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.
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 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!
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!
As our patients struggling with infertility finally get pregnant, aside from the joy of finally seeing those two lines, there are many decisions that need to be made. What provider is right for my pregnancy? What type of birth do I want?
Many of our patients have never allowed themselves to consider any of these things for fear of ‘putting the cart before the horse,’ so to speak. So this process, while exciting and wonderful, can be overwhelming and stressful.
One thing we often discuss with our patients, as they get closer to delivery, is their birth plan. It is our desire for our patients to be informed about their choices and have a provider they trust and feel totally comfortable with. One thing that can really help during your pregnancy and birth is having a doula. As highly trained, non-medical birth experts, they can walk through your needs, fears, desires, etc and help you come up with a birth plan and guide you and your partner through labor.
I asked a trusted doula friend of mine to do a post for our blog about what role a doula can play and why you would consider working with one. So, without further adieu, here is Hillary Ebling with East Tennessee Doulas.
I am Hillary Ebling, and I am a birth doula and postpartum doula in Knoxville, TN . I work with fellow doula, Danielle Anthony, at East TN Doulas. Working as a doula, we work with expectant families so they may have the best chance of achieving their ideal birth. Our goal is that you feel confident, cared for, and respected during your childbearing year.
As you begin researching how to have a happy, healthy childbirth, you may run across the words “birth doula” and see that this is a person who supports a family during pregnancy and birth. That sounds awesome… but you already spent money on a medical provider, birth location, and higher price tag baby items like a car seat and a crib. You may think a doula is a luxury you should go without. Before your accept this, however, check out these compelling reasons to spend the money on a birth doula.
First, what is the role of a doula?
“Doula” is a Greek word meaning a woman who serves. I’m using a more formal definition of birth doula to refer to a specially trained birth companion (not a friend or loved one) who provides labor support. This labor support includes comfort measures and emotional support. “Comfort measures” means using massage, position changes, water, hot/cold packs, mindfulness, and breathing to help deal with the intensity of labor. “Emotional support” means using reflective listening, positive presence, and reassurance to help increase your confidence and satisfaction of your birth experience.
It is important to notice that doulas play a completely “non-medical” role. Doulas do not diagnose or treat in any modality, nor do we take blood pressure or temperature, fetal heart tone checks, vaginal examinations or postpartum clinical care. What this means as a client, is that you also need a medical provider, whether that is a midwife or a doctor, to attend your birth. In short, your medical providers keep you and your baby safe, provide all medications, deliver the baby, and take care of the mother postpartum, whereas the doula keeps the mother encouraged, comfortable, and confident.
Now that we have clarified the role, what are the benefits of having a doula for my clients?
First, a doula is the only team member entirely focused on the laboring parent’s physical comfort and emotional well-being.
Your medical providers attention is inherently split between two different people – exactly as it should be! We all want a happy, healthy mother and baby at the end of a birth. Their training is scientific and this is where their focus should be. Medical providers are often expected to care for multiple patients at a time and usually work shifts of time in the hospital or on-call period.
A doula’s training, on the other hand, focuses on the “art of labor support,” that is, the emotional needs of people in labor, and non-medical physical and emotional comfort measures (as mentioned in the examples above). Our sole focus is on the needs of the mother, not the baby. Unlike medical providers, doulas work with one client at a time. We will join you when asked, either in early labor or later in active labor. We will stay with you throughout, often with only very brief breaks.
Second, having a doula can help you have shorter, more satisfying birth with less interventions.
Although the exact reasons for this are unclear, there have been numerous studies showing that doulas help families. The largest systematic review of continuous labor support, reported the combined findings from 20+ randomized controlled trials, including over 15,000 women. These trials focused on the benefits of continuous support (having a support person constantly present throughout labor, not coming and going as family and medical providers often must). Women with continuous labor support are
28% less likely to have a cesarean section
31% less likely to use synthetic oxytocin to speed up labor
9% less likely to use any pain medication
34% less likely to rate their childbirth experience negatively
Why can’t a family member or partner fill the same role for free?
Outcomes were most improved and intervention rates were most dramatically lowered in the group with doulas as their support person, not a nurse, friend, or family member.
But do you need one if your partner is really supportive?
In a perfect world, your doula and your partner work together to give you the best birth possible. We cannot possibly replace the loving, intimate relationship of your partner. We don’t stand in the way of your partner being great labor support – we help him or her achieve it!
