Friday, February 15, 2013

Taxpayer funded pins and needles

I'm fortunate to have always enjoyed good health. Which means I've never really got great value out of the NHS. I'm okay with that, being as I am a total leftie. But still, it's nice to feel like I'm clawing something back now. This pregnancy is proving to be a great opportunity to get my money's worth.

It's not just the basic care I'm getting - all those check ups, my flu jab, the fact I can give birth in a lovely birth centre. That's an excellent start. But I'm enjoying the extras too. Remember all those extra scans we got? And I'm going through an industrial size bottle of Gaviscon every week (free, on prescription). It's all gravy.
My Gaviscon bottle - shown here next to a regular London townhouse, for scale
Today I scaled new heights. Who knew you could get acupuncture on the NHS? Well, you can. And I did.

My hospital, the Whittington, offers acupuncture in the maternity unit, for pain relief, to turn breech babies, and to induce labour. I was a little bit sceptical, I'll be honest. Research on the efficacy of acupuncture is patchy at best. But I figure, if it's NHS-funded that must mean someone who knows more about healthcare than me has decided it is worth a punt. According to the practitioner I saw, they believe it's saving them money in reduced C-sections and fewer chemical inductions.

Anyway, even if it doesn't work, it gives me something to fill another long afternoon of maternity leave with. So, at 6 days past my due date, I checked in for my first session. Pins were placed in areas which will apparently help 'with descent' and send extra blood to my uterus. After I mentioned a couple of pregnancy symptons she chucked in a few extra needles to combat heartburn and water retention. My scepticism began to dissolve as I felt weird sensations, almost like electric shocks. Goodness knows what it's doing, but something is definitely happening around those needles.

It's hard to create anything like a calming, spa-like environment in a curtained hospital bay. So on one side of me I heard a long discussion about bowel movements, and on the other a woman made a noisy phone call to her aunty to discuss a funeral. Despite that, I was so relaxed that I almost fell asleep. Not sure if it was the effect of the needles, the hospital warmth, or the fact I could do nothing but lie still and breathe. But for whatever reason I came out of there feeling like I was walking on air.

And did it work? Well, given that I'm 41 weeks pregnant, the chances of me going into labour in the next few days are extremely good - with or without the needles. Still, I got out of it what I wanted: a diverting and pleasant experience. And the satisfaction of enjoying another health service, thanks to the good old NHS.


  1. I was two wks late with both of my babies, was induced with both. No pain relief and all was ok. Keep smiling x

  2. Labour without pain relief - after induction - is impressive! Fortunately I escaped induction, she arrived at 41 weeks exactly.