M is for Mama: And A is for Acupuncture, the Anxiety edition

Being the avid planner that I am, I’ve been reading TTC & baby forums since we first decided on a timeline. I’m nothing if not prepared! In looking at cases in which PCOS was an issue, many women were having success in normalising their hormones through acupuncture. It has been in our plans to try acupuncture in the last quarter of the year as a way to normalise my hormone functions and shorten my cycle, so in my time off from work I decided to research acupuncturists in our area.

Looking through the website to see if they treated fertility issues, another thing caught my eye – acupuncture for insomnia? Due to the stress that we’ve faced this year with Mum’s illness and our wedding, I feel like I can’t even remember the last time I found it easy to go to sleep, or ended up asleep before 11 pm. Below that, acupuncture for anxiety and depression… I haven’t felt depressed (well, any more than people would naturally feel) but the one thing that concerns me is how anxious I have felt since Mum’s passing. I’ve never been an anxious person and yet, in the most peculiar of circumstances, I’ve been starting to feel incredibly anxious. Like panic-attack in the shower type of anxious. Considering I’m usually the kind of person that isn’t usually afraid to make a total idiot of myself in front of people, this was really weird. It was a vicious cycle too, because I seemed to get even more anxious when I was thinking about how weird it was that I was anxious.

Something needed to be done, so I booked into the acupuncturist that I felt was the best fit. On Wednesday morning, the day before I returned to work, I tootled along to my appointment. After filling out a form with personal details, I had my first consultation. My acupuncturist took a complete medical history, also asking me a lot of questions about symptoms that I would think that medical professionals would gloss over. We got in depth about what my symptoms felt like and then it was time for a couple of physical checks. I lay on the table (similar to a massage table)so that she could take a resting pulse rate and she also checked my tongue.

Now, for the part that you’ve all been waiting for – the needles! She explained to me that as it was our first session, she would not put in too many needles to start with. She went through the process and said that it shouldn’t hurt, and to let her know if it did because it may mean that there was a capillary in that area and they would have to do a slight shift. She would hold the needle in a plastic tube, put the tube on my skin and then tap the needle in. She started with placing needles in my forehead/hairline region and she was right, I couldn’t feel them at all. However, my eyebrows started to feel really heavy. I must have been walking around looking permanently surprised because I didn’t realise how tense my face was until that point.

Next up, she put a couple of needles in my chest. I didn’t feel them initially, but over the 25 minutes that I had them in, I felt a build up of pressure around the needles – never to the point that it was uncomfortable, but it sure did feel weird. Needles went in both wrists and the only indication I had that one in there was that my right wrist got incredibly itchy. Needles in my ankles and my feet, heat lamp on my tummy and the light switched off – it was actually really relaxing!

I was really surprised that there was no pain – I’ve had a tattoo and I expected acupuncture to feel similar – a little bit painful but not intolerable. Instead, when I felt anything at all (and I certainly didn’t feel something at each needle site) it was pressure, a tingly feeling or in the case of my right wrist, itchy. The itchiness was short-lived – it probably only lasted about 20 minutes after the needles were removed and quite frankly, I’ve had worse mosquito bites.

Now, the question you’ve all been waiting for… Did it work?

Yes! Yes it did. Immediately after the appointment I felt more relaxed, like my shoulders were not attached to my earlobes anymore (I know, conjuring sexy pictures of me as the Hunchback of Notre Dame, aren’t you) and it was easier to breathe deeply. That evening, I still ended up not sleeping until 1:30 am (fairly standard recently) but this time I got a solid sleep. The real test was returning to work yesterday – would I get anxious again?

I did get anxious but I didn’t get the elephant-sitting-on-the-chest pains and racing heart beat that I’d had for the previous two weeks. In fact, I had no tension at all in an inch radius of where the needles were placed. The tension I could feel was in my fingers and down the side of my chest (starting in my armpit and curving around under each breast), which was a marked improvement on before and something that I can live with for now. Last night I was asleep by 11:30 pm, a marked improvement! My acupuncturist advised that it would probably take a month to get completely under control at which point we can move on to treat the hormone imbalances that PCOS has wrought on my body.

