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.
As you know by now, acupuncture makes a great compliment to an IVF cycle and can help improve pregnancy rates, and reduce miscarriage rates. But is there an optimal time to begin treatment? Short answer is yes, but the timing will vary based on cycle type and patient diagnosis.
Let’s back up and talk about dosage:
Acupuncture is a therapy based treatment, so it is usually done in a series of treatments to treat various symptoms. Much like exercise, it is best done regularly and frequently. You probably won’t get a six pack by hitting the gym once a month…. Acupuncture is the same way.
Another way to think about it is through the concept of dosing. Say you have a major headache and your doctor recommends 400mg of a medication to relieve it and you only take 50mg. You still have your headache. Does this mean the medication didn’t work? No. Any treatment has a proper dosage for maximum effectiveness and acupuncture is no different. In acupuncture, the dosage is the frequency of treatment. The more severe the symptoms, the more frequent the acupuncture to treat it.
In fertility, the concept of dosing is used to provide maximum benefit during specific times throughout the cycle with consideration for each couple’s situation and type of cycle.
Type of cycle and acupuncture start recommendations:
4-12 weeks prior to cycle.
The three month window of preconception acupuncture is recommended in cases of low ovarian reserve, poor egg or embryo quality. This window represents the full life cycle of the egg so we consider this an optimal time to use holistic treatments, dietary changes, and lifestyle changes to support your egg health.
One month is typically adequate for other diagnoses like endometriosis, male factor, polycystic ovarian syndrome, etc.
Frozen Embryo Transfer
4 weeks prior to the cycle start. In a frozen embryo cycle, 8-11 treatments before transfer is ideal to optimize results.
Natural Cycle IVF or Mini-stim IVF
4 weeks prior to the start of the cycle.
We refer to these treatments as preconception acupuncture. The treatments are designed to improve blood flow, regulate hormones, and reduce stress in advance of your cycle.
Here is a great Q&A session with the doctors at Long Island IVF and their acupuncturist going over the benefits of frequent treatment leading up to an IVF cycle.
Acupuncture During the Cycle
Once your cycle begins, we will increase our treatment frequency to twice weekly until your retrieval or transfer. For our purposes we consider the “start” when you begin ovarian stimulation medication, estrogen, or cycle day 1 in a natural cycle IVF.
For embryo transfer cycles, whether fresh or frozen, we will see you around the transfer itself and again 5-7 days after the transfer to support implantation.
All of these treatments work to support your body, help to improve outcomes and keep you comfortable and relaxed during your cycle. In research, these protocols show an increase in pregnancy rates, live birth rates, and a decrease in miscarriage.
For more information or questions on how this might work with your specific cycle, please give us a call, send an email (info@TennesseeReproductiveAcupuncture.com), or schedule an appointment online. We are always happy to help!
Thank you for your continued patience and understanding during this time. We are excited to announce that are reopening next week on Monday May 4th!!Now with this excitement we are also putting in place some policies to keep our clinic a safe place for all. Please read the following updates precautionary measures and policies we are implementing to maintain best practices during this time.
1. Please arrive on time for your appointment or wait indoor vehicle instead of coming into the waiting room.
2. Patients are asked to come alone to their visit unless they are accompanying a minor.
3. Patients and guardians are asked to bring and wear a cloth mask during their appointment. Staff will also be wearing masks.
4. Patients and guardians are asked to wash hands with soap and water immediately upon arriving for their appointment.
Upon the arrival your temperature will be taken and you will be asked the following questions:
Have you been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19?
Are you experiencing cough, shortness of breath, or a sore throat?
Have you had a fever in the last 48 hours?
Have you had a new loss of taste or smell?
Have you had vomiting or diarrhea in the last 24 hours?
Patients will not be seen if they:
Answered yes to any of the above questions.
Have a fever over 100.4 degrees.
These precautionary measures are from TN’s guidelines for reopening and will changed as needed to keep everyone as safe as possible as we navigate this next phase. Please be patient with us as we will also be keeping a lighter schedule to ensure enough time to properly clean and create a safe space for our staff and patients.
Keep an eye on our social media pages and connect with us! We will continue to be available via email, social media, phone if you would like to schedule or reach out with questions during this time.
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 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.
We are so excited to share our postpartum recovery kit with you! Most of our mama’s take so much care planning for their birth, the weeks after baby arrives are often neglected. To follow up with our recent post on planning for this time, we’ve put together a kit with our favorite postpartum must-haves!
Sarah, our acupuncturist, developed this kit personally. After the birth of her daughter in February, she tried everything in this kit (and more that didn’t make the cut) and put together something that would really benefit postpartum mamas.
