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Sarah Prater

As the founder and acupuncturist at the Tennessee Center for Reproductive Acupuncture, I work with families experiencing all types of fertility challenges along every step of their family building journey. We provide a safe, comfortable, and nurturing environment for our patients and utilize evidence-based acupuncture treatments to support fertility, conception, and pregnancy.

Prenatal Acupuncture: A Happy and Healthy 9 Months

Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for many common pregnancy symptoms.
Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for many common pregnancy symptoms.

First off, congrats!!! Being pregnant can be one the most exciting times of a your life! It is a time filled with so many emotions, many of which you probably felt within the first few days of finding out about the little one growing inside of you! When you look ahead at the next 9 months, you know you’ll be visiting your doctor’s office frequently making sure everything is on track, and you and baby are healthy. You probably also know about the myriad of symptoms that are commonly experienced throughout pregnancy: morning sickness, heartburn, fatigue, swelling… the list goes on.

 

Some of these symptoms, while not necessarily a sign that anything is wrong, can be very bothersome. It’s not like you can just put your life down while you are pregnant! We, at the Tennessee Center for Reproductive Acupuncture, use acupuncture treatment throughout pregnancy to treat and prevent these symptoms as well as help support the health of mom and baby.

 

Acupuncture works with the body to treat common pregnancy symptoms in a way that is safe for you and your developing baby. Additionally, acupuncture works without the use of medications, so you can feel better without worrying about exposing your little one to anything dangerous. As you know, the list of over-the-counter remedies that are off-limits during pregnancy is quite extensive!

 

In addition to managing symptoms, we also see patients for general wellness and stress reduction. There is evidence that chronic stress during pregnancy can lead to lower birth weight, earlier delivery, and may even affect brain development. Many women come in throughout their pregnancies to keep symptoms at bay and help control stress. We generally recommend the following treatment timeline shown below for general pregnancy wellness and to help treat and prevent common symptoms. Of course, adjustments to this protocol are made as symptoms come and go, and we see many women on an as-needed basis.

 

First Trimester: One treatment every 1-2 weeks.

For many, the first trimester is the hardest part of pregnancy. For this reason, we recommend regular, frequent treatments to keep mom feeling her best. Morning sickness, fatigue, and a general “sick” feeling that many women have are the most common symptoms we see during this time. The first trimester is also the time when the majority of miscarriages occur. Evidence suggests that acupuncture can be used to help treat some causes of miscarriage. We use points at each treatment that can help minimize risk and help support a healthy pregnancy.

 

Second Trimester: One treatment every 4-6 weeks.

Ahh, the second trimester. Most women will agree that this is their favorite part of pregnancy! Around week 10-13, morning sickness and fatigue begin to fade and you feel like yourself again. Your body will start making some big changes, your belly grows to accommodate your growing baby, and your center of gravity begins to shift. The treatments during this time are focused on helping to manage symptoms such as back pain, ligament pain, heartburn, etc. that come with your rapidly changing body.

 

Third Trimester: Treatments every 2-3 weeks from week 30-36

Treatments every 1 week from 36 weeks to delivery

You’ve finally entered the homestretch! While you’re busy preparing the nursery, your baby continues to grow and you’re probably feeling it! Heartburn, ligament pain, back pain, and feet and ankle swelling are some of the most common symptoms we see during this time. In addition to helping you feel more comfortable, we begin working to prepare your body for labor and delivery. We can help to encourage baby to turn head down if they are in a breech presentation. This is best done around weeks 32-34 as baby still has plenty of room to move, though we can still help many babies turn during the later weeks. At week 36 we begin a series of pre-birth acupuncture treatments. These treatments are specifically designed to help your body prepare for labor and delivery. They can reduce time spent in labor, the need for an epidural, and help reduce your chances of an emergency C-section.

Here’s a nice little info-graphic explaining a bit more about pre-birth acupuncture:

PreBirth Acupuncture Info DOuble

Fourth Trimester: as needed

They say that your first 12 weeks with your new baby should really be called the “fourth trimester.” Your baby is busy getting used to the world outside of your body and your body is busy returning to it;s pre-pregnancy state. You’re both getting used to breastfeeding (if you choose to breastfeed) and there can be some hiccups along the way. Acupuncture treatment can be helpful for many common fourth trimester symptoms such as post-natal depression, clogged milk ducts, night sweats, and stress reduction. Generally we see women on an as-needed basis during this time.

 

As you can see, prenatal acupuncture can be a wonderful way to encourage a healthy pregnancy! If you have any questions about your pregnancy and/or acupuncture please call or contact the clinic. We are more than happy to help! I hope you enjoy your pregnancy!

What to Expect During Your First Acupuncture Treatment

Never had acupuncture before? Relax! This article will help relieve your fears.

