Needling the Issue: Using Acupuncture to Get Pregnant
We’ve all heard the urban myth, “My friend’s neighbor’s cousin got pregnant after 8 years of trying during her second month of using acupuncture,” but is the money, commitment, and of course overcoming the fear of being stuck with tons of needles worth it? I decided to find out and have spent the past fifteen months exploring acupuncture and its effects on my health and fertility.
Acupuncture is expensive and time consuming. It’s not a quick fix or one-time and pregnant (despite the rumors) fertility intervention. The idea behind acupuncture is to fix underlying imbalances in order to help balance hormones and the environment in order to increase fertility. This takes time and money, plain and simple.
I started my acupuncture journey by calling my insurance company and surprisingly discovered that I had some options. Acupuncture was completely covered if I went to a doctor at a pain management clinic who was also trained in acupuncture. I did this for three months and although I had a good experience and felt relaxed, I learned a few lessons. Doctors often have a short acupuncture training during their studies rather than three years, like a traditional acupuncturist. My doctor also performed the same acupuncture “prescription” with every patient: a needle in my head, one in each hand, and one in each foot. These are general stress relief points but this doctor did not diagnose me using Eastern medicine or attempt to address my individual needs. I felt relaxed every time I had this type of acupuncture but it didn’t affect my health or fertility.
This was a great introduction that helped ease some of my fear of needles but after a few months, I decided to take the plunge and go full force, committing to acupuncture once a week despite the fact that I’d now be paying out of pocket since my insurance would not cover an “out of network” acupuncturist. I interviewed a number of acupuncturists and found one who was flexible, had after work hours, a convenient location between my work and home, experience helping women get pregnant, and a personality that I meshed well with.
I’ve heard many people say to look for an acupuncturist who specializes in fertility but this is not necessary. An acupuncturist is designed to treat people according to an Eastern medicine diagnosis, for example, kidney yang deficiency or excess heat. Diagnosis involves looking at every aspect of health from the color and flow of menstrual blood to examining the tongue’s coating. Different fertility issues fall into different eastern medicine qualifications. For example, endometriosis is seen as an inflammation issue, which in eastern medicine is considered “excess heat.” PCOS is often thought of as “dampness.” Acupuncture may help a woman get pregnant but correcting imbalances in the body that are affecting hormones but are not diagnosed in Western medicine. I looked for an acupuncturist with experience with other women who struggled with fertility but an “infertility specialist” is not necessary.
I started my journey with my new acupuncturist broken. At this point, I had been trying to get pregnant for two years and had done a year of fertility treatments. I had just found out that my injectables and IUI treatment hadn’t worked my ovaries were left riddled with cysts. I still had some pain leftover from my laproscopic surgery to remove endometriosis a few months prior. I had not ovulated much naturally and when I did, it was weak and late but I was so fed up with fertility medicines, side effects, and constant irritability followed by disappointment that I didn’t want to continue with medications even though I didn’t ovulate. I decided to take a break and go natural for 6 months and really give acupuncture and diet a try.
Initially, I was so nervous to try acupuncture due to my extreme fear of needles. Luckily, I found an acupuncturist who put me at ease and takes things slowly. I keep my eyes closed and do not think about the needles. My acupuncturist does Japanese acupuncture, which involves many more needles than Chinese acupuncture but the needles are thinner. I won’t lie, some needles do hurt but the pain is quick and low on the pain scale. Often needles hurt in places that are tight and need attention and the needles the most painful needles offer the most relief for me.
Acupuncture helps my digestion, takes away migraines, and balances my hormones. I have ovulated every single month since I’ve started weekly acupuncture and most months now I ovulate around cycle day 18 or 19. Prior to acupuncture I’d ovulate after cycle day 30 if I was lucky enough to ovulate at all. My migraines have improved in both severity and frequency, my digestion has improved, I lost a lot of weight, have more energy, sleep better, and overall feel more at peace and healthier. I owe this to acupuncture.
I wish I could say this was a happy story of how I got pregnant with my acupuncture baby but unfortunately fifteen months of acupuncture later, I’m still trying. However, I feel like the benefits of acupuncture are amazing and I do think it helped prepare my body for pregnancy and has brought me closer to achieving my goal. I’m still going to acupuncture twice a month and plan to increase frequency when I start IVF in early January. Acupuncture is totally worth the time and effort, especially if you feel like your body or hormones are out of whack.
Are the urban myths true? Not so much, but that doesn’t devalue the power of this amazing eastern medicine solution that can truly balance the body and improve health and fertility.