So we’d like to go through exactly what’s in each kit and why it was chosen:
Urban Herbs: Nourish the Mama Bone Broth Herbs:
This herbal mix put together by Urban Herbs is a fabulous addition to a bone broth (or vegan/vegetarian bone broth) to help nourish your body after birth. According to Chinese Medical theory, new mothers should try to consume warming foods in the month after birth. This herbal mix is the perfect way to add extra warming nourishment to yourpostpartum diet. These herbs help support your energy level, sleep, stress, and general recovery after birth.
Tip: Make your herbal broth ahead of time and freeze so it’s ready to go quickly. You can use it as a base for your favorite soups or drink on its own.
Mother Warming is another Chinese Medical treatment that helps the new mother recover after birth. Typically done a few days after birth, the warming, soothing moxa treatment done over your lower abdomen feels absolutely delightful! Moxa, a Chinese herb also known as mugwort, strengthens and tonifies the body. It is wrapped in paper, like a cigar, and burned near the skin to gently warm specific acupuncture points supporting recovery. Mothers love this treatment! There are more specific guidelines in our longer post on Mother Warming.
We cannot say enough good things about this herbal perineal spray from Earth Mama Angel Baby. After birth, using the bathroom can be uncomfortable! You’ll find many women recommending ‘padsicles’ to relieve this swelling. We don’t recommend these as they are often too cold for too long a time and can prevent blood flow and hinder the healing process. Instead, use this perineal spray every time you use the restroom or as needed. It is wonderfully cooling, refreshing, and can support healthy perineal healing. And, as a bonus, if you don’t use all of it before your perineum is done healing, it makes a wonderful after sun toner for your skin!
Tip: For extra cooling, keep it in the refrigerator.
Herbal Sitz Bath:
According the Earth Mama Organics website: Take care “down there” with herbal compresses filled with organic herbs traditionally used to soothe and comfort “down there” during pregnancy or after childbirth. Packed in easy-to-use, individual herbal sachets, each one is perfect for one use. The compresses can be cooled and gently “tucked” to help ease those pretty places, or use the brewed infusion to make postpartum padsicles or use as a sitz bath. Which is kind of like making tea for your nethers. Which is a totally lovely and perfectly polite thing to do.
Imperial Tonic Recovery Herbs:
This Chinese herbal formula from Evergreen Herbs is an adaptogenic formula designed to support recovery after childbirth. It helps boost energy levels, support the immune system and healthy blood production, and promote general physical and psychological wellness. Generally, this formula is recommended 1-2 weeks after birth and taken for about a month to promote optimal recovery.
Earth Mama Angel Baby has, again, knocked it out of the park. Many mothers will claim this the best nipple cream on the market. While breastfeeding should not be painful (if it is please seek the care of an independent IBCLC), a good nipple cream applied after breastfeeding can keep nipples from drying out or cracking.
Tip: This is also an excellent salve for cuts and scrapes and make a great lip balm.
So there you have it! All packed up in a cute little storage bin perfect for the nursery, our postpartum kit is a great way to get your postpartum recovery off to a great start! After all, your body, mind, and spirit deserve to be celebrated after your transformation into a new mama!
Postpartum recovery kits are available in the office or online. We do ship, if needed. These also make a great gift for a friend or loved one!
Mother warming is a treatment given to women in their postpartum time to support recovery from birth. Mother warming also helps to increase energy, and support healthy milk supply. Mother warming is usually done as part of the Chinese Tradition of “Sitting the Month.” This is a system of postpartum recovery involving a full month of staying in bed, nutritional recommendations, and herbal supplements. While that does sound a bit strict, postpartum recovery is often overlooked in planning for a new baby. Women are praised for “bouncing back” quickly, but this can come at an overall cost to health and wellbeing and we believe there is something to be gleaned from revisiting this tradition, modernizing it, and making it your own.
The process of mother warming is very simple: Moxa, dried mugwort, is burned near the skin and warms specific acupuncture points. This supports the healing process and feels absolutely wonderful to the mother receiving it Mother warming is typically done at least once in the days and weeks after birth and often continued throughout the postpartum time.
When To Do Mother Warming
Vaginal Birth: For a vaginal birth, you can do your first mother warming treatment 3-4 days after birth.
Cesarean Birth: If you gave birth via Cesarean, you can begin your mother warming about 2 weeks after birth.
After the initial mother warming session, it is typically done as needed throughout the first 3-4 weeks postpartum. Please consult your acupuncturist for specific guidance on how to perform and when to begin mother warming.
Contraindications to Mother Warming
Mother warming can be done safely for most women. However, avoid mother warming if you have an infection of any kind (incision, uterine, or even a cold/flu). Consult your acupuncturist for advice on when to begin or if you have any questions.
Your acupuncturist will give you detailed instructions along with a moxa stick to use. Mother warming kits come as part of our postpartum recovery basket along with everything else you’ll need to get your postpartum recovery off to a great start! These kits are available in the office or online.
If you have any questions, please contact us, we’re 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!
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!