Skeptical? I don’t blame you. It’s hard to believe that just a few well-placed needles can create such a difference in your body. There are explanations for why this works but everyone has to make up their own minds. I can’t justify a placebo effect here – if it was simply a matter of wanting to feel less anxious, it would have already happened. Quite frankly, I wish I’d taken the opportunity to do it sooner… it’s great to have the chance and my husband is pretty awesome for supporting me in getting it – the one downside is that it isn’t cheap, especially when you are going weekly.

Any questions you have on acupuncture and/or my acupuncture experience? I’d love to answer them!

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9 thoughts on “M is for Mama: And A is for Acupuncture, the Anxiety edition

  1. Mmmm, interesting 🙂
    I first tried acupressure (no needles!) for pain relief during labour with my first baby. I was so impressed that I went back to the same place when I was pregnant again, for a 4-week pre-birth acupuncture treatment. I have looong pregnancies, and the aim was to avoid an induction. My first treatment left me feeling very relaxed and rather sleepy – quite nice! I repeated the process for baby #3, including some techniques intended to turn her the right way round, and it worked a treat. I went into labour 12 hours after my 4th treatment, and only one week overdue! Only once have I had an adverse reaction, that was a headache in the afternoon after a lunch-time treatment. I mentioned it next time I went (it wasn’t so bad as to go back or call on the day), and she took extra care so it never happened again.
    I thoroughly recommend the acupressure, by the way, when the time is right. They train you & your husband so you can do it yourselves. It’s non-invasive, drug-free, works well with any other pain relief, and if it’s not working for you, then you can just stop doing it 🙂 I was skeptical at first but figured it was a no-lose situation.
    Wow, long comment, sorry! Best of luck, I hope this really works well for you.

    • Thanks for sharing this. As a life Coach and someone who has personally benefited from acupuncture, I have to say that you are sharing and inspiring, personal story that will help people feel more comfortable with alternative treatments. I really like your blog, and I imagine a lot of women are helped and inspired by it. Keep up the good work!

      • Awww thanks Marie! I think in today’s society we’ve lost our openness around health issues – treatments, births, deaths. I don’t think that serves anyone well and often people can feel alone. I hope I can make even a few people feel differently 🙂

    • I will totally try – my acupuncturist is actually pretty cool, so maybe she’ll take a pic. Or I can try and get a sneaky one of like my foot or something 😀

  2. Thanks so much for your comment over at my blog! So cool that you are going on a Samoan honeymoon- that’s somewhere I’ve always been interested in visiting. If you know what activities you’ll be doing you should be able to downsize your packing even more. When we went to St. Lucia a few years ago, I seriously overpacked and ended up wearing my bathing suit or my maxi dress for most of the trip!

    I have never tried acupuncture but I visit a chiropractor twice monthly to deal with work- and life-related stress. When I tell people I visit a chiro sometimes they look at me like they think I’m being treated by a quack, but I think that if a holistic treatment makes you feel better, that’s all the evidence needed! I see that you are an English teacher as well so you know what kind of work related stress I deal with!

    I have been reading through some of your older posts and wanted to say that I am so sorry to read about your mother’s passing. I lost my father when I was a senior in college and dealt with depression and anxiety from the time he was diagnosed with cancer and still a bit to this day. Losing a parent is one of the hardest things we have to go through in life and it takes time to feel normal again; good for you for seeking out help for your anxiety and insomnia.

    • Thanks so much for your sweet reply HeatherBird! I’ve heard fabulous things about chiropractors too, and it would be something that I’d be willing to try in future. I’m hoping that I can pretty much live in bathing suits in Samoa too – I’ve got my eye on a couple from Pin Up Girl that I think would be flattering to my curvy figure, now it’s just convincing myself to spend the money!
      Thanks also for your kind words about my mother – I kind of feel like life is getting back to a new kind of normal – it won’t ever be the same, but it will be okay.

  3. Hi Mrs.M,thanks for sharing your acupuncture experience. I have done it before, and it really works! At first, I was skeptical, but after I tried acupuncture for a few months, I finally got pregnant! Look forward to reading more on your blog.Cheers, Kelly

  4. Pingback: M is for Mama: P is for pregnancy announcements | Sweet Mama M

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