38 weeks pregnant: acupuncture and the labor dance

With leftover soup heating up on the wood stove I look out the window and realize it’s snowing. It’s a sandy snow: sparse and thin like powdered sugar. I’ve been imagining Peanut as a snow baby lately, so I shake my stomach and tell her “Snow! You should really come out and see this!” She doesn’t respond. As usual.

Last night I tried acupuncture for the first time. After 36 weeks, my midwife offers a weekly group session for five euros a person. Apparently you can shorten labor by a few hours through the careful pricking of several spots on leg and foot—these pressure points are alleged to be able to shorten the neck of the cervix without with presence of labor—and help prepare the body for dealing with labor pains. (Some people also insist that acupuncture can naturally induce labor, but as my midwife says, “People have been trying to induce labor themselves for years and nothing has ever proved to be reliable. It’s the kids that decide when they’re coming.”)

In the same room where she gives birth prep classes I sit on a red yoga mat with four other pregnant women, and our midwife kneels beside each one of us in turn, inserting hair-thin needles into our scalps, arms, and legs. I barely feel the needles go into my scalp, though the first sends a strange tingle through my entire body. It is also the needles in my scalp that I find the most uncomfortable throughout the session and on into the next day. (Those were supposed to be for relaxation.) I am glad that I can’t see my own head because looking at the pin-cushioned scalps of the other women makes me feel like I’m in a bad science fiction short story.

Lights dimmed, our midwife then leaves the room for twenty minutes, telling us to close our eyes and relax. We chat in whispers about swollen hands and breastfeeding instead. My hands have been feeling strange lately—a bit swollen, often falling asleep, often painful to ball into a fist—but my complaints are nothing next to the paws my neighbor has developed. She can no longer remove her wedding ring, and her ring finger is starting to look a lot like two links of sausage. Others complain of swollen faces and lips, and I am once again thankful that my main complaint is that walking is painful.

At home, I finally google the difference between Senkwehen and Vorwehen, two German words I hadn’t been sure of and that had been coming up more and more in my conversations with other prego ladies. It turns out that what German folks call Vorwehen (pre-contractions) are what I call Braxton Hicks (ie when you’re uterus contracts and your stomach goes hard) and Senkwehen (sinking contractions) are the mildly crampy contractions that help your baby sink down into the pelvis.

I hadn’t previously realized that there was a difference, but I experience both for the rest of the evening and night. “Go go go, come on Peanut!” I chant at my stomach, but by morning they are gone; I’m not in labor. I am convinced that my desire for her to arrive early is going to keep her in long past my due date, but I’m converting my rain dance into a labor dance and crossing my fingers that Peanut isn’t hoping to wait out the entire winter. If you have a minute, pretty please do a few hip shakes for us too.

Any of you ever tried acupuncture? I’d be curious to hear about it…

Disclaimer: It is pretty dark in here right now. Which means I didn’t take a new picture. Which means the belly picture up there is actually from week 35. It’s even bigger now. Though shockingly still stretch-mark-free.

Want to read more about my gorilla pregnancy? Check out these posts… (Or check out the entire gorilla prego category here.)

singing during pregnancy (wherein I lament having to vomit onstage at 37 weeks)

diy pregnancy: the fold-down changing table

birth, pregnancy, and everyday magic

what i read while i was pregnant

why disney women suck

midwives and home births in germany

0 Comments on “38 weeks pregnant: acupuncture and the labor dance

  1. Oh my gosh! You have the most perfect pregnant belly I’ve ever seen. I’ve never tried acupuncture but I considered it when I used to get migraines all the time.

  2. Wow thanks Ashley. 🙂 I just saw a picture of how my stomach looked pre-prego, and I couldn’t even fathom that it was me. It is going to be amazing to have a waist again, tell you what.

  3. I tried acupuncture at 7 days overdue with my second child, and went into labour the next day. I was convinced it was the acupuncture. I tried it again when 7 days overdue with my 3rd, and nothing happened at all. Make of it what you will. Don’t be tempted to try castor oil (even assuming you can get it in Germany), it’s beyond horrible. Good luck with it, those last few weeks seem endless.

  4. I have tried acupuncture several times recently when I have had sciatica. Last year the pain was not in butt but just down leg. Caused I think by sliding and falling on a mud bank out walking.

    This year it came back and in the butt. A couple of treatments, after the second, when I could hardly walk, got down from the table and felt great but it came back later and for next two days. A bit hit and miss now. Maybe I need some manipulating?

    I hope Peanut arrives soon, so you can have your body back! You will be like a cat in stormy weather, jumping and running around!!

  5. Freya: Don’t worry, I don’t feel tempted by Castor oil AT ALL. Particularly since our toilets are currently frozen and the walk to the next toilet is a bit too long for the kind of effect I can imagine that stuff having on me. Ech.

    Anni: I think hit and miss is a good way to describe it. And perhaps literally its success has to do with the exact placing of the needles? Seems like it would be easy to miss getting the exact spot.

