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.
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.
There is a saying in Chinese, “zuo yue zi,” or “Sitting the Month” that refers to the idea that the month following the birth of a baby is a sacred time reserved for rest, regeneration, and bonding with your new baby. After all, birth is an incredibly transformative event, it is rather silly to expect your body, mind, and soul to bounce back to normal activity in a short period of time. In fact, this rush to get back into action quickly is not healthy and can lead to a much longer recovery period.
Unfortunately, our society idolizes women for bouncing back and rushing back into work, life, exercise, and their pre-baby bodies. Celebrities, likely with extreme diet and exercise regimens put forth by their teams of professionals, often are the examples of this unattainable image.
If this isn’t your first child, you know how tough those first few weeks can be. Your newborn is dependent on you for everything and you are working so hard to figure out what each cry means, teaching yourself how to breastfeed or quickly make bottles while your baby gets more and more upset, and, all the while, expected to feed yourself and maybe sneak in a shower. The whole thing is exhausting and can be emotionally draining.
In China, women are encouraged to “sit the month” after birth and remain in bed with baby. Family, partners, and friends take care of the house, cook nourishing meals, and ensure the mother gets the rest she desperately needs. I think we should take a lesson from China and incorporate these theories into our postpartum plans.
During pregnancy, you likely found yourself researching, downloading, and revising your birth plan until it was a perfect vision of what you wanted for your birth. The time after baby comes is often ignored. We should, in fact, be putting at least as much effort into the weeks following baby’s arrival to allow for space for healing and recovery.
Aside from a much needed list of delegated tasks, desires, meal trains etc, a plan should be worked out to allow you to get the rest and recovery you need and the time you want to bond with your new baby.
So here are our tips for navigating your postpartum time:
1. Rest: Your body just went through one of the most single transformative times of your entire life. Give it a break! You nourished and grew a new person, birthed that person, and took on a new role as a mother. This is an amazing feat and it takes time to recover from and get acquainted to your transformed life.
For the month after birth, rest as much as possible. Lay in bed with your baby, sit on the couch with your baby, sit outside with your baby. Spend time staring at your baby and, of course, catching up on your favorite Netflix shows. If you feel like getting up and walking a little, by all means get off the couch, but listen intently to yourself. If you feel any soreness, increased perineal pressure, notice an increase in your lochia (the bleeding you will have postpartum), or have any discomfort back off and get back on the couch.
Spend time skin-to-skin with baby. Skin-to-skin was likely something you remember from your birth plan, but the benefits of this go well beyond the hour after birth. Skin-to-skin can help support good breastmilk supply, help baby regulate body temperature, and facilitate bonding. So, put on a robe or button up shirt, cuddle up, and enjoy!
Limit guests: I know everyone will want to come see the baby, but give yourself a few weeks without a stream of well-intending friends and family. Allow those who will take on a task, laundry, dishes, etc, and tell everyone else to come back later. Entertaining, or feeling like you have to entertain, cleaning your house, and preparing snacks is a lot of unnecessary pressure while you’re becoming familiar with your new role. Additionally, your new baby does not need the exposure to the coughs and sneezes your guests might bring.
2. Eat warm nourishing foods: One very big part of Sitting the Month is proper nutrition to replenish your body and support your recovery. The Chinese recommend a diet of warming foods and herbs. Some examples of things to add to your diet are:
Ginger: Use in soups or teas. Caution: Occasionally ginger can increase bleeding, so if this is the case for you, stop using it.
Wam spices: Use cinnamon, cardamom, chile, etc for cooking.
Bone broth (or vegetarian/vegan bone broth): with added warming spices or herbs.
Mushrooms: you can add these to your soups and broths for benefit to your immune system.
Eggs: These are a great source of protein and are great for pregnancy and postpartum support.
Red raspberry leaf tea: to help regulate hormones and reduce your uterine size back to normal.
Water, water, water! When your milk comes in you will find your thirst increases quite a bit. Combat that by increasing water consumption. This will also help reduce water retention and prevent headaches and muscle cramps.
Avoid cold foods: ice water, smoothies, ice cream, salads, raw veggies/fruits, etc.
3. Perineal Support: Whether you gave birth vaginally or not, you will notice some perineal soreness.. If you’ve had stitches or minor tearing you will definitely have some discomfort or even pain as your body heals.
Say No to Padsicles: We recommend against the ‘padsicles’ you might find on Pinterest. That much cold placed right on tender, healing skin can reduce blood flow, increasing overall healing time. Instead, if you’d like to use something cold to reduce swelling, wrap an ice pack in a towel, so the cold you feel is more cool. Combine with an herbal perineal bath and/or spray to speed healing.
Perineal sitz baths: A sitz bath made from healing herbs can increase healing time and soothe your sore perineum. You can also use these herbs in a bath with epsom salts for extra relaxation.
Perineal Spray: Earth Mama Angel Baby makes a fantastic herbal perineal spray that will quickly become your best friend. The combination of herbs in this spray is soothing, cooling, and can help promote healing. Use every time you use the bathroom or as needed. If you have any leftover after healing, it makes a great after-sun face toner!
Prevent Constipation: Your first bowel movements after baby can be really tough, especially if you’ve had any pain medication or dehydration causing constipation. Taking magnesium or a stool softener in the first week or so can really help make going to the bathroom much more comfortable. Also, make sure you are drinking enough water, as this, of course, will help.
