Infertility comes with many complex emotions. Dealing with infertility and loneliness can be a double strike. From day to day, minute to minute, emotions can range from excitement and joy at a positive test result, a response to medication, or a particular symptom to devastation, sadness, or anger over another failed cycle, miscarriage, or dead end. Through what can only be described as a rollercoaster, one prevailing feeling often shines through.
For many of the couples that come for acupuncture at our office here in Knoxville, their support system is very small, or even non-existent. Other than their spouse, support may only come from a very small group of people; a trusted friend, mother, etc. I can’t think of many other stressful life events that aren’t shared, overshared, discussed, laughed or cried about with a larger group of support people.
And nobody brings over casseroles when you’re going through infertility.
Is social media helpful?
Even in the event one does decide to break the silence and share their situation, they’re often met with well-meaning, but not helpful comments like “just relax,” “my friend took this vitamin, you should try it,” “have you thought about adoption?” Or, worse yet, they slowly drop off their level of communication and effectively vanish from their lives.
What about the other areas of daily life?
And this isolation just doesn’t stop at social relationships. It can extend to work or other hobbies. Living through infertility often means playing a game of “what if.”
Constantly wondering if/when treatment might be successful can create situations where women might put off going for a promotion, changing jobs, etc to prepare for what might be.
Infertility itself can even be a reason to put careers on hold. Sometimes a job might be a good fit for the flexibility needed for fertility treatment, or health insurance at a job might even cover treatment.
Finding a connection.
For some, social media is a great outlet where one can even remain anonymous if they prefer. There are countless groups based on diagnosis, clinic, region, cycle, etc. But when they log off, that connection is gone.
Some couples turn to counseling or therapy to work on communication and coping skills. For others, their place of worship plays a vital role.
Be a support.
I don’t have an answer to solve this loneliness (though I wish I did…), but I want you to know that we hear you and our thoughts are with you. The one thing we all can do is learn from this and be that support to other struggling with infertility.
If we are chosen to be that, maybe they’ll have just a little bit less loneliness as they walk their own journey. Hopefully, over time, with advocacy and more openness, this will all be a thing of the past.
Here in Knoxville we are lucky to have many organizations and support groups that are also willing to help with those struggling through infertility and loneliness. Please reach out and let us know how we can support you.
Check out Theralogix’s new online store with our provider discounts already applied!
Theralogix sells excellent quality prenatal vitamins, CoQ10, our favorite inositol for PCOS and many other supplements.
We wanted to share a link to their online store with our provider discount already factored in so you can order your supplements from the comfort of your own home and not have to hassle with in-office ordering.
Click below to be taken right to the site!
Please see your provider for specific supplement recommendations or with any questions.
We hear all the time about ways to increase fertility, especially tips about diet and lifestyle. Many of us don’t think about hydration as being important for fertility but in fact researchers are finding that hydration does play a role.
Along with eating healthy, reducing the consumption of processed foods, getting enough sleep and all the other healthy things we should be doing, hydration is not always considered.
Most of us think about hydration in the summer when your outside hiking or being active. However, all of us should be conscious about our fluid intake no matter the season.
So how does hydration affect fertility?
In one big way hydration affects the male and female fluid qualities. In females that’s cervical mucus and in males that’s ejaculatory fluid. Researchers are finding that the more dehydrated you and/or your partner are at the time of intercourse the harder it is for the sperm and ovum to meet.
Cervical mucus usually fluctuates throughout the month. If a woman has a relatively normal cycle, the mucus should changes around ovulation time, becoming thinner and less acidic. This change allows sperm to move more easily through the vagina and cervical mucus towards the ovum. Just as in females, if males are dehydrated their sperm could also have a hard time “swimming” within semen as well.
Don’t stress, find balance.
We want to emphasize the importance of balance and not stressing. Yes, water is important but make sure not to over-do it. The general recommendation is half your body weight in ounces but if you are not a big water fan you might need to work up to that slowly. Infertility is hard. We know many out there trying all the things to make it work. We found this article interesting and wanted to share.
Any questions?We’re your resource for Fertility Acupuncture in Knoxville!
If you have any questions about adding acupuncture to your cycle or how we might be able to support your journey, please give us a call or an email. We are always happy to help.