  6. I went to accupuncture several times before the Elchlein was born. It didn’t seem to make a difference. I did take the hospital up on the offer of the caster oil “cocktail” and I went into labor shortly thereafter – however, without any of the side effects that caster oil is supposed to bring with it, so at edd+7, it was probably just coincidence. (I don’t know what exactly was in what I drank. It tasted fine.) I had had worrying things going on with my ctgs since the day before, so we would probably have moved forward to a full-on induction if I hadn’t gone into labor after the Hebammenkocktail.
    Hang in there,

  7. Wow, I can’t believe that’s your perfect belly! Ive said it once & I’ll say it again your making pregnancy look a little too good!!! I’m so excited for you, I didn’t realize you were having a girl either, she’ll be here soon. Although at this point it seems like forever! Accupunture is great, I think it’s really relaxing. I agree-they come when they come. I had my membranes stripped with both (Ashley was 42 weeks & 7 days late & I thought it was cruel punishment to be preggo that long so I was up for anything! I soooo wish i would have been a little more proactive with things AHEAD of time like you are doing, Membrane stripping actually helped but lets just say I retracted my statement to the doctor afterwards when I said I was up for anything!!! Keep us posted on you & peanut!! She’s a lucky lil’ peanut!

  8. I’ve had acupuncture for migraine, since my liver and spleen were acting up – and I got rid of the migraine headaches plus other symptoms for good in 2002, after suffering from them for 15 years. Yay! A couple of years ago I felt some of the symptoms reappear, although not the migraines, so I tried acupuncture again and it helped again. There was a pregnant woman who came for treatments for a difficult pregnancy and to make the baby turn in the uterus. If it can shorten the time in labor, I’d say good for you! I have a friend whose due date was yesterday, but no baby yet…

  9. Awesome post! I love acupuncture! Though I’m a bit sad to say I never went in during pregnancy. I did have regular chiropractic visits while I was pregs, through – which were in. credible. You look absolutely stunning!! & Your midwife is an acupuncturist, too? Holy SCORE, batman! xo!

  10. I havent heard much about accupunture but a lot about chiropractors. The reason I’m hearing is keeping your body in line for a smooth labor. Not sure if I want to bother. I do a combination of yoga and pilates and I figure I’m in good shape.

    Although this whole sleeping on my side thing is miserable. The first night I couldn’t sleep and was sore in the morning. Now I just wake up a lot and role from side to side. I could see my back being messed up from that. Of course, I’m only 22 weeks along and there’s a lot more weight and center of balance shifting to take place. I keep thinking, “I’m so big now, but it’s just half way…”.

  11. Ann: So I finally figured out what “edd” meant, but what is “ctg” again? I am a very non acronym kind of person…

    Sara: That’s awesome! I’ve heard a lot of great stories about acupunture. (And a lot of “meh, shrug” stories as well. It’s a fascinating thing. Someday I’ll learn more about it.

    Katey: Heh. I know, she kicks ass. 🙂 She also does a bunch of homeopathic medicine, though I don’t know much about the extent to which she practices that. From the looks of her office, a lot. Going to a chiropractor would have interested me as well, though at the moment I seem to be avoiding most of the back pain I was having simply by not standing around or walking around much.

    Foy: Yeah I spent all night rolling from side to side too, though it doesn’t ever get too painful, just sometimes in my hips from laying one way for too long. On my right side sometimes my stomach feels really uncomfortable. Oh how I am looking forward to laying on my back again, and my stomach!

    Funny about feeling so huge at 22 weeks–I totally did too, and now that I am actually fucking huge I’m all like, yeah whatever. I mean, when I see pictures of myself I’m all like ha! look at that whale! But I no longer feel so big. Guess you can get used to anything. How much have you gained so far? At the moment I’m at 15 kilos which is, according to the internet converter, 33 pounds. Less than I expected actually, my mom gained 50.

    Jess: Aww thanks! Next time I will post a photo of my double chin to combat that impression. 😉 Haha. Here’s hoping that the acupunture actually accomplishes something!

  12. CTG is “cardiotocography” – hope I have that correct. I think it’s also called a non-stress test in the US. (Yes, I know that monitoring can lead to overdiagnosis of fetal stress, but there was meconium in the amniotic fluid at delivery, so they weren’t wrong in our case.) sorry if that’s an overshare!

  13. Wow sounds interesting…a bunch of needles punched into my skin sounds sort of frightening, but I always thought I should try acupuncture-simply because I’d like to overcome the fear. I enjoy your writing, you paint a lovely picture.

  14. You still have your belly ring in! That’s amazing, you must have one awesome belly button, so good on you for keeping that in (mine was out at 4 months and can’t go back in, grr…).

    And I swear by the acupuncture — had a 3 hour hard labor — though my midwife says you have to have it 3 times before it’ll work. Hope you’ve got another appointment coming up.

    Before I go giving you too much advice, one more thing: my aunt worked in a maternity ward and she said full moons make the babies come out. So get out your lunar calendar. It was true with mine 🙂

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