 

We understand there is a lot mystery surrounding our medicine and the questions or even fears you might have the first time you come into our office. Rest assured, we are here to make you feel safe, comfortable, and help you grow your family!

 

If is our hope that this will help you feel more at ease at your first appointment, but if you have any specific concerns, please feel free to ask!

 

Your initial treatment will last about 1-1/2 hours: At your initial visit we make sure to have plenty of time to discuss your fertility history, goals, general health, and ensure all of your questions are answered. We’ll go over the benefits of acupuncture, what you can expect, and your treatment plan. You will then receive a full treatment session. It’s a good idea to make sure you’ve had something to eat before your appointment. Sometimes a treatment can make you feel momentarily lightheaded and this is more common if you’re hungry.

 

The treatment itself is very relaxing: When we are ready to begin treatment, you will be asked to lay down on a massage table either face up or face down. If we need you to undress to reach points on your back, for example, you will be allowed to change and get under a soft, flannel sheet. We keep our tables heated so you will be nice and warm, but we can turn them down or off if you get too warm.

 

The needles: After you’ve goteen situated on the table, we will swab all the points were going to use with alcohol and begin inserting the needles. Don’t worry, we will tell you when we are about to begin so there are no surprises! The insertion of the needle can feel like a tiny pinch, but many people don’t feel anything at all. Once they are all inserted you shouldn’t feel anything uncomfortable. If you do, tell your practitioner so they can make adjustments for you. Soon you will find yourself in a deep state of relaxation.

 

Length of Treatment: Once all the needles are in, and you are comfortable, you will be left to rest. The needles are left in for about 20-30 minutes and you will be checked on to ensure you remain comfortable. Most people will find themselves in a state of deep relaxation or even fall asleep!

 

Once the treatment is finished, needles will be removed. After you change, we will go over your treatment plan and reschedule you, if needed.

After your treatment you will probably feel very relaxed. You might find that you sleep well that night. If you have any questions after your treatment please call or email the office.

Our IVF Acupuncture Protocol: Improving Pregnancy Rates up to 60%

A painless and relaxing complement to your upcoming cycle that can increase your chances of success!

With the development of in-vitro fertilization, many families unable to conceive were suddenly given hope. Over the years, there has been great scientific interest in improving this procedure and success rates have increased greatly and currently hover right around 30% for women under 35.

While this is all great news, most will agree that a success rate of 30% in the youngest population of infertile women leaves a lot of room for improvement. Women going through or preparing for IVF treatment will wonder if there is anything else they can be doing to improve their chances. In addition to maintaining a healthy body weight and healthy lifestyle, acupuncture remains one of the most commonly sought after complementary treatments for couples going through IVF. With numerous research studies showing improved pregnancy rates, many doctors and fertility clinics are coming on board with combining their treatments with acupuncture.

In our clinic, over the last two years, we saw a pregnancy rate around 60% for all women who went through an IVF cycle. This number includes all ages and all types of transfers (frozen, fresh, and egg/embryo donor). These results are truly amazing and in line with what many other acupuncturists are seeing in their own clinics.

Just think, if all women going through IVF had acupuncture treatment we would have so many more success stories and the cost savings of not having to do repeated IVF cycles would be astounding!

We use a protocol inspired by the work of Dr. Magarelli and Diane Cridennda, and other fertility acupuncture research, that involves a series of treatments specifically timed throughout your IVF cycle to help support each phase of your cycle. This protocol has been shown to not only increase your chances of getting pregnant, but improves live birth rates as well! They found a reduction in the number of miscarriages, rates of ectopic pregnancy, and even lower numbers of multiple pregnancies when using this protocol in combination with IVF. The protocol has even been shown to help keep certain hormones at levels consistent with women who get pregnant on their own to support a healthy, successful cycle. After all, the ultimate goal is a take-home-baby!

We divided the protocol into 4 phases corresponding with your cycle. The bulk of the protocol begins when you begin your cycle medications, but it is recommended to being treatment designed to help prepare your body for your upcoming cycle about three months before your expected cycle. 

 

4 Phases of TNCRA’s IVF Acupuncture Protocol:

  1. Pre-Conception: Treatments in the 3 months preceding the cycle to manage stress, regulate hormones, and help your body prepare for the cycle. For more information about our preconception program click here
  2. Ovarian Stimulation: Treatments are done twice weekly along side your ovarian stimulation medications to help increase the quality and quantity of your eggs and reduce side effects.
  3. Transfer: A treatment given immediately before and/or after your embryo transfer to increase blood flow to the uterine lining, reduce uterine contractions, and manage stress. We are available 7 days a week for pre and post embryo transfer appointments. 
  4. Transfer Follow Up: One treatment 5-7 days post embryo transfer to support implantation, early pregnancy, and reduce stress. 