Have you had anyone ever tell you this? These 7 words are one of our biggest pet peeves. So often, I’ve heard this come from other providers without a proper diagnosis and exam or even friends and family members and it is absolutely devastating to the couple involved. Thankfully, Knoxville’s reproductive endocrinologists are careful with their words and would never say such a thing without first doing a careful exam and diagnosis and discussing all the options with you. Much of the time, they are able to present a treatment plan that will eventually result in a healthy pregnancy. We are truly lucky here in East Tennessee, but I digress.
NEVER is such a strong word (assuming, obviously, you have the necessary organs, etc). In my 10 + year career as an acupuncturist, I have been blessed to be a witness to some amazing miracles in women who seemingly have little chance.
My patients hear me talk about this all the time when encouraging them to try while they wait for IVF or during an unlikely cycle (if, of course, they don’t feel it would add undue stress on them). I finally decided to write about never saying never because one of our miracle patients just delivered healthy twin boys. She had been trying to conceive for over 4 years and went through cycle after cycle, IUI, medications, and more, finally deciding to move forward with IVF. During her retrieval cycle, her response was much less than her doctor anticipated, so the tough decision was made to cancel the retrieval and, instead, do an IUI. She agreed to the plan, with hopes of repeating the retrieval with a different medication protocol in a coming cycle, but was understandably not feeling positive about the IUI at all. We used acupuncture and timed her treatments with our standard IUI treatment protocol. Then, on a day I’ll never forget, I got a phone call. “Uh, so, uh, my pregnancy test was positive.” The shock and disbelief was palpable and understandable! After congratulations (and some tears), we started with our prenatal wellness protocol. After 9 healthy months, two sweet baby boys were born.
Do I think acupuncture was the reason this miracle happened? No. Acupuncture, as much as I wish it was, is not magical. Who knows exactly why it happened. She had an excellent fertility team, a healthy lifestyle, had been doing acupuncture regularly, and the right egg and sperm finally met. Everything just came together. Acupuncture can improve blood flow, help regulate hormones, calm stress, and reduce side effects, but it isn’t magical.
Upon reflecting back on my patients over the years, there have been a number of equally miraculous situations:
– A woman with severe diminished egg reserve who became pregnant on her own after multiple failed IVF cycles with some of the most well known clinics in the country. For the record, she was not doing acupuncture when she got pregnant. They had stopped “trying.” She shared the news with me after a healthy 20 week anatomy scan.
-A woman who ovulated a second time after her trigger shot and IUI and became pregnant with that follicle based on the timing of her positive pregnancy test and beta hCG numbers.
– Many patients who’ve become pregnant naturally before moving forward with an IVF cycle, surgery, etc.
And many more whose details have softened over the years. While I wish every patient had this story, we are so happy for those who do.
We often get feedback about how hopeful we are as we walk with our patients on their infertility journeys. We nervously anticipate pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, blood work numbers right alongside our patients and feel the highs and lows of the rollercoaster ride. But our optimism, while sometimes a bit foreign to our patients who’ve been through so much, is rooted in these stories. We encourage our patients to try on their own (when it is possible, of course, and won’t cause too much stress) while they wait for a cycle to begin, surgery, etc. Because, you never know what might happen. Never say never.
If you have any questions about adding acupuncture to your cycle or how we might be able to support your journey, please give us a call or an email. We are always happy to help.
We often get questions regarding acupuncture done before and after embryo transfer and wanted to explore how these treatments can be used to support an IVF cycle, why we highly recommend them, and how to add these to your upcoming cycle.
What the research says:
Research supports the use of acupuncture before and after embryo transfer. In a well known study, acupuncture done before and after embryo transfer resulted in higher rates of pregnancy (42.5% in the acupuncture group versus 26.3 in the control group). This study gave us the well known “Paulus Protocol” that we base many of our pre/post transfer treatments on. Although, we typically add or subtract points depending on each patients’ diagnosis and symptoms.
In research published by our acupuncturist, Sarah Prater, similar results were seen. Patients receiving acupuncture had pregnancy rates for 57.1% versus 45.8% for those not receiving acupuncture. Additionally, this study followed patients a bit longer and discovered that the clinical pregnancy rate (gestational sac seen on ultrasound) was much higher in the acupuncture group: 55.1% versus 34.4% for those not receiving acupuncture. Even better, the overall miscarrage rate for patients who received acupuncture was only 3.4% compared to 22.7% in the non-acupuncture group. It is easy to see how these two simple treatments can have a big effect on live birth rates after IVF.