4. Lactation Support: So many women wanting to breastfeed go into it assuming it is a natural and easy process. And, for some, this is absolutely true. For others, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. It is so important to have an ally for your breastfeeding journey. They can make sure you are getting accurate, up to date information. We recommend a prenatal breastfeeding class and a visit from an independent IBCLC in the days after birth to check for tongue/lip ties and check baby’s latch to help support breastfeeding. Check out our resources page for our favorite lactation consultants. Many will do home visits, so you don’t even have to leave your house.
5. Mother Warming Ritual: Moxa, made from the leaves of the mugwort plant, is used to gently warm points along the lower abdomen in mom’s who’ve given birth vagainally or through a Cesarean birth. This is typically done about 3-4 days after birth and promotes healing, milk production, and alleviates discomfort. It is used on an as-needed basis after the initial warming.
This is a great way for partners to help out with postpartum healing.
6. Acupuncture: There are so many benefits to a course of postpartum acupuncture. We can begin work on restoring your body, support healing, and help treat any issues you might be having with breastfeeding, digestion, sleep, anxiety/depression, etc.
Our recommended postpartum protocol is just 3 weekly visits starting at 2-3 weeks postpartum and as needed after that.
We look forward to working with you during your pregnancy and into your postpartum time! Please give us a call at 865-31503845 or contact us via email with any questions!
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.
If you’ve been told by your midwife or OB/GYN that your baby isn’t in the best position for a vaginal birth, you know what kind of stress this can bring on! Most women facing a possible Cesarean section for breech presentation will search far and wide for things they can do to help their baby get into a better position for delivery.
If you end up consulting Dr. Google, you have probably come across others talking about using acupuncture and moxibustion (moxa) for turning breech babies, and you probably have some questions. It is true that we safely use these techniques to turn many breech babies and it can be successful much of time!
Acupuncture: We generally recommend acupuncture 1-2 times per week to help encourage baby to turn, reduce stress, and to relax any tight muscles that might be preventing an ideal presentation.
Moxa: You will be given moxa sticks and instruction for their use at home. Our protocol involves moxa treatment 2 times a day for 15 minutes for a course of 7 days (or until the baby turns).
After treatment, you will generally feel an increase in fetal movement, and an overall sense of relaxation and well-being. New to acupuncture? Here is what you can expect.
When to receive treatment: The ideal time to use acupuncture and moxibustion is between week 33 and 35 of your pregnancy.
Beyond week 35, the chances of success decreases as baby is starting to get larger, but many breech babies have turned in the last weeks of pregnancy or even as labor starts.
It’s best to call as soon as you find out you are breech and discuss your personal case with our acupuncturist. We can walk you through your options and what the best course of action is for your situation.
What else can I do?
Swimming: any type of swimming with your stomach down in the water can take the pressures of gravity off your uterus and allow baby to move into a good position
Dance: put your favorite music on and make sure to let your hips rock!
Talk to your baby: Baby can hear your voice and some women have reported success with asking baby to adjust his or her position.
Webster Technique: This is a chiropractic technique that is helpful in turning breech babies. Be sure to seek out someone trained in this technique.
Spinning Babies: The positions on this website can help your baby settle into position and are highly recommended. We also recommend using this site throughout your pregnancy to help prevent breech presentation.
Talk to your doctor about performing an external cephalic version or other medical interventions.
What are the chances that it will work?
In one study, where moxa and acupuncture was compared with a watch and wait approach, 75.4% of women treated with acupuncture and moxa had a cephalic presentation vs 47.7% of the control group. Both groups were offered external cephalic versions and results included the successful versions.
In addition to the recommendations here, we encourage all pregnant women to take advantage of Pre-Birth Acupuncture starting at week 36 to help get your body ready for labor and help support a vaginal birth. Prenatal acupuncture done in the last weeks of pregnancy can reduce the need for interventions like epidurals and emergency C-Sections.
Please give us a call at 865-315-3845 or contact us online for more information or to set up an appointment. We look forward to working with you!
Last week, I had the opportunity to share how fertility acupuncture can benefit those undergoing IUI and IVF with Dr. Donesky and the staff at the Fertility Center. The Fertility Center has offices in Knoxville and Chattanooga.
First off, Knoxville is so lucky to have Dr. Donesky and crew. They truly love their work, and it shows. Although, I have to say that all of the clinics, doctors, and staff in Knoxville that I have met with are really wonderful. We are a very fortunate community!
At my presentation, I explained how acupuncture can be utilized as a complement to any fertility cycle. We went over our IUI and IVF protocols and I presented some of the research that our protocols are based off of.
My main job as an acupuncturist to someone going through fertility treatment is to support the doctors’ efforts. When done in combination with IVF/IUI, acupuncture can improve pregnancy (and live birth rates), reduce miscarriages, reduce side effects of medications, and lessen the feelings of stress. The protocols are all based on each patient’s cycle timing and unique situation.
We talked about acupuncture’s safety during pregnancy and it’s usefulness during the first trimester for morning sickness and even, possibly, miscarriage prevention.
It was a really fun meeting and I am looking forward to working more closely with them and the other clinics here in town. I am grateful to them for having me!
It is my hope that more cycles will be done using acupuncture as a complementary therapy!
If you are struggling with infertility, please consider getting a work up from a reproductive endocrinologist. Having answers will help you make an educated decision on your best path towards parenthood.