It’s estimated that 1 in 7 couples have trouble getting pregnant. Many couples seek Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), including Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Acupuncture is a popular compliment to ART, as it works to promote vasodilation to increase blood flow to the uterus and ovaries for improved egg quality, and to reduce the chronic stress that many experience with fertility challenges.
As a fertility acupuncture specialist, I get many questions about when to start acupuncture for IVF or IUI. Research studies suggest that 9 – 12 treatments leading up to procedure is ideal. That being said, I have folks that find me late in the process, therefore I work with patients wherever they are in their IVF/IUI cycles. It’s best to start treatments 6-8 weeks before your procedure. In your initial consult, we will go over a treatment plan that usually includes acupuncture one to two times per week, as well as diet/lifestyle/supplement recommendations to support your cycle.
The beauty of Chinese Medicine is that we look at the body as a whole system of moving parts. We look for imbalances and then look for what is causing them. With my fertility patients trying to conceive, we look to the menstrual cycle as a key marker to tell us what is going on in the body. A textbook cycle is 28 days so ovulation around day 14, bleeding for 4 days with little to no PMS (yes, ladies, this is possible!). We also look at my patient’s BBT chart to note any imbalances there. Finally we look at all the boxes checked in the new patient paperwork – what is your digestion like, how’s your sleep, what kind of stress/anxiety are your under, do you run hot or cold? All of these tidbits of information go into my Chinese Medical diagnosis and will tell me what acupuncture points to use and what herbal formula is appropriate for you.
Acupuncturist Jill Blakeway and OBGYN Sami David co-wrote a book called Making Babies, which should be on your must read list if you’re trying to conceive. It’s full of fantastic information, and Jill, who owns YinOva in NYC is one of the leaders in my field of fertility acupuncture. She breaks down TCM diagnosis into 5 categories – Stuck, Dry, Waterlogged, Pale, and Tired. Most of us are a combination of two to three of these…which one are you?
These groupings are simplified, but it gives you an idea of what we look for in our Chinese medical diagnosis. With acupuncture and herbal treatments, we go about balancing each of these types to see improvements in the menstrual cycle, digestion, sleep, and stress/anxiety, which leads to overall wellbeing that can carry a healthy pregnancy! Interested in fertility acupuncture? Give the San Antonio Acupuncture Studio a call – (210) 802-8805.
Forbes Magazine recently listed the top 50 Reproductive Endocrinology clinics in the country. As my specialty is fertility acupuncture, my first acupuncture job was seeing IVF patients at RMA of Texas, and I currently see patients at the Fertility Institute of Texas, I was curious to see how many of the Industry's leaders partnered with acupuncture clinics. It turns out a lot! Of the top 50, 16 fertility clinics actually have acupuncture available on site, and 9 of them have preferred acupuncturists listed on their websites for patients to find adjunct acupuncture care. That's 50% of the nation's leading RE's who support our work as fertility acupuncturists, and who believe that acupuncture makes a difference in their patients fertility treatments.
Research shows that acupuncture in conjunction with IVF can increase the chances of live birth, in some studies by as much as 50%! Acupuncture increases circulation to the reproductive organs, which is beneficial for the ovaries during the stim phase of the IVF cycle, and for the uterine lining for an FET. It also reduces stress, and helps to alleviate the side effects of the medications. I usually see patients 6-8 weeks before retrieval and/or transfer and once per week until beta. Many of my patients come to rely on their acupuncture sessions to get them through the stress of the IVF process!
Here are the 16 RE's that offer on site acupuncture and their locations:
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each season is related to an element and the correlation between season and element is one of the foundations of acupuncture theory. Spring is connected to the Wood Element, Summer is connected to the Fire Element, Late Summer is connected to the Earth Element, Fall is connected to the Metal Element, and finally at the close of one year and rebirth of the next, Winter is connected to the Water Element. Winter is a time to power down, reflect, and rest. The days get shorter and darkness becomes more prevalent, especially for our northern friends. This is the most yin time of the year, when the body is given time to restore its resources, and the energy turns inward.
The Kidneys and Urine Bladder are the organs of the Water Element, naturally, as they manage water metabolism in the body. In Chinese medicine, the Kidney is the foundation of the body as is in charge of birth, reproduction, and aging. The Ming Men, or vitality fire gate of the body is located just between the Kidneys. Imbalance in the kidneys can manifest as bone problems (especially in the lower body and teeth), hearing loss, premature aging or hair loss, reproductive challenges, and excessive fear. Salty and bitter are the flavors, and black is the color of the Water Element. Think dark leafy greens, scallions, black beans, sauerkraut, seaweed, asparagus, alfalfa sprouts, black sesame seeds and miso. These are great to add to hearty winter soups, especially those made with bone broth or congee, to keep you warm and nourish the kidneys. Cheerful Winter, friends!
I get this question a lot. The medicine of acupuncture has been in practice for thousands of years, and how they discovered way back then that a needle placed in the ankle has an affect on your digestion, is a testament to the medical practices of the Ancient Chinese. The fact is, they were brilliant medical professionals, and they were studying gross anatomy long before their Western medical counterparts. Most of our acupuncture points are located close to nerve bundles and blood vessel bifurcations. When we needle these areas, we are directly influencing the peripheral nervous system, which is why acupuncture has such a calming effect. The exact mechanism of acupuncture is still relatively unknown, but with modern technology, we know this:
By doing all of these things, acupuncture influences every organ system in the body, from the digestive system to the cardiovascular system to the nervous system. The end result is that the body is restored to homeostasis, or its natural balance, and when the body is happy the mind is happy!
