C, et al. (1998) Influence of acupuncture on duration of labour Gynecol Obstet Invest; 46:22-5

Betts D, Lennox S. (2006) Acupuncture for prebirth treatment: An observational study of its use in midwifery practice. Medical acupuncture May; 17(3):17-20

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Thirty-Six to Forty Weeks Pregnant

 

Thirty-Six to Forty weeks Pregnant

This is the last full month of your pregnancy. You may be winding up at work, finishing up projects at home. The baby is coming soon!

Although the baby is getting bigger and is almost ready to be born, it is not full term until 40 weeks. Although it is safe for a baby to be born at 37 week, most first babies are born after 40 weeks. And 40-week babies are bigger and stronger and often breastfeed better. Don’t start expecting the baby too early – it makes for a long wait!

 

How you might feel between thirty-six and forty weeks of pregnancy:

  • Your growing baby is using up almost all your resources. You may be feeling very tired at the end of the day.
  • Back pain, caused by the increasing weight of the baby and softening joints, may slow you down too.
  • Baby’s movements are not just kicks anymore, but feel more like stretches and rolls. Baby’s hiccups – a little, slow, pulse-like feeling, deep inside you – can feel odd.
  • You may find it difficult to sleep through the night, waking frequently to pee or to roll over. Try to take the sleep interruptions lightly. Stay relaxed. Sleep will come again soon.
  • Heartburn becomes (or is still) a problem.
  • Braxton-Hicks contractions, also called pregnancy contractions, may start to become more intense. Remember your uterus contracts more if you are dehydated or over-active. Take it easy and have a glass of water if the tightenings start to bother you.
  • Feet and ankles may be swollen by the end of the day, or if the weather is warm.

Things you may do between thirty-six and forty weeks weeks of pregnancy:

  • Getting ready for your baby to come home. Washing clothes, tidying, installing car seat.
  • Cooking and freezing meals for after the baby comes.
  • Enjoy time alone with your partner! Go out for some meals, to the movies.
  • Buy nursing bras around 37-38 weeks. An experienced fitter can help you find a bra that will fit as your breasts get bigger when your milk “come in” around day 3 of your baby’s life.
  • Think about daycare? It sounds ridiculous, but if you are planning to go back to work outside the home after your maternity leave is over, you need to think ahead.
  • Think about the Fourth Trimester  (first three months of baby’s life) … Who will be available for physical support right after the baby is born? Partner? Birth-helper? Family? Friends? Post-partum Doula? All of the above?

 Between thirty-six and forty weeks of pregnancy, your care-provider will probably:

  • Be seeing you once a week at this stage.
  • Weigh you at each visit and discuss healthy weight gain.
  • Check your blood pressure.
  • Check your urine for protein and infection.
  • Palpate and measure your abdomen.
  • Listen to the baby’s heart beat using a hand held Doppler ultrasound device.
  • Review test results.
  • Discuss breastfeeding, the importance of feeding early and often.
  • Newborn care in the hospital, including eye ointment, Vitamin K and newborn screening tests.
  • Infant sleep and safety
  • Postpartum moods and support
  • Options if pregnancy is prolonged – monitoring and induction.

Your care provider is one of your best sources of information.  Keep a list of questions to ask at your monthly appointments.

Things you can do for your health and your baby’s health:

  • Might be a good time for a pedicure! Very relaxing, and totally justified when you can’t reach your feet!
  • Aquafit classes really help with swollen feet and legs, and backache. Or just go for a gentle evening swim.
  • Be aware of your baby’s movements. Although babies slow down in the last few weeks, they still move a lot! Keep track of times when you expect your baby to move. Note your baby’s daily patterns.
  • Keep working on perineal massage to increase health of perineal tissues and give you practice relaxing as perineum stretches.
  • Learn about Postpartum Mood Disorders.  What might it feel like?  Where can you find help if you need it?  20-40% of women are diagnosed with some mood disorder (anxiety or depression) after giving birth.  We’re pretty sure other women have the same feelings but never seek help.  Support makes it all easier to deal with.
  • Ask friends to throw you a shower where they all bring casseroles for the freezer or tell a friend about MealTrain (I think this is really cool!) and get them to set up a meal rotation for you after the baby comes.

Resources:

Finding a Doula in Victoria, BC: Greater Victoria Doula Directory

What to pack in your hospital bag: Packing for the Hospital.

