chinese herbs

infertility and acupuncture

It is especially difficult to find oneself afflicted with one of the many clinical causes of female infertility. Blockages in the fallopian tubes, uterine abnormalities or disorders, such as pelvic adhesions (scarring) and endometriosis, are often times the clinically diagnosed cause of a woman’s inability to conceive. However, with all of the named causes, there are cases where the cause of infertility is unknown. The following account details such a case, where an insightful woman looked beyond the unknown struggles of infertility to give birth to twins. The combination of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine) during the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) process to successfully assist in conception has the most adorable, living proof!

Heather and Brian had been trying to conceive for a year before they consulted a fertility specialist. While Brain was fertile and there was no clear clinical reason for Heather’s infertility, Heather was classified infertile due to unknown causes. It must be noted that Heather had a history of irregular menstruation and had been on birth control for 12 years before she and her husband began trying to conceive. She was a healthy 31 year old, active and had never smoked in her life. After their visit to the IVF specialist, Heather became especially proactive and started doing research on her own. “I was reading a lot of information and found that acupuncture is really helpful [with] the IVF process. I started going to acupuncture before we actually did [IVF]. I went for about three months before the transfer but [especially] during the egg retrieval. Obviously, after battling infertility for a year and 16 months with doing IVF, I really was pretty [anxious] and I wanted it to work the first time. So, I was doing everything that I possibly could to do that. [Then] a friend of mine told me about [Empire Medicine],” Heather recounted.

Empire Medicine is an acupuncture and wellness center with medical doctors from China whom have doctorates in Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as Medical Doctorates in what is universally considered, Western Medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine uses acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, massage (Tui na) and exercise (Ch’i gong) to create a balance in one’s Ch’i: the fundamental concept of energy flow and life force that streams through all living things. Western society has become familiar with the yin yang concept of balance that is an emphasized component in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Complimentary to Western Medicine, the physicians at Empire Medicine use their expertise in Traditional Chinese Medicine to focus on areas of immunology and endocrinology. With their cultural understanding and years of intensive training in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Heather was reassured that Empire Medicine could assist her in successfully conceiving via IVF.

“I have five friends that have gotten IVF and I am the only one that is dealing with acupuncture. I was really scared of acupuncture at first. The first time I went in there, I was sweating because I thought I was going to be poked with a bunch of needles. As my doctor was placing the needles, he was wiping the sweat off of me. They were really great! And, it was not anywhere near what I had imagined. I just kind of closed my eyes and let it happen. It was super relaxing and then I was kind of hooked on it. Once I got over that initial fear I was fine because it really wasn’t anything I had expected. I was thinking, ‘Oh my, I’m going to have to get all of these shots!’ In comparison to the amount of shots you have to get for IVF, it was really nothing. It’s funny because before the infertility issues, I had a lot of back [pain] issues and my friends were telling me I should do acupuncture. I was like, ‘I’m not doing acupuncture for my back! That’s going to hurt!’ But, to have a baby, I would literally cut off my limbs. So, I did [acupuncture] for that [reason].”

Heather went to acupuncture with her physician at Empire Medicine twice a week for three months before her egg retrieval. On a daily basis, she would drink the prescribed herbs, twice a day for ten days as per her physician’s instruction. After the successful retrieval they were able to fertilize 18 “good quality” eggs over a period of three days, resulting in 9 viable embryos. Heather and Brian decided to place two of the three-day- old embryos in hopes of having twins. The embryos took on the first try and 32 weeks later, Matthew and Meadow were born!

“I went to acupuncture my whole first trimester. Everybody always talks about the first trimester being so hard with morning sickness and [fatigue]. I felt the absolute best of my entire pregnancy during my first trimester. And, looking back now –honestly- it was all due to acupuncture. There was no particular reason I had stopped going after [the first trimester]; life was just crazy then. After 5 months of acupuncture, I stopped and started developing pregnancy issues like gestational diabetes. I was anemic, and things like that. But, while I was going to acupuncture things were really great. At the time I didn’t realize, but now I know why,” Heather recounted retrospectively.

Heather and Brian were once again ready to add to their family. Because they had 7 frozen embryos, they restarted the initial process before having a single embryo placed. Heather clarified, “We felt bad not using them. I always wonder what would have happened if we tried acupuncture and [conceiving] natural. But, I consider those embryos Matthew and Meadow. How can I not use those [embryos]? They existed already. What we did was let the remaining 7 [embryos] thaw and continue the gestation up to 5 days, leaving the strongest to survive. Two survived. They said that the 5 day old embryos were more likely to be successful.” Two months ago, Heather resumed her bi-weekly visits in conjunction with her twice daily doses of prescribed herbs. Excited and confident that she would once again become pregnant, family and friends cheered her on while buffering the possibility it could be unsuccessful this time around. Heather never once believed she couldn’t get pregnant again. Two weeks before she provided her testimony, Heather underwent egg transplantation.

Heather’s recollection of her initial experience was vivid. But, more powerful than the pain was the coming of joy. “I always liken it to a grieving process every month. Because every month you would have the hope. Then, your mind is so powerful, that every month I would feel every symptom of pregnancy and then get my period and restart the whole grieving process. First, I would be in denial and then I would be angry. Then, I’d be sad. Then I’d turn back to hope always keeping in mind: ‘There’s always next month.’ But with IVF, I was really overwhelmed with what the process was, with how many medications there are, giving yourself injections every day and just what it was all about. I think getting acupuncture helped with that a lot, too. Besides the fertility benefits I think it gave me peace. A time where I could completely zone out. It was almost like a meditation. At times, I could just let all of that go, because all that was going on in my mind wasn’t going to make it work. And, it can be so overwhelming. It was really overwhelming in the beginning. And yet, I really looked forward to acupuncture then. And now!” Heather exclaimed, “It’s my half-hour of no one bothering me. My phone is off. The twins aren’t there. My husband is not there. It’s literally my 2 half-hours a week to myself! I told my husband, ‘I have to go my entire pregnancy!’”

“[Besides] the medications, the injections and appointments; [the] hardest part for me is this period- the 12 days between the transfer and the pregnancy test. It feels like forever. Every day feels like it’s just dragging. But the funny thing is, acupuncture does make it feel like it goes faster. I get that bit of peace for a while each time I go; I go on Tuesdays and Thursdays and it just makes the week go faster. This ‘hopeful’ pregnancy, I definitely plan to do acupuncture the whole time because I certainly feel that will help with any of the issues; like the anemia and the gestational diabetes that I had the first time. I feel like it will help with that. I had a great first trimester the last time and I want exponentially that this time,” Heather concluded.

Heather and Brian are currently pregnant with their third child. Through research, patience, support and the willingness to explore the benefits of acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine, someone you know suffering from infertility can find the same hope that lead to their fulfilled happiness.

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