So when you're 40 weeks pregnant...

...with your first baby and you ring for your first acupuncture session....(please, please, oh please don't do that)...it would be helpful to understand a few things. 

But first a question... if you had to walk up Everest or skydive from a plane... would you do it without any preparation? Yeah I know you think you're not ever going to walk up Everest or jump out of a plane... but you haven't had your baby yet...and seriously?

Energetically that's exactly what you're doing. 

You're about to go through a process that is THE most exciting, amazing, thrilling, life changing thing you'll ever experience. How you walk it, talk it and experience it will be a defining part of your life, and that of your child's too. 

So back to the idea of preparation... Acupuncture is a great therapy for helping the myriad of hormones and physiological changes in the last month or so of your pregnancy to establish in the most appropriate way.

Hormonally, there is a lot going on in those last few weeks. Firstly there's the increase in 'relaxin' a hormone that starts to 'ripen' the cervix and relax the muscles of the hips and lower back to soften up the body for the process of birthing.
Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and cortisol, (known as stress hormones) are also on the rise and trigger Estriol a form of estrogen.
At the same time Progesterone which is responsible for stopping uterine contractions and keeping your bub in utero is starting to decline. This flux in the hormonal interplay means that in late pregnancy, you may experience Braxton Hicks contractions more often – perhaps every 10 to 20 minutes. This is a sign that you are preparing for labour – known as prelabour.

Yes, yes I know, I know...that's why I'm calling... well actually my midwife mentioned that it might help to induce me... I'd rather not have an epidural..

Well sure, an epidural is best avoided that's true. The research bears out what midwives have known for awhile... epidurals tend to lead to greater interventions in the birthing process including emergency C-sections [1]. But did you notice that I inferred that all those wonderful and natural changes in the body leading up to birth are taking time? Like at least a fortnight to one month? 

It's pretty unlikely that one session of acupuncture will see you slow breathing your way off to the delivery suite. I mean it HAS happened, but generally it doesn't work that way.

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Acupuncture intervention assists the spiral of hormonal changes that are winding and unwinding themselves in your body throughout this time. The balance of the body (the homeostasis) is putting new parameters in place for the event of birth, and when we reach the tipping point, baby responds to the body's new signals and labour begins. So acupuncture treatments are always assisting the direction of the body towards that tipping point... 

If at all possible I want to keep you away from an epidural, so I'll do my best, but if it doesn't provide the outcome you are wanting please know that it's not that it didn't work... it's because we didn't give it enough time...

And I know, I really do... it's because finding the time when we're already flat out getting everything ready for our new arrival, finishing work, keeping appointments and catching up on that parenting book we've yet to finish...ah well we can get a bit distracted away from the deep listening that is part of our preparation for our jump off the ledge...and our walk up the mountain, aka easy birthing. 

There's a great line in a song by Daniel Lanois, that sums it up... "So I went to the most dangerous places, not knowing my way back, no traces, the burden was more than i could take, and she said slow down you're running late..."