 

Throughout your treatment you can expect to feel more relaxed, get better sleep, and see a reduced number of medication side effects like bloating, mood swings, and cramping. Many of our patients report that the cycles they’ve done with acupuncture are ‘easeir’ than those done without. And, hopefully, at the end of it all you will get those long-awaited two pink lines!

TNCRA’s owner and acupuncturist, Sarah Prater, inserts needles into a patient.

We are comfortable working alongside any of Knoxville’s fertility doctors and have even seen patients from doctors in neighboring areas and out-of-state. We work closely with your cycle and will check in frequently to make sure the timing of your treatments is the most beneficial for your cycle. We truly love our work and want nothing more than for you to have the family of your dreams.

Please feel free to contact us by email or phone at 865-315-3845 if you have questions about your own cycle or are interested in scheduling an appointment. We also have online scheduling available.

 

Please feel free to reach out, we are always happy to help! 

 

 

 

We wish you the best of luck with your cycle!!

5 Things Your Fertility Acupuncturist Wants You to Know

New to acupuncture? We really don't care if you haven't shaved your legs.
New to acupuncture? We really don’t care if you haven’t shaved your legs.

Since many of our patients have never had acupuncture before, we put together this somewhat playful list of things to know that might help you be a bit more comfortable at your acupuncture appointment. Enjoy!

 

  1. We don’t care if you’ve shaved your legs (or if you shave them at all): Trust me, the last thing we’re thinking about when we’re looking for a point is how prickly or smooth your legs are. If I had a dime for each apology I’ve received for unshaven legs, I’d be rich! We do palpate to find the location for the needles, and that is the real focus. We’re usually trying to feel for a landmark along a bone or muscle to help us find the correct location for the point.

 

  1. We don’t notice your imperfections: People come in all shapes and sizes. I know we are all self conscious about certain things (hips, thighs, feet, belly….), and for many women weight can be a big issue. It can become an even bigger issue if you experience bloating with fertility treatments, or if you’re pregnant and your body is changing in new and unfamiliar ways. We think you look amazing! We’re here to help you along your journey to motherhood and are not thinking about your size, shape or anything else. However, if your weight might be an issue related to your fertility, we will talk about helping you make changes to get down to a healthy weight.

 

  1. We want to know if you’re afraid of needles: While the needles are painless and the treatment is very relaxing, we like to know if there is an underlying fear. There is a lot we can do to help alleviate fears such as answering your questions, explaining any aspect of the treatment in more detail, helping you breathe through needle insertions, or not mentioning needles at all! Our main goal during the treatment is to help you feel comfortable, so speak up! Trust us, after the first needle is put in, that fear will melt away!

 

  1. Tell us if you are uncomfortable during the treatment: If you’re too hot or too cold, let us know! If a needle feels uncomfortable, let us know! If you’re not sure how you can lay your arm comfortably without bumping a needle, ask and we’ll help you! I’ve even scratched a few itchy noses after needles were put in. (Why do noses always start itching the minute you can’t easily scratch them?) Anyways, in addition to receiving your acupuncture treatment, we want you to relax and enjoy it.

 

  1. It’s ok to share: We understand that infertility and pregnancy are deeply personal and it may be uncomfortable, hard, or even painful to share some of the details of your story. It is ok if you laugh, cry, or just don’t want to talk about something. We listen with open hearts and always have a tissue ready. We ask to better understand your history and to better understand you as a person. We also know things come up during our conversations that are considered “TMI” to many people. There is no such thing as TMI with your acupuncturist, so don’t ever shy away from something you feel is important because of what we might think. More often than not, what you share is incredibly helpful in giving you the best care. We are very used to talking about all things fertility and pregnancy related and want to use that information to help!

Combining East and West: 5 Keys to Successful Fertility Acupuncture

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Benefits of a fertility specialist and other tips for successfully adding acupuncture to your fertility treatment.

Please read the guest blog Sarah wrote for Circle Bloom. Circle Bloom has developed downloadable audio tracks to help foster a healthy mind-body connection while you are on your fertility journey. They have programs for all stages of the journey including fertility treatment, natural conception, pregnancy and beyond. We highly recommend their programs. Check out their free download here.

 

If you find yourself sitting in the waiting room of the fertility clinic, you’re probably wondering if you’re doing all you can to help your cycle be a success. You might have heard about some women adding acupuncture to their treatment cycles or even considered it yourself.

Acupuncture is a safe and effective way to increase your chances of conception and can be combined with IVF, IUI, and other fertility treatments. Many fertility clinics are even starting to offer acupuncture in-house! If you aren’t so lucky as to have such a clinic nearby, this article is for you!

