We have all heard about acupuncture, but there is more to know about it than you might think. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice in which thin needles are inserted by an educated practitioner into areas of the body known as meridians. There are about 350 meridians into the human body and the important function of these meridians is their flow of energy which Chinese Medicine has labeled as the word “qi.” Disruptions of this flow are believed to be the primary cause of disease and imbalances in the body. When the needle is inserted it manipulates and stimulates the flow of energy in that particular area, improving circulation. While some may believe acupuncture is a new age alternative medicine treatment, acupuncture actually has a recorded history of about 2,000 years!
THE FLOW OF WOMEN
Women naturally have a flow of hormonal cycles throughout our lifetime, starting at puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and ending in menopause. Our bodies go through a lot which can at times result in very stressful situations. Stress, known as the silent killer, is a huge component in modern-day diseases, disrupting our natural flow of life. Metaphorically, when stress enters our lives, we might feel totally fearful of life, full of anxiety, hopeless and helpless, inadequate and stagnant. Stagnant blood flow can be viewed in Chinese Medicine as a disruption of our Qi (flow of energy). For decades, stress, anxiety, and depression were treated for their symptoms with medications rather than cured as a whole. We have become reliant on medications to ease our tensions, but without taking the recommended dosage – don’t our symptoms manifest themselves again?
Women in ancient times have relied on healing herbs, foods, and rituals to medicate and heal themselves, so it’s no wonder Chinese Medicine intertwines acupuncture and herbs for maximum health benefits.
WHY ACUPUNCTURE THERAPY CAN HELP
Acupuncture can help infertility in most cases, but there are some cases that may need extra care from modern-day medicine. According to the American Pregnancy Association, IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), an assisted reproductive technology, is the process of fertilization by extracting eggs, retrieving a sperm sample, and then manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish. The embryo(s) is then transferred to the uterus. When IVF and acupuncture come together, it makes for a very therapeutic alternative. When a woman turns to IVF to become pregnant, she may find herself stressed and worried, hoping this option will do the trick. Certain medications whether it be PCOS medications, hormonal medications, or Clomid, a medication which promotes ovulation, can cause the uterine lining to become thin making it harder to conceive. Whereas acupuncture can ease stressful tension, help thicken the uterine lining, and increase blood flow to the uterine arteries which are important components of fertility. Some women start acupuncture treatments 2-3 months before actually starting IVF; this schedule seems to have a restorative and calming effect on the female body.
ACUPUNCTURE & INFERTILITY OVERALL
I recently connected with Acupuncturist Caroline Grace Ashurst, founder of Restorative Harmony Acupuncture in Philadelphia, PA, who specializes in Women’s Health & Fertility to delve deeper into why acupuncture can be the right infertility alternative for some women.
Q: Tell us about your journey as an acupuncturist and the process of using acupuncture as an infertility alternative?
A: I found acupuncture when I was around 21 years old. I was experiencing what is called “PMDD”: Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder; severe PMS symptoms for 2 weeks before my cycle. What that meant for me was that I was tearing my life apart for the first two weeks of my cycle and then the last two weeks I was struggling to put the pieces back together. I had severe mood swings that were making me feel like I was getting nowhere in my life, every month. Acupuncture changed my life, so much that I wanted to pursue it as the next part of my journey. I fell in love with taking care of women and knew how pivotal acupuncture was for ~my~ hormonal health, so I was drawn to helping women get pregnant. Now, I work with women who are experiencing women’s health issues, and women wanting support from pre-conception to postpartum. I adore supporting women through this whole continuum of their growth from maiden to mama.
Q: Would you say there is a rise of infertility in America?
A: I absolutely think so. Many women are being put on birth control when they are teenagers, and stay on it for 10-20 years, not understanding the ramifications it can have on hormonal health. Overuse of the pill is linked to PCOS, low progesterone, high estrogen, and many other hormonal dysfunctions that can impact fertility.
Q: In order for acupuncture to be successful in the fertility process, what else should women be doing to increase their expectancy chances?
A: This is a great question. I think there is a lot that can be done! One of the things that acupuncture helps with is reducing anxiety and stress (which by the way have an effect on our hormone functioning!), so having other practices in your life that support low stress is so important. Meditation, Restorative Yoga (specifically this kind), reflective time spent in nature- are all great medicine. In addition, get toxin-free! Plastic anywhere near what we ingest can cause endocrine disruption (unnatural hormone imbalance). Women should also switch to all natural cleaners and body products and organic food. Detox! Doing a detox with your diet is also really beneficial. There are many other things to add, and in my practice, I offer these pieces as my client is ready to digest them. It’s a lot and can be overwhelming, so we take it piece by piece.
Q: What are some other benefits women might experience while trying acupuncture?
A: Like I mentioned, less stress, more relaxation, reduction in anxiety symptoms, less tension in their bodies, assistance with any other ailments that may be occurring with digestion, pain, cycles, allergies, headaches, auto-immune symptoms, there are many more!
Q: What kind of infertility cases do you see the most?
A: I see a lot of women who have been on the pill and are now not getting their cycle regularly, or possibly are not ovulating.
Q: Would you like to share a fertility success story with us?
A: I recently had a client in her early 20s who had been trying to get pregnant for about a year or more. She was tracking her cycles very well but wasn’t getting her period consistently. I was pretty sure that she had undiagnosed PCOS based on her symptomatology, and we worked on supporting that through acupuncture, supplementation, and dietary shifts. She got pregnant very soon after we started working together!
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