Acupuncture & Reflexology

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In parts of Asia, acupuncture has been used for centuries to jump-start labour. But does it work? Research is inconclusive. One small study at the University of North Carolina found that women who got acupuncture were more likely to go into labour without a medical “push.” The study included 56 women who were 39.5 to 41 weeks pregnant. Half of the women got three acupuncture sessions, while the other half did not. Seventy percent of the women who got acupuncture went into labour on their own, compared to 50% who received standard care. The women who got acupuncture were also less likely to deliver by cesarean section — 39% compared to 17%.

9 months ago, to accompany my IVF treatment, I used acupuncture. I found the process very relaxing and positive. It was calming and restful, in fact I fell asleep! So last week I decided to give it another go as there are suggestions that it can be a a safe natural way to help bring on labour.  I was told to have two sessions which combined acupuncture and reflexology. The first was in week 38 to prepare the body for labour, and the second, scheduled for today, to induce labour. Watch this space!

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De-stress

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20 Scientifically-Backed Ways to Ease Stress

The road to motherhood can be unbelievably stressful. With that in mind, here are 20 ways, backed up by good scientific evidence, to keep your stress in check:

1. Go For A 10 Minute Walk

While just about any walk will help to clear your head and boost endorphins, green spaces, can put your body into a state of meditation, thanks to a phenomenon known as “involuntary attention” during which something holds our attention, but simultaneously allows for reflection.

2. Breathe Deeply

Any yogi knows that the breath — known as pranayama or “life force” — plays an important role in nourishing the body. Breathing exercises – or even just taking a few deep breaths – can help reduce tension and relieve stress, thanks to an extra boost of oxygen.

3. Visualize

Simply make yourself comfortable and then try to picture a relaxing scene.

4. Eat A Snack

Stress-eating doesn’t have to be bad. Pick a snack that will fill you up — say, half an avocado, a handful of nuts or a hard boiled egg — because nothing is more stressful to the brain than feeling like you’ve run out of nourishment. Focus on your food: its texture, the way it tastes, how it makes you feel. Now you’ve turned your snack into a meditation.

5. Buy Yourself A Plant

Houseplants can actually help you calm down. Researchers have found that simply being around plants can induce your relaxation response.

6. Step Away From The Screen

Uninterrupted computer use has been associated with stress, lost sleep and depression in women. Make sure to take frequent breaks during your day of computer use — and try to shut offline at least an hour before bedtime.

7. Pucker Up

Kissing relieves stress by helping your brain to release endorphins.

8. Try This Naam Yoga Hand Trick

Applying pressure to the space between your second and third knuckle (the joints at the base of your pointer and middle fingers) can help to create a sense of instant calm.

9. Hang Up, Then Turn Off Your Phone

Mobile phones stress you out. Talking can even raise your blood pressure.

10. Put On Some Music

While classical music has a particularly soothing effect — it slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure and even decreases levels of stress hormones — any music that you love will flood your brain with feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine.

11. Treat Yourself!

Eating or drinking something sweet is soothing because it stems the production of the stress hormone, glucocorticoid.

12. Or, On The Other Hand, Plug In

Yes, screens can stress you out. But used in the right way, there’s no reason you can’t turn to the Internet to get a little stress relief such as web-based stress management programs.

13. Chew A Piece Of Gum

Chewing gum doesn’t just make your breath better — it can relieve anxiety, improve alertness and reduce stress during episodes of multitasking.

14. Watch A Viral Video

A good laugh is a fine relaxation technique. What’s more, even if you don’t find the viral video your uncle Joe sent you to be that funny, just the anticipation that it might be will actually boost endorphins.

15. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Start with your toes and work your way up: tighten your foot muscles as much as you can, then relax them. Make your way up, tightening and relaxing each muscle until you’ve finished with your face. It may seem silly, but this practice can help reduce anxiety and stress.

16. Seriously, Turn Off Your Phone

Smartphones, in particular, are linked to increased stress, as more and more people feel pressure to respond to messages at all times.

17. See Your BFF

Friends aren’t just fun — your very closest ones can actually reduce your production of cortisol.

18. Eat A Banana (Or A Potato!)

Potassium helps to regulate blood pressure, which rises during times of stress.

19. Try Eagle Pose

Many yoga poses are known stress relievers, as they open the shoulders, relieve neck tension and do away with many of the physical symptoms of stress. Eagle pose is a prime example of how a brief asana can target back and neck tension. Learn how to do the pose here.

20. Craft

Repetitive motions — like the fine motor skills used to knit– can soothe anxiety.

Try one today!

Get Some Headspace

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Over the last few months my husband and I have been embracing our inner hippy by using a series of meditation and mindfulness podcasts to reduce stress. Like anything else it is a skill that needs learning. The series of short exercises, initially just 10 minutes a day, from Headspace shows you how you can  master this invaluable skill. Andy Puddicombe, with his reassuing and calming voice, teaches you useful techniques that have assisted the management of our worries and anxiety during the IVF process. Many times I have fallen asleep mid-podcast, that’s just how calming it is! It leads to some much needed peace of mind and well-being.

Check it out at http://www.headspace.com

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How Puzzling

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My lovely friend received a 2,000 piece puzzle for her birthday. On one of my many visits to her home I got involved. It was a great distraction and before we knew it we 3 hours had passed. Over the weeks we did more and more of it and it was a great focus while we chatted about everything and nothing. I was hooked!

I did a bit of googling and found studies that suggest that jigsaw puzzles can actually lead to a longer life expectancy, a better quality of life, and reduce our chances of developing certain types of mental illness by an amazing third. Apparently it is due to the simultaneous use of both sides of the brain. In addition, completing a puzzle, or even just the successful placement of one piece, encourages the production of dopamine. Jigsaw puzzles are a unique activity that allows us to achieve a state of creative meditation, while imparting a sense of accomplishment.

You’ll find me in the toy store.

Truth or Twaddle?

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I am a cynical person. Without question alternative treatments made me very skeptical. So the idea of acupuncture seemed like a load of new age twaddle.

To increase your chances of getting pregnant you need to create an inviting environment for an embryo to implant and develop. There seems to be a lot of studies suggesting that acupuncture improves uterine lining, increases blood flow to the uterus, regulates hormones and reduces stress. Now it may be a load of rubbish, and when the lady administering talked about ‘nourishment’ it sounded like nonsense, but quite honestly I will try anything. If there a suggestion that rubbing dog poo on your privates would help my embryo transfer I would do it.

So on Saturday I went for my first session. I put on a mindfulness audio and shut my eyes for 30 minutes. It felt odd, but also relaxing and calming. I decided to book a session for before and after the embryo transfer.

Placebo affect? Maybe. But it can’t hurt, and I will do whatever it takes to help things along. So sign me up!