Embryo transfer acupuncture at our clinic
Pre and post embryo transfer treatments are done as a part of our comprehensive IVF treatment protocol. Beyond the increase in pregnancy rates, some additional benefits include reducing any symptoms from the hormones like headaches, irritability, hot flashes, etc and helping you relax. Transfer day is a big day often filled with a mix of emotions that can range from excitement and optimism to anxiety and even fear. Acupuncture on transfer day can be such a wonderful way to relax and emotionally prepare for your transfer. The treatments are painless and many times patients fall asleep or deeply relax during acupuncture.
Our patients know that we work very hard to time treatments throughout your cycle to help make sure you are getting the best benefit from each and every treatment and pre and post transfer treatments are no exception. We are willing to come in early, stay late, and even come in on weekends to help accommodate your transfer day schedule. We understand that you often don’t get your transfer time until the days leading up to the transfer and have a system in place to handle all the scheduling for your big day.
Serving patients throughout the country
In addition to seeing our own patients before and after embryo transfer, we are proud to serve patients traveling from other cities and states for their cycles. We work with many out-of-town patients doing embryo adoption cycles at the National Embryo Donation Center here in Knoxville or with any of the other local clinics. You don’t need to have previously had acupuncture to take advantage of this service. We are happy to answer your questions and make sure you get a spot on our transfer calendar.
A Recent study from the UK shed some additional light on an often overlooked cause of recurrent miscarriage. It was found that men in couples with recurrent miscarriage had much higher levels of molecules called “reactive oxygen species” (ROS) in their sperm. Produced naturally in the body, ROS can help protect sperm, but higher concentrations can damage sperm and affect fertility.
Increased levels of ROS can be attributed to many causes including:
Genito-urinary tract infection
Chemical pollutants and occupational hazards
Heavy metal exposure
Removal of seminal plasma during sperm preparation for assisted conception
Drugs – cyclophosphamide, aspirin, paracetamol
How can you lower ROS levels?
After understanding more about how levels of ROS can profoundly affect your fertility and be a cause of miscarriage, the next step is to come up with plan to lower it. Taking a look at the causes, there are probably some things you identify here to work on.
1. Anti-oxidant Supplements and Male Fertility:
Supplementation with an antioxidant has been shown to be helpful in reducing levels of ROS. At our clinic, we recommend Conception XR to our male patients. This supplement contains high doses of antioxidants like selenium, vitamin C, and vitamin E along with other nutrients shown to support male fertility. For men that also experience issues with sperm motility, they make a product with additional supplements specifically for motility.
2. Lifestyle Changes and Male Fertility:
Anything done to improve your overall lifestyle will be helpful for improving ROS levels. Maintaining a healthy body weight through diet and exercise is top on the list. Also, if you are a smoker, developing a plan to quit (acupuncture can help with this too!) and reducing the amount of alcohol consumed.
Avoid exposure to toxins at work and at home If you work in an environment where this exposure is common, consult your supervisor to make sure you are taking the proper precautionary means to prevent or reduce exposure.
3. Pay a Visit to your Doctor:
Since high levels of ROS can be caused by many common conditions, a visit with your doctor to rule some of these things out is a good idea. In many communities, there are urologists who specialize in male fertility. Here in Knoxville, we recommend Dr. Kim at UT Medical Center for our male patients wanting to discuss their options.
4. Acupuncture for Male Fertility:
Regular acupuncture treatment can help reduce inflammation, increase the flow of oxygenated blood to the reproductive system and help to reduce high ROS levels. We recommend all male partners receive acupuncture at least every other week to support healthy sperm production. More about our approach to using acupuncture for male fertility here. Acupuncture can help you ensure your sperm are as healthy as possible
More and more research is pointing towards the importance of healthy sperm. Their role in creating healthy embryos and babies cannot be overlooked in the diagnosis and treatment of infertility. We encourage everyone to discuss this with your doctor and see if any additional testing is appropriate. In the meantime, working towards a healthy lifestyle and changing some of your bad habits can have a big impact on your fertility.
