She Says… More Needles!

Before our “let’s make a baby” story turned into an, “OMG we’re having trouble making a baby” story, I was quite a scaredy cat when it came to needles. Growing up I had a tendency to, uhh, pass out when I had blood taken at my yearly physical. My mom would have to hold me on her lap… even when I was well past the age where that was acceptable and/or comfortable. Either that or they’d lay me down on a gurney to take my blood. Fun, eh? I always close my eyes when I see people getting blood drawn or shots on tv (which is most episodes of Grey Anatomy!). It’s not the blood, it’s the needles that really get me.

Anyway, when I didn’t get my period after going off the pill, that seemed to open the floodgates to more and more bloodwork that needed to be done. When I went to get my first big blood draw at Boston IVF they warned me they were going to take 12 vials of blood. I felt that old lightheaded feeling come over me again and decided to let them know I should probably lay down during the blood draw. Since then, though, I’ve been going once every few weeks for various bloodwork — pregnancy test here, progesterone test there, hormone test just for fun, etc. And each time I get a little bit more used to it.

That was a long intro to let you know what a big decision it was for me to willingly subject myself to needles in the form of acupuncture. I have read countless websites singing the praises of acupuncture for fertility, but I just couldn’t bring myself to try it. Paying money to have someone stick needles in you? Not for me, thanks. Since I have taken up yoga, though, I have become a bit more openminded about the possibilities of holistic treatments, and I decided to give it a go. Also, since I may have just ovulated for the first time ever, and may actually be carrying an egg around inside my uterus right about now, I figured now would be a great time to increase blood flow to the uterus and generally balance my body.

I found an acupuncture place near my house and made an initial consultation appointment last Friday. I told her my story, about my PCOS diagnosis and where I was in my cycle currently, and she asked me lots of questions. She felt that I may be misdiagnosed, as she believes PCOS to be sort of a blanket diagnosis, and quite often, in her experience, the condition can be reversed with chinese herbs and acupuncture. Given my young age, she suggested that I consider stopping fertility treatments for a few months and giving those things a try. (Note: I’m not going to do this, as I’m very anxious to conceive and the Clomid seems to be working well for me, but I valued her suggestion and her expertise). However, she was not pushy and said she’d be happy to treat me with acupuncture no matter if I decide to continue with traditional fertility treatments or not. She also said that some of my other symptoms (being cold most of the time, cold/numb hands and feet, constipation, etc.) were indicative of what they call a “blood deficiency” in Chinese medicine. It’s common in women and vegetarians (I am mostly vegetarian) and those who exercise a lot (which I did prior to TTC). Anyway, she recommended some dietary changes as well as acupuncture twice a week for the next three months.

Then came the needles! What they say is true… it really wasn’t bad! I sat in a big recliner and she stuck needles in my feet, hands, forehead and ears. Then she handed me a call button to ring if I needed her, but said she’d pretty much leave me alone for the next 45 minutes or so. All I had to was relax. I found it a little hard to relax thinking about the needles sticking out of me (maybe a blindfold would’ve helped?!), but I did after awhile and it was fine. At about 45 minutes I rang my bell and she took the needles out.

My first follow-up appointment is today. I think I’ll be a lot less nervous and hopefully can relax more this time. I imagine it takes practice.

Have you tried acupuncture or other holistic wellness treatments for fertility? Would you?

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20 responses to “She Says… More Needles!

  1. I have never tried accupuncture, but just had to say I’m impressed! I am the same way with needles as you…I hate them and have a tendency to pass out. I also have to lie down when I get blood drawn, and I absolutely cannot look at the needle or it’s all over! Being pregnant has been a treat since I seem to get a shot or blood drawn at every appt–so at least you’ve got a head start on getting used to that!

  2. Another needle scaredy-cat here. I remember going through all of middle school + high school determined that I would never see a doctor as an adult in order to avoid shots. Then I had to get a few to study in Argentina, and I passed out with each one. Sigh. You’re right though – it isn’t the blood, it’s the needles! Way to go on trying acupuncture though.

  3. I swear, we are long lost twins sometimes. :) I squeeze my eyes tightly shut and look away while I get blood drawn (I’m getting better at…all the practice lately and my yoga breathing, I think.) AND, I went to an acupuncturist who specializes in fertility for the first on Wednesday!!! Same deal here…I’m always cold (except at night) and have the numb feet/hands at work all day, constie issues. I’ll save the whole story for a post, but here’s the cool thing: When I went to the bathroom on the way out of the office, I was JUST starting to spot. That’s right, the period I never thought I’d get after my tiny Progesterone spike showed up after an hour of acupuncture. It’s probably a coincidence, but it has me hooked.