At our clinic, Tennessee Center for Reproductive Acupuncture, we specialize in combining acupuncture and fertility treatments. We see many benefits to this approach such as:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Decreased medication side effects
  • Improved egg quality and quantity
  • Increased thickness and quality of the endometrial lining
  • Improved pregnancy and live birth rates
  • Prevention and reduction of uterine contractions
  • Decreased chance of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy
  • Encouragement of embryo implantation
  • Hormone regulation

Adding acupuncture to your already complicated fertility treatment schedule can seem like a daunting task, but luckily there is help! Read below for a few tips we’ve learned on how to best incorporate the two treatments:

  1. Try to find a fertility specialist in your area. An acupuncturist who specializes in fertility will be familiar with the type of treatment you are undergoing and may have even worked with your doctor. They will usually have flexible scheduling to allow for last minute changes in your treatment and even have extended availability for pre and post embryo transfer appointments.
  2. Call before your treatment starts. While acupuncture can be started at any point during a treatment cycle, many acupuncturists have protocols they use for each type of cycle. So calling a month or so before your cycle begins can allow you to plan for your appointments. At the Tennessee Center for Reproductive Acupuncture, we often recommend treatments in the weeks before your cycle, but most of our protocols begin when the cycle starts.
  3. Keep communication open. Make sure your acupuncturist knows of any changes or problems that come up during your cycle. This can help us better time your appointments and allow us the opportunity to help treat side effects and issues, all to help your cycle become a success.
  4. Continue treatment during pregnancy. Assuming your treatment is a success, (fingers crossed!) acupuncture can be safely used to support a healthy pregnancy for you and your developing baby. We strongly recommend treatment during the first trimester, as this is the time when most miscarriages occur. It can also help alleviate morning sickness, fatigue, stress, and other symptoms. Many women will continue treatment throughout their pregnancies!
  5. Let your acupuncturist know your treatment results: We are very passionate about our trade and feel the highs and lows right along with you. So, please let us know how your cycle turns out! And we always welcome little ones for a visit!

Prenatal Massage: How Massage Helps Moms to Be

Mom_To_Be_edited-11Many of our patients coming for fertility that conceive want to know what they can do to help themselves have a healthy and comfortable pregnancy. In addition to prenatal acupuncture, prenatal massage is a perfect way to deal with the aches and pains throughout pregnancy (and many times, prevent them!) and treat yourself during such a special time. Please enjoy the following post by Lisa Birnesser, owner of Transformations Massage and Wellness Center, where she explains a little more about prenatal massage. We are so lucky to share a space with Transformations! -Sarah Prater, L.Ac.

 

 

 

Giving birth and being born brings us into the essence of creation, where the human spirit is courageous and bold and the body, a miracle of wisdom.  ~Harriette Hartigan

written by: Pregnancy is both a stressful time and a joyful one. The body undergoes changes rapidly. Some are obvious physical shifts and there is also less overt changes. Pregnancy or prenatal massage is one way to help mother and child-to-be through this time.

Prenatal massage therapy is an effective and beneficial practice for all trimesters – if performed properly. It is both safe and effective prenatal massage therapy can help the mother through difficult times. It can counteract some of the effects of pregnancy while helping her relax.

There are quite a few benefits to prenatal massage. The most common result is stress relief. The pregnant mother relaxes under the hands of a skilled massage therapist. This helps both psychologically and emotionally. It allows the woman to relax and to enjoy the massage and the experience of pregnancy.
Pregnancy massage also helps reduce the problems of swelling of the arms and legs. Muscles relax and, as time goes on, prepare mom’s body for birth. Pain may be relieved while the therapist works on the back, legs, arms neck and hips. Cramps and muscle spasms decrease. The therapist works to alleviate discomfort and even myofascial pain. After all, sleeping on your side for many months can lead to hip, thigh and shoulder discomfort.

The use of pregnancy massage can also help reduce the weight on the joints. Like other forms of massage therapy, it may also affect the flow of blood circulation and lymphatic flow. A regime of massage may also increase the pliability of the skin. This is helpful both during the pregnancy and while the client is in labor.
Used appropriately, pregnancy massage can also be beneficial during labor by a specifically trained massage therapist doula. It can be comforting to have touch therapy during this time. Therapeutic massage can help decrease the tension and anxiety associated with labor. Massage therapy is also suggested post partum, up to six weeks post birth. Timing factors include whether or not there was a caesarean section to deliver baby.

Prenatal massage requires special training. A thorough medical history is needed during the first visit. Your massage therapist must always be aware of change in condition between visits. When in doubt, always ask your physician if pregnancy massage is safe.
Prenatal massage also takes into consideration proper positioning of the client. Pillows or other positioning devices are used to make mom as comfortable as possible.

Prenatal massage can be a positive experience. It can help pregnant women emotionally and physically. The massage therapist also needs to communicate clearly with mom and understand any specific worries and possible problems. Only by understanding the general physical and emotional changes as well as specific problems many women experience can a massage therapist begin to provide beneficial therapeutic massage.