If you have more questions about acupuncture can help support male fertility. Please reach out via email or phone (865)-315-3845. We are always happy to help!
If you’re ready to begin your integrative fertility journey and add acupuncture to your treatment plan, we have online scheduling available at our website.
Just in time for the holidays! Here is some beautiful fertility jewelry!
I would like to share the work of a local artist right in Knoxville who creates beautiful fertility jewelry! These bracelets and neckless can help support you along your own fertility journey. Because each bead is carefully chosen for its specific energetics, the complete piece works synergistically. Her work is all handmade and can be customized to meet your needs.
Many of our patients find comfort in wearing a symbol of their own journey as a way to honor their process of becoming a mother.
Short answer, yes. It is safe and effective to combine acupuncture with any type of fertility treatment including medicated cycles, IUI, IVF, FET, donor IVF, etc. We have worked closely with all of the Knoxville fertility doctors and clinics and even clinics from out of state and have the experience needed to support you throughout whatever cycle your doctor is recommending.
Long answer, there are quite a few reasons why you might consider combining acupuncture with any type of fertility treatment cycle.
1. Increase your chances of success: Acupuncture has been shown in many research studies to increase chances of ovulation, conception, clinical pregnancy, and live birth when combined with fertility treatment.
In IUI cycles, a study showed pregnancy rates for those using acupuncture with their treatment was 65.5% vs 39.9% for those doing just an IUI cycle.
Doing acupuncture only before and after embryo transfer leads to a 42.5% pregnancy rate vs 26.3% in women who did not use acupuncture.
In women doing clomid, femara, injectable or other medicated cycles, one study showed rates of ovulation of 67.8% vs 51.9% and a conception rate of 51.9% for the acupuncture and treatment group, vs 30.4% for the treatment only group.
2. Reduce overall cost of fertility treatment: While there is a cost to receiving acupuncture treatments, adding acupuncture to your fertility treatment plan can reduce the number of cycles needed to achieve pregnancy, thereby significantly reducing costs.
3. Decrease side effects of treatment: Acupuncture is often used symptomatically during a treatment cycle to decrease side effects such as:
Help increase cervical mucous production
Cramping or pain during cycle
4. Support throughout the cycle: We’ve been working with patients going through fertility treatments for a long time and know the how tough the emotional rollercoaster can be. We also know that it isn’t often a topic discussed with friends and family. So we strive to support you and help answer any questions along the way.
5. Acupuncture can be used to support your doctor’s treatment for conditions such as:
6. Decrease Side effects of treatment: Acupuncture is often used symptomatically during a treatment cycle to decrease side effects such as:
Help increase cervical mucous production
Cramping or pain during cycle
When should I begin treatment? In an ideal world, we would see our patients 3 months before the begin any fertility treatment. We refer to this treatment phase as “Preconception.” During these three months, we work to regulate the menstrual cycle, correct any hormone imbalances, and increase blood flow to help your body give the best chance for a good response to treatment.
However, we don’t always live in an ideal world. Often we see our patients at the beginning of their cycle. Of course, we can start treatment at any time throughout your cycle, so it is never too late to receive benefit from acupuncture.
We are always available for questions via phone or email and encourage you to reach out and discuss your situation so we can find an acupuncture treatment plan that is right for you!
Heather Huddleston is a young woman who has struggled with severe endometriosis since puberty. At the age of 19, she had her first of many surgeries. It was so extreme that the surgeon told her she would never have children—he had removed 2/3 of one ovary and 7/8 of the other. Drugs and surgery were the solution offered her by traditional western medicine, and she took the solution seeing no other option. She managed to get through both undergraduate and her graduate studies by allowing the doctors to put her body into medically induced menopause to cope with the 10 level pain. She thought this was her only option—even doing as told, her quality of life was greatly diminished.
While finishing her graduate studies she got married. She maintained her treatments. Two years later, she and her husband were eager to begin a family. She ceased all hormonal therapy although she was terrified to come off of the drugs remembering the severity of the constant crippling pain. Yet she knew she had to begin somewhere, in her quest for sustainable good health.
