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Benefits of Fertility Acupuncture
Recently a girlfriend of mine, who is normally an unadulterated ball of constant movement and stress comparable to a hummingbird, came slithering into my house and melted onto my couch like she had just emerged from a ten hour bath. I blinked at her in shock at the sudden change of pace, and she said "I tried acupuncture a few days ago. Everyone should be doing acupuncture." Color me curious.
In the world of infertility, there is a constant barrage of suggestions on less-obvious things to be trying in addition to 'traditional' fertility treatments. Pineapple core. Evening primrose. Quit eating all that gluten. Try standing on your head for 10 minutes while chanting backwards. We're all eager to share what has helped us with others, yet sometimes trying to conceive for a long time brings a renewed hesitancy in trying new things.
I can safely say, of all the adjunct fertility boosters, acupuncture seems to be the one converts are most passionate and convincing about. So what exactly can acupuncture do for fertility?
I asked the woman who miraculously de-hummingbirded my friend. Jen Bookout, licensed acupuncturist and herbalist from POKE Acupuncture in Los Angeles, says it's about balancing body AND mind.
"Generally speaking, acupuncture can help bring the body and mind back into balance, and that can translate to increased fertility," she says. "More specifically, acupuncture can help increase blood circulation to the reproductive organs, balance hormones levels, and treat conditions that often contribute to diminished fertility such as irregular menstruation, thyroid disorders, endometriosis, PCOS, and autoimmune disorders. Struggling with fertility often creates its own stress which, ironically, can reduce fertility even further. Acupuncture is really good at bringing the nervous system back into balance and helping people deal with the stresses that come along with having difficulty starting a family."
When a woman goes in for her first appointment, she can expect her acupuncturist to ask a lot of questions about her health. Jen adds, "She can also expect her acupuncturist to go over any lab work, BBT charts, or imaging studies that have been done. This initial intake will help her acupuncturist come up with a treatment plan that will best help to treat her general health as well as her fertility issues. Her acupuncturist may also make some suggestions with regards to diet, herbal formulas, and general lifestyle changes."
Now to the big question. What is the needle part like?
"During the acupuncture treatment, very thin needles are inserted in specific points on the body. These needles help the body recognize any existing imbalances or blockages so that they can be brought back into balance. The needles are generally painless, though she may feel some sensations of movement or brief distention at the acupuncture point or even somewhere along that meridian. She can expect to rest with the needles in for about a half hour."
If that makes you squeamish, let me assure you from personal experience that my aforementioned ball-of-stress friend has a pretty bad needle phobia (seriously - most of us would do better dumping a bucket of spiders over our heads). When I asked her how the needle part was, she lazily waved her hands and said it was 'wonderful'. Considering I once showed her a needle for IVf medication and she nearly passed out, her casual dismissal of acupuncture needles is as good a testament to painlessness as there can be.
And if that wasn't enough to convince me, I asked Jen if acupuncture helps male fertility, as well. "Absolutely," she said. " A healthier man is going to produce healthier sperm. Acupuncture can help with issues such as problems with sperm motility and morphology."
Consider me converted.