Advice from an Acupuncturist

By: Valerie Mendels, L.Ac, Dipl.Ac, M.Ac.

finding-right-acupuncturistFinding the Right Acupuncturist
FOR YOUR FERTILITY CARE

The ancient healing art of acupuncture has been used for centuries to improve fertility. More recently, research has demonstrated the effectiveness of using acupuncture in conjunction with modern medical fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination.

Acupuncture can increase the chance of a successful outcome, alleviate some of the side effects of the fertility medications, and help you to feel more comfortable, relaxed and calm
throughout the process.

What should the right acupuncture treatment incorporate?

Will any acupuncturist be able to help you? Can the same acupuncturist your friend raves about, who treats his back pain, also help you to have a baby?

The answer is . . . probably not. Your best option is to see an acupuncturist who specializes in fertility. Fertility acupuncture is a complex and nuanced area of specialty within Chinese medicine. Each treatment should be tailored to your individual needs. Your treatment should factor in every aspect of your health, your history, menstrual patterns, and symptoms. In addition, it should take into account what is happening currently. For example, which medications you are on, where you are in your cycle, how you are feeling physically, and even your emotional state on the day of the treatment.

Acupuncture can be tremendously beneficial in helping you to become pregnant, as well as treating you during your pregnancy. However, as with any therapy that can help when done correctly, it can cause harm when done “incorrectly.”

How do you find the right acupuncturist for your fertility care?

When it comes to a choosing a fertility specialist, here are a few key points to look for:

Licensure: Every acupuncturist in practice should hold a license in good standing from their state’s acupuncture board, and their training should include a bachelor’s or master’s degree in acupuncture from an accredited acupuncture school.

Fertility Specialist: They may also treat other health issues, but their primary focus should be fertility. ABORM is the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine. It certifies acupuncture practitioners in the area of reproductive medicine (fertility) through an examination and provides continuing education for its practitioners. Seek out a provider who has this qualification.

Clinical Experience: If possible, choose an acupuncturist who has at least 5 years of clinical experience.

Personal Reommendations: A recommendation from your fertility doctor or OB/GYN can be helpful.

How do I know that my acupuncture is working for me?

Sometimes, whether you have found your acupuncturist through a referral or through your own search, you may wish for some reassurance that the treatment is working. The good news is that once you start treatment, there are a few things that you can observe to help you know how the process is going.

Does your acupuncturist talk with you before each treatment?

Your acupuncturist will check in, not only on your first visit, but each time you come in, to see where you are in your cycle, how you are feeling physically and emotionally. This allows her/him to understand the signs and symptoms that you are experiencing.

Does she take your pulses before and after each treatment?

There are 12 different pulse points that are felt along the radial artery at your wrists, 6 pulse points on each side. Taken before the treatment, they help to inform your acupuncturist about how you are, what areas need support, and what kind of treatment will most benefit you. Taken after the treatment (and sometimes during) they will tell her whether the treatment is having its desired effect.

Do you feel better after the treatment?

You should leave the acupuncturist’s office with a feeling of calm and well-being after your treatment. While you may not notice any big changes after the first couple of treatments, by around the third treatment you should start to notice improvements in some symptoms. This may include improvements in your general well-being and mood, energy, sleep, digestion and complexion.

If you are trying to conceive naturally, you should start to notice improvements in your cycles over time:

  • Cycles may become more regular and closer to 28 days
  • Ovulation may be more regular
  • Luteal phase lasts 12-14 days
  • An increase in fertile mucus
  • A reduction of pre-menstrual symptoms and menstrual cramps

If you start acupuncture while you are in the midst of an in vitro fertilization or other medicated cycle, it may be more difficult to observe the changes caused by acupuncture. At this point, your cycles and hormones are being regulated by the medications, and you also may be feeling differently than you usually do. Nonetheless you will probably feel a sense of calm and well-being after your acupuncture treatments.

When should you begin your acupuncture care for fertility?

Once you have found the right acupuncturist, begin weekly treatments as soon as possible. While some acupuncturists believe that it is ideal to start acupuncture three months before trying to conceive (to help prepare your body for conception and pregnancy), acupuncture may provide benefits for any stage and type of medical fertility treatment.

In addition to having weekly acupuncture, if you are undergoing in vitro fertilization (with your own eggs or donor eggs), receiving acupuncture onsite at the in vitro fertilization clinic immediately before and after the embryo transfer may help to optimize the chance of success.

Some practitioners believe that once you are pregnant, weekly acupuncture care during the first trimester may help to decrease the chance of miscarriage. It may also reduce common first trimester symptoms such as fatigue, morning sickness, and anxiety. This may allow you to fully enjoy this special time in your life.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ValerieValerie Mendels, L.Ac., Acupuncturist (specialized in fertility). Valerie’s practice is based in Petaluma, California. She has been treating patients with acupuncture since 1999, and holds a Master’s degree from the traditional acupuncture Institute, School of Philosophy and Healing in Action (TAI Sophia) in Maryland. In addition to acupuncture, Valerie uses Chinese herbal medicine, nutritional and dietary therapy, and lifestyle counseling to help her patients gain optimal health and fertility. Valerie is passionate about helping her patients experience greater peace, joy and well-being while working with them to achieve their fertility goals. Her website is www.valeriemendels.com