The pain was as bad as ever. She trudged through and she and her husband sought the help of fertility specialists. After being unsuccessfully treated by 2 fertility specialists and undergoing 2 more extensive surgeries she was no closer to achieving her goals. The last surgery was performed by a surgeon specializing in excision and was very thorough even removing tissue from her diaphragm. After she recovered, she went back to the fertility doctor—unsuccessfully. Feeling frustrated and hopeless, she decided to go back on the hormones and regroup.
A year later, she began to have new symptoms—this time in the colon and bowel. This was quite concerning. After consulting a specialist, she was told that the surgery required was extremely dangerous. He recommended pursuing pregnancy before taking that step. She found a new fertility doctor. She achieved a pregnancy through IVF only to be disappointed with a miscarriage 6 weeks in. As bad as this was, the doctor was encouraged because she had achieved a successful pregnancy. He advised them to try again immediately, this time recommending that she do so with the addition of acupuncture.
She took the doctor’s suggestion and made an appointment with a Practitioner specializing in infertility, Sarah Prater. The hormones that were a part of the treatment protocol caused the endometriosis to flare up resulting in crippling pain. This time both she and Sarah hoped to not only achieve a healthy pregnancy but a measure of relief from the crippling pain—.
Heather went into her first treatment with level 10 pain. After the treatment, she walked away pain free! She was amazed—wondering how long the relief from the pain would last. It not only lasted through the night but continued until her next session and beyond. She never experienced that crippling pain again through the treatment, even though she followed the protocol for the hormones which previously made life almost unbearable.
She continued with acupuncture following Sarah’s treatment plan for her all the way up to the transfer, after the transfer and subsequent treatment. Her transfer was successful—she achieved a healthy pregnancy!
Heather is now 12 weeks pregnant and being released by the fertility doctor to an obstetrician. She is headed to Japan for the next year with her husband where she will continue acupuncture and by God’s grace deliver a healthy baby!
The Power of Hope
Sarah Prater has had the honor of helping many women give birth to happy, healthy babies and has a diverse background that enables her to fully support her patients. Her passion for helping women struggling with infertility led her to found the Tennessee Center for Reproductive Acupuncture. Acupuncture has been shown to increase success rates for women struggling with a variety of issues and conditions associated with reproduction.
Acupuncture can increase fertility by reducing stress, increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs and balancing the endocrine system, according to several studies and medical research.
According to A recent study from Tel Aviv University, when used in conjunction with Western fertility treatments, acupuncture increases conception rates by 26%. It found that when combining IUI with Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments, 65.5 percent of the test group was able to conceive, compared with 39.4 percent of the control group, who received no herbal or acupuncture therapy.
A well-known German study done in 2002 followed 160 women who underwent IVF. Eighty of them received acupuncture as well and 34 of those women got pregnant: a success rate of 42.5%. Of the other 80 women, those who received IVF without any acupuncture treatments, only 21 women (26.3%) became pregnant.
An American study, of 114 women showed that 51% of the women who had acupuncture and IVF treatments became pregnant compared to 36% of women who had IVF alone. Further analysis of the data revealed a much lower rate of miscarriage for the women who had acupuncture as well as IVF.
Sarah strives to stay up to date with current research in her field and is constantly updating her protocols to offer the maximum benefit. Her wide breadth of experience allows her to work cooperatively with reproductive endocrinologists and OB/GYN’s to provide the best care for her patients.
Many of our patients have been told they have poor egg quality or diminished ovarian reserve, or even poor embryo quality and this is the reason why they are having trouble conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term. While it is true that your egg health diminishes over time, it is not true that there is nothing that can be done to help support your egg health.
Even if you don’t have any specific ovarian or egg quality issues, helping support good egg health will help increase the chances your cycle will be a success!
The total time it takes for one egg to fully mature is about 90 days. It is during this window of time that we are able to have the biggest impact on egg health. So, we recommend that all of our patients looking to plan a treatment cycle take advantage of this time to prepare and consider acupuncture, supplements, diet, and lifestyle changes to help support their egg health.
Some of the main factors affecting egg health are:
Diet and Nutrition
Blood flow to the uterus and ovaries
Oxygenation of your blood
Our three favorite ways to improve all of these factors affecting egg health are acupuncture (of course!), diet and exercise, and specific supplements.