    What diet changes did your practitioner suggest? Mine asked me to add more red veggies (esp beets) and nutrient-rich greens, such as kale and chard. Guess who made beet salad with dinner last night? :)

  4. Wow, good for you! Way to get over your fear of needles! I hope it does a lot to get your body back in balance.

    I want to start seeing an acupuncturist and doing yoga in a class setting (I have only done yoga at home) but I just haven’t had the guts to make the first appointment yet. I’m not scared of needles at all, it’s just taking the time and money to go to more appointments that I’m having a hard time rationalizing. And I don’t even know how much it costs…

    Can I ask how much an appointment is and how often you’re going?

  5. I’ve been thinking about doing this as well. I actually just looked it up yesterday. Hoping it works for you! :)

  6. Sue, I know, I still closed my eyes when she put the first few needles in, but then I was too curious and had to look. I can imagine it only gets worse when preggo, so I’m glad I’m “curing” myself now.

    Kristie Lynn, Thanks! I feel your pain!

    suchagoodegg, NO WAY! That is so funny. I’ll have to check my paperwork at home about what exactly the dietary changes were — I know it was a lot of what I already do (whole grains, mostly plants, etc.), but there were some other things like avoiding raw food and not drinking liquids while eating that were new. Good suggestions about the kale and beets. Those are literally two of my FAVORITE foods. I know, I’m badass.

    Al, I actually found this place called “Acupuncture Together”, which practices community acupuncture. Community acupuncture is where you’re treated in a big room with other patients (just like the masters do in China), rather than in an exam room all alone (the way a lot of Western practitioners do). This place charges a sliding fee based on what you can afford. It doesn’t go through insurance or anything, just cash out of pocket, which is nice for me and my anal budgeting. I paid $35 (the lowest end of the scale) for my first appointment, and will pay $20 for each follow-up. She recommended I come twice a week for the next few weeks to get things started, and then we can reassess. I think it is something I may continue into early pregnancy, as I have read that it can mitigate the risks of miscarriage for some people, and can be done through the first trimester. So once I find out I’m pregnant (hopefully next WEDNESDAY!), I will probably switch to once a week. You may want to try Googling “community acupuncture” to find a place near you. But make sure they are licensed and have experience dealing with fertility issues.

    Grace, Thank you! Although I haven’t seen any miracles yet (haha, I’ve only been once!), it’s definitely something I would recommend, as there is a strong mind-body component to babymaking that is often overlooked. If nothing else, it is forced meditation for 45 minutes!

  7. I am so impressed, you brave woman. I am too chicken to even look at the picture in your post! haha

  8. I did acupuncture for a while and found it very relaxing- I usually fell asleep! I stopped because… well, it was really expensive and I still wasn’t pregnant. :-/

  9. Hi Kate,

    I have done the herbalist, acupunture, nathropath you name it I tried, I think it helped in some ways to calm me down and make me healthier but I didnt and wouldnt stop the clomid because I think that you need a bit of western help as well, take the advice with a grain of salt ( and no I am not saying it does not work or would not work ) but for me I wanted a child sooner then the later, hope this helps.

  10. Courtney, Ha! Thanks! I was skeptical that people were crazy when they said it doesn’t hurt. But they were right!

    Just me, Yes, the woman who did my needles said that most people fall asleep. She asks that we tell her what time we’d like to leave so she can wake us at the correct time (we can stay as long as we’d like once the needles are in). When she said that, I thought, “You’re NUTS”. I’m hoping I can [someday] get to the point where I’m relaxed enough to do that!

    Janette, Yes, I appreciated where she was coming from, but I certainly did take her advice with a grain of salt. While I totally support natural healing, I think it’s clear from this cycle that my body is responding really well to the Clomid and other Western treatments I’ve tried so far. If that’s the little push I need to actually get pregnant, I’m all for it! I am happy, though, to supplement my Western medicine with holistic wellness treatments as well. Can’t hurt, right?

  11. Taryn M. Peine

    I’m thinking about trying some of this before I go the route of blood work, injections, etc. I have a good-looking temperature pattern, but still nothing is happening for some reason. Anyway, I’m also terrified of the needles, and always think back to that episode of Sex and the City where even the wife of the gay cabaret singer gets pregnant after using acupuncture and “drinking the smelly tea.” They didn’t give you smelly tea, did they??

  12. i’m doing acupuncture now. it hasn’t worked yet.

  13. Taryn, HA! I love the Sex & the City reference. I always think about the episode where Charlotte tries it and she’s so stressed that the needles pop right out of her. When I had my first appointment I was so nervous that this was going to happen to me! I didn’t get any smelly tea because my acupuncturist doesn’t like to mix herbs and fertility drugs. She said that when you have a reaction (good or bad), it’s impossible to tell if it was the drugs or the herbs that did it, so it can be counterproductive. If I stop the Western fertility treatments, though, she said she would be happy to treat me with herbs as well. Acupuncture definitely a great option to try, especially if you are not on a tight timeline for whatever reason. Good luck!