Home Birth Supplies – an example: Access Midwifery, Victoria

Instructions for Perineal Massage: Perineal Massage in Pregnancy

Organizing friends and family to help with meals: Mealtrain.com

Learning about postpartum emotions: Pacific Postpartum Support Society

Coping with postpartum depression and anxiety: Healthy Families BC

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Thirty-Two to Thirty-Six Weeks Pregnant

Thirty-two to Thirty-six weeks pregnant

Thirty Two to Thirty-Six weeks Pregnant

As baby gets bigger, the issue of how you are going to get the baby out may start to feel more relevant. Many mothers find that they become quite preoccupied with planning and daydreaming and thinking about their impending labour. Talk to your partner or birth helper, meet with your doula. This is a good time to be taking childbirth classes.

How you might feel between thirty-two and thirty-six weeks of pregnancy:

  • Your growing belly and growing baby are putting more strain on your body. You may start to feel quite weary, especially towards the end of the day. Napping is a useful skill to start cultivating now!
  • Back pain, caused by the increasing weight of the baby and softening joints, may get worse. Consider seeing a massage therapist, physiotherapist or chiropractor.
  • Baby is moving a lot. The baby’s movements may keep you up at night, or wake you up even. Baby’s hiccups – a little, slow, pulse-like feeling, deep inside you.
  • As baby moves, and your back hurts, and you get less exercise during the day, you may start to find it difficult to sleep at night. Try having a high-protein snack before you go to bed. Practice your breathing exercises and isten to soothing music. Think of it as free time to rehearse for labour.
  • Constipation may become a problem. Remember to eat lots of high-fiber vegetables and whole grains. Make sure you drink enough water too.
  • Braxton-Hicks contractions, also called pregnancy contractions, may start to become more intense. Remember your uterus contracts more if you are dehydated or over-active. Take it easy and have a glass of water if the tightenings start to bother you.

Things you may do between thirty-two and thirty-six weeks weeks of pregnancy:

  • Planning for your baby’s birth. What is really important to you about the experience of giving birth? Where will you give birth?
  • Consider your preferences and values with regards to your baby’s birth. How would you like things to go? How would you like to cope with labour pain? What interventions would you like to avoid, if possible?
  • Discuss your birth preferences and values with your partner or birth-helper.
  • Gather home birth supplies and/or start to pack your hospital birth bag.
  • Are you having the support of a doula? You will probably meet with her in this month, if you have not already done so.She will want to know about your plans and preferences for your baby’s birth so that she can help you carry out those plans.
  • Plan for the postpartum period. Who will help with household tasks after you have the baby? Who will visit? How much time will your partner take off?

 Between thirty-two and thirty-six weeks of pregnancy, your care-provider will probably:

  • Be seeing you every two-three weeks at this stage.
  • Weigh you at each visit and discuss healthy weight gain.
  • Check your blood pressure.
  • Check your urine for protein and infection.
  • Palpate and measure your abdomen.
  • Listen to the baby’s heart beat using a hand held Doppler ultrasound device.
  • Review test results.
  • Check the position of your baby to screen for breech presentation (bum first) or other variations in presentation.
  • Offer screening for Group B Strep.
  • Provide you with information about how to reach your care provider when you do go into labour.
  • Provide information about when yo go to the hospital – if that is where you are having your baby.
  • Discuss the possibility of a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) if you had a Caesarean at the end of your last pregnancy.

Your care provider is one of your best sources of information.  Keep a list of questions to ask at your monthly appointments.

Things you can do for your health and your baby’s health:

  • Pay attention to self-care. Take time for a massage or acupuncture session.
  • A very large amount of calcium is transferred to the baby in the third trimester. Focus on good sources of calcium: dairy, tofu, leafy greens, dried fruit and nuts.
  • You may want to start doing some perineal massage to increase health of perineal tissues and give you practice relaxing as perineum stretches.
  • Aquafit classes or swimming really help with swollen feet and legs, and backache.

Resources:

Finding a Doula in Victoria, BC: Greater Victoria Doula Directory

Deciding where to have your baby – Hospital or Home? Hospital or Home?

Deciding where to have your baby – Hospital or Home? Place of Birth Handbook

What to pack in your hospital bag: Packing for the Hospital.

Home Birth Supplies – an example: Access Midwifery, Victoria

Group B Strep: HealthLink BC

Group B Strep: BC women’s Hospital