Each of our treatment protocols (IUI, IVF, and medicated cycles) begins with the recommendation of preconception acupuncture. Preconception acupuncture is treatments given weekly in the 1-3 months prior to any fertility cycle specifically designed to support egg health and hormone balance.
By now, you probably know that acupuncture done alongside a fertility cycle can improve the chances of pregnancy for that cycle. What you may not know, is that acupuncture’s effect is cumulative, much like exercise. Each treatment and treatment cycle builds on the previous. Research done on fertility acupuncture supports this idea. Generally, the more acupuncture one receives, the better the pregnancy rates.
The reasons why acupuncture done in the months prior to a fertility cycle can have an impact on your egg health and the overall success of your cycle are:
Dramatically improved blood flow to the uterus and ovaries: This increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients, and facilities waste product removal, improving overall egg health.
Hormone regulation: Many women notice changes in their cycles during preconception acupuncture: less pain, more regular ovulation, and normalization of menstrual flow.
Reduced stress: Help your body and mind get ready for the upcoming cycle.
2. Diet, Exercise and Lifestyle:
Diet: A healthy diet can dramatically affect one’s fertility (and overall health!). Taking the preconception time period to focus on eating a clean, whole-food, plant-based diet can help improve egg health. Our favorite general fertility diet comes from a Harvard Medical School research study, but many diagnoses related to infertility, such as endometriosis or PCOS, call for some specialized nutrition.
Overall, the basics of a healthy fertility diet include:
Low amounts of saturated fat: Choose plant based fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and healthy fats like those found in salmon and other fish.
Local, grass fed, organic meats whenever possible
Fresh fruits and veggies: We suggest eating foods from every color of the rainbow and making sure at least half of your plate is filled with veggies as an easy way to maximize your fruit and vegetable intake
Vegetable protein sources: Try to replace one serving of meat per day with a vegetarian protein source like beans or tofu.
Lots of fresh water: Try to avoid water bottled in plastic and stick to filtered when possible.
Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread and pasta, etc instead of simple, white carbs,
Iron rich plants: spinach, pumpkins, beans, tomatoes, and beets.
Full fat dairy instead of low fat varieties.
Minimal (or no) sugar intake: be sure to watch added sugars and high fructose corn syrup as they can hide in many unsuspecting foods as well as sugary drinks and desserts.
For women who have endometriosis, we recommend following an anti-inflammatory diet. For those with PCOS, a low-glycemic index diet is best.
Exercise: Regular aerobic exercise improves the oxygenation of blood and increased blood flow throughout the body. It is also a great stress reliever and helps maintain a healthy BMI, which is associated with higher pregnancy rates. Yoga is also a great way to strengthen your core and help reduce stress.
The preconception time is perfect for implementing a consistent exercise routine as exercise is commonly limited by your doctor during a fertility treatment cycle.
Lifestyle: There are many lifestyle habits that can have an effect on egg health. Our top suggestions are the following:
Allow personal ‘down-time’ to meditate, read, or just relax.
Listen to fertility meditations via Circle Bloom to help de-stress and foster a healthy body/mind connection
Work to reduce stress and overwork as much as possible
Seek counseling or a support group if you feel it is necessary.
3.Supplements and herbs: In addition to a good quality prenatal vitamin, there are some supplements that you can take that will help support egg quality and overall fertility. One supplement that has some evidence showing it’s efficacy is CoQ-10.
CoQ-10 is a vitamin-like substance (meaning our bodies can make some on their own) that functions within the energy production centers, called mitochondria, present in each cell. As we age, the efficiency of the mitochondria declines. The idea is that by supplementing CoQ-10, we can help support this energy production, which is especially needed for high-energy processes like the cellular division involved in egg production and embryo development. There is some preliminary research showing an egg-health benefit in mice and we await further research. CoQ-10 is generally regarded as very safe to take while trying to conceive and most experience no side effects. It also shows some promise in helping support male fertility as well.
Other supplements that we typically recommend are:
Fish Oil: high in omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce inflammation in the body
Probiotics: to support good digestion and absorption of nutrients.
There are also specific supplements and herbs available for other fertility related conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, luteal phase defect, male factor infertility, etc and will be recommended as needed.
Please call 865-315-3845 or contact us, we are more than happy to answer your questions or set you up for preconception acupuncture! Good luck with your cycle!