    Lynn, I know it’s easy to think that way (aka, I don’t see any results, so it’s not “working”), but I think that there are a lot of hidden benefits to acupuncture. So, if you’re using it for fertility and you’re not pregnant yet, maybe it’s still having a positive impact on your body, balance and general wellness?

  14. Your post inspired me earlier today! I booked an acupuncture appointment for this weekend. I’m excited to think that maybe it will be perfect timing since I should ovulate about a week after that. Anyway, I hoping the practitioner can give me a plan of action.
    Also, I read that doing acupuncture for several months prior to IVF can greatly increase chances. I figure if we have to go down that path, at least I’ll be in good shape!

  15. I am so glad I found this little blog post. I am both an acupuncturist and chiropractor and have worked a lot with women and fertility – In most cases with very good results.

    Here are some suggestions I’ll make and I hope that all of you find this helpful:

    1. First, believe ot or not, there is a large evidence base supporting acupuncture and fertility. Most clinics will use both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine and/or nutritional supplements. All of these are great approaches.

    2. Patience is a virtue with any and all things fertility related. We have been acculturated to the “quick-fix” of modern pharmaceuticals – and acupuncture with regards to fertility can take some time – even 6-12 months. But be patient.

    3. Find a practitioners you feel totally comfortable and safe with. if you don’t have that comfortable rapport – NEXT! This is such a powerful part of the process. Honor your feelings if the relationship is not what you need.

    4. Cost – one of the frustrations for many is the cost of acupuncture. One of the bloggers above mentioned Community Acupuncture – this can be a great way to go – especially if you are budget minded. In reality, you should be getting treated 2-3x per week for a while. The more frequency, the better and faster the results. Community Acupuncture allows you to keep costs low and get great results. Google Community Acupuncture and you’ll find a directory of excellent practitioners. As above, just make sure they a) have experience and b) you feel great with them.

    5) Allow the process to become a meaningful journey of self-discovery and transformation. Often times in the stress and angst that go along with trying to get pregnant we can forget to enjoy the journey. This becomes yet another stress response which is counterproductive to the process. Helpful resources are mindfulness based meditation, yoga, psychotherapy – whatever leads you into a mindful relationship with your life, just as it is in this moment.

    6) Consider other helpful alternatives such as Network Chiropractic – an exceptionally gentle approach with no snapping, twisting, or popping, this is a great resource to help help the body, the nervous system and transform stress.

    7) Eat fertile foods to be fertile – consult with a great whole foods nutritionist. In general, keep foods really simple and eat only whole foods – lots of colors, organic, and if you eat meat let it be very clean.

    That is a basic list of some very general suggestions, but it is my intention that this helps you all in some way.

    Acupuncture is a great resource, and you all are doing great work.

    May you all be blessed on your journey. Please let me know if I can answer any further questions.

    Dr. Matt Lyon
    http://www.networkwellnesscentercharlotte.com

  16. One more thing –

    The last writer is correct – acupuncture before IVF DOUBLES the chances of pregnancy. That is AWESOME, especially given the out of pocket expenses. This was a study done in Germany – good stuff!

    Again, let me know if I can answer any questions –

    Dr. Matt Lyon
    http://www.networkwellnesscharlotte.com

  17. First of all, CONGRATULATIONS!
    Interesting thing is that a day before Anastasia told me the news, I was reading Ben’s facebook update about his wearabouts and I had a thought about your guys having a baby. So I am thrilled!
    Now about acupuncture and Chinese medicine. You know, i practice integrative medicine which includes Chinese medicine and Functional neuroendocrinology with bits of Western. whatever is left anyway.
    I love to treat patients with infertility., so I speak as a doctor here. I see more and more lean PSOS after long term use of birth control pills. Sometimes it takes about a year to restore the cycle. Of course, every patient and their life style is different, so results are different also, but to everybody who wants to get pregnant , try Chinese medicine first for at least 3 months, then talk to your both doctors and combine two medicines if you want. Usually, Chinese medicine on its own together with strong supplemental program and healthy diet will do on it’s own. If you must or want to use IVF, than the quality of embrions and implantation/pregnancy will be much stronger. People say that Acupuncture is more expensive, but it is not relaly true: you don’t have to pay monthly premiums on it. At the end, it is much more cost- efficient and really balance the entire body on the level Westerners don’t even know exists.
    But whatever you guys, chose, GOOD LUCK to everybody! Even with help of modern medicine kids are still GOD’s gift.
    Merry Christmas!

  18. Although, it is MUCH better to use herbs and acupuncture prior to IVF treatments,if the ovarian reserves are low and time is somewhat crucial, it is ok to use herbs together with western medicine.

  19. hi! just wondering what part of your cycle you did the acupuncture. i am on clomid and am thinking of getting it to thicken my uterine lining.

  20. Hi! just wondering if you continued with acupuncture later during your first trimester.

    Thanks,

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