The dreaded Cedar season is upon us in Central Texas, which makes a good portion of the population miserable for the next 6 weeks. When Zyrtec and Claritin fail you, here are some additional survival tips to make it through the season:
Acupuncture and Herbs
Acupuncture is one of the most effective ways to immediately clear congestion due to allergies or common cold. There are acupuncture points that work on opening the sinus passages for easing blockages from overaccumulation of phlegm. We also work on boosting your defensive qi, which is in charge of staving off those allergens.
Between acupuncture appointments, I suggest taking the herbal formula Easy Breather by Herbalogic (found at Whole Foods). It’s a Chinese Herbal formula specifically targeting nasal congestion, and it works when taken consistently!
You can also do acupressure by using your index fingers to apply pressure to the acupuncture point Stomach 2. It’s located on the bone just below your eye, in the indentation directly under the pupil when looking forward. Apply gentle but firm pressure to the points for 5 minutes or until you feel some movement in the area.
Keep a bottle of eucalyptus or peppermint essential oils on hand and massage a couple of drops around any areas of the face (avoiding the eye area) or chest that feel congested. Steaming a few drops in boiling water and inhaling deeply can work as well. You can find these at Whole Foods or Central Market. If you have sensitive skin, you can add a little bit of olive or coconut oil to dilute the essential oils.
Neti Pot or Nasal Rinse
Use your net pot daily to keep nasal passages free and clear of excess mucus and of the allergens that are plaguing you. Unfamiliar with the neti pot? Here’s a good explanation.
It’s important to stay warm during the winter to avoid excess cold entering the body, but it’s especially important for those who suffer from allergies as they are more sensitive to temperature change. Keep a sweater at your desk and make sure your neck and shoulders are covered, and that your feet stay warm. It sounds like an old wives tale, but in Chinese Medicine, protecting your defensive qi by keeping the body warm allows it to better function at protecting your body from pathogens and allergens.
Especially strong peppermint tea with local honey. Peppermint (called Bo He in Chinese Medicine) is brilliant at relieving sore throats, clearing the head, and relieving itchiness. Consuming locally sourced honey specifically from the Central Texas area can boost the part of your immune system that reacts to local pollen (aka cedar pollen).
Schedule your appointment to see Melsa today! You can view available appointments and book online using your email address by clicking here. Allergies are one her favorite ailments to treat. Cheers to good health!
The process of boiling bones in water for a long period of time technique that extracts all the vitamins, minerals and marrow out of the bones into a broth that has amazing health benefits. The greatest being to nourish and heal the gut, which impacts the entire body. At this time of the year with all of the holiday festivities, there will be an abundance of opportunities to stash bones in the freezer for use all year around. Bone broth can be made with poultry, beef, or pork in a slow cooker or on the stove. Bones should be simmered for no less than 12 hours, preferably 24-36 in order to extract all of the goodness. Organic bones are optimal. Here's how to do it:
Place bones in large stock pot or crock pot and cover with water. Add 2TB of apple cider vinegar, and any veggies you have on hand - carrots, onions, celery, garlic, bell peppers, etc. Add salt and pepper (less salt if your Thanksgiving turkey was brined), and bring to a boil. Skim the foam off the top, and then reduce to a simmer. Reconstitute by adding water every 12 hours to replenish moisture lost. When bones are soft and pliable, remove from heat, strain and save. I put mine in ice cube trays in the freezer for easy use.
As an acupuncturist, I recommend bone broth to my patients often, especially those who have food allergies, those trying to get pregnant (the gut is our body's engine, which directly correlates to our fertility), and especially in postpartum recovery. If you can't make bone broth, you can pick some up at your local health food store. Sip a cup of it per day, or add it to your morning congee. Here's mine from last year's Thanksgiving turkey!
It’s flu and allergy season, folks, so I wanted to share some tips to keep you healthy by keeping your immune system in tip top shape. In light of my recent trip to India, some of the recommendations come from Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India via Integrative Medicine doctor, Dr. Shikha Sharma. The others are those that come from Traditional Chinese Medicine, my specialty.
Do you notice how well you sleep after acupuncture? A meta analysis of 46 randomized trials shows that “acupuncture may have a beneficial effect on insomnia compared with Western medication.” This is great news for those wanting a natural drug free way to help get better sleep!
Insomnia is a problem that plagues approximately 30% of the world’s population. Sometimes it’s hard to fall asleep, sometimes it’s hard to stay asleep, and sometimes it’s a double whammy of both scenarios. Lack of sleep can be caused by a number of factors including:
In Chinese Medicine, we have fun terms like Heart/Kidney Disharmony and Liver Fire as ways to diagnose your pattern of insomnia. We look in terms of deficiencies (not staying asleep due to light sleeping) and excesses (tossing/turning, restlessness, palpitations), and we use the pulse and tongue in addition to your symptom pattern to help confirm your diagnosis. We then use your diagnosis to select points to needle on your treatment plan. Some of these points are calming and nourishing, some clear heat, some regulate qi in the organs, so depending on what is problematic in your sleep, we have strategies to address your issues.
Experts tell us to develop good pre-bedtime habits in order to improve quality of sleep. Turning off all electronic devices including your phone and e-readers 30 minutes before you turn in. Mindfulness activities such as meditation or deep breathing can also be beneficial. I personally recommend EFT, or tapping on certain acupuncture points to calm the mind, as mentioned in a previous post. There are supplements and herbal formulas that can be helpful including melatonin and valerian. I love Herbalogic’s Solid Eight, a Chinese herbal formula that can be found at Whole Foods or Central Market. A favorite essential oil sprayed on the pillow can be calming. If your issue is pain waking you up, applying a heating pad with some tiger balm (or ice if that works better) applied to the area can help the pain. And of course one should come in for a series of acupuncture treatments. If sleep is something you struggle with, make an appointment today!