Our birth culture puts a lot of pressure on partners. A pregnant parent often expects her partner to be knowledgeable – and good – at a host of new things. You may expect your partner to help you emotionally (by providing reassurance, encouragement, and confidence in you) or physically (by encouraging coping mechanisms like breathing and relaxation and providing comfort measures like massage). Lastly, you might expect your partner to fulfill other roles, like updating family and friends of your labor progress. That’s a lot of expectations for one person to handle! For many partners, this may be the first time he or she has ever set foot in a delivery room or seen labor! Add the love your partner feels for you and your discomfort to the equation, and it can be completely overwhelming!
With a birth team of both a partner and a doula, though, we share the weight of these expectations. You will have twice the emotional support and reassurance. We can alternate providing physical support so your partner is less fatigued by the labor. We stay with you if your partner needs a break for food or to update your family. This way, you are never unsupported and your partner can have peace of mind while handling these tasks. We have seen many labors and can use our experience to provide helpful suggestions for new things to try for both you and your partner.
Last but certainly not least, doulas provide informational support to the family.
By “informational support”, I mean explanation and discussion of practices and procedures, and assistance in acquiring any knowledge necessary to make informed decisions about your care. We help you find reputable, evidence-based information that will help you make informed decisions about your birth and your new baby’s care.
In essence, a doula doesn’t tell you how you should give birth. Instead, we share information with you so you can make informed decisions and then support you, whatever your choices.
Ok, so you definitely want a doula, but aren’t doulas expensive?
Often, yes – we are trying both to answer a calling and make a living. Although not usually covered by your insurance, some insurance companies will pay a portion or allow you to pay for your doula out of a health or flexible savings account. Contact your health insurance provider for more information about your specific situation.
DONA International’s Vision is “A doula for every woman who wants one”. With this in mind, many doulas offer some way to cut costs. I offer gift certificates so friends and family can donate to help financially (consider asking for this for baby shower presents!!). We do offer some packages of our services to save a little bit of money when bundling services. I am of course happy to answer any questions you have about my current options email us or give us a call at (865)315-8548.
Bottom Line: With all this information in mind, I urge you to consider carefully the benefits and options to offset the cost before you write off having a doula off as a luxury you can’t afford!
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!
On March 1, 2016 the Tennessee Center for Reproductive Acupuncture finally opened it’s doors to Knoxville and the surrounding areas. We are Knoxville’s first and only acupuncture practice specializing in fertility and prenatal wellness. It was my goal to provide East Tennessee with an integrative option for the treatment of infertility and help each of our patients navigate this complex journey. We have officially been open for our patients for one year (and counting) and I wanted to touch on my thoughts for this first year in practice here.
It was my intention to post this retrospective on the 1 year anniversary of my practice, but I spent the morning driving my husband to and from his wisdom teeth removal appointment. Luckily, all went well, and I was able to fill my afternoon seeing the patents that are truly the heart and soul of TNCRA. Minus the wisdom teeth extraction (who wants to do that!?), I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the one year anniversary of my practice in any other way.
When I think back over the past year, I am completely overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude. I have been humbled by the reception that Knoxville has given to TNCRA. Over the past year I have met many families struggling with infertility and had a chance to help many of them achieve their dream of pregnancy. I have also met many expectant mothers and had the honor of working with them as they prepare to become mothers for the first, second, third, fourth, or fifth (and more) time. I have also met so many others whose passion for working with families during infertility and pregnancy just bleeds through their work: doctors, doulas, midwives, nurses, massage therapists, craniosacral therapists, nutritionists, chiropractors, photographers, lab technicians, yoga teachers, other acupuncturists, counselors, reproductive endocrinologists, ultrasound technicians, OB/GYN’s, and I’m sure there are few I am forgetting.
One thing I kept hearing in my first year of practice here is that it can be hard for people coming from outside of Tennessee to get a successful business going. I have found this completely and happily untrue. Knoxville has an incredibly welcoming atmosphere and a truly wonderful community to support families of all backgrounds on their journey from trying to conceive to becoming parents. I am honored to be a part of this community and look forward to many years of practice here.
So, thank you Knoxville for welcoming me with open arms. Thank you to the other practitioners who have taken time to learn about TNCRA and how we may be able to work together to help support our patients. But mostly, thank you to my patients. You have put your trust in my experience and training during the most sensitive of times and I am forever grateful to walk alongside you on this journey.
I am very excited for the years to come and hope to build upon the foundation that has been laid. I look forward to learning more each year and working with more families. Mostly, I look forward to pregnancy announcements, birth announcements, and holding space (or a hand) for those experiencing a loss or a failed cycle. These moments are truly what drives me to come to work each day. I love my job.
Are you currently trying to get pregnant or planning to try in the next few months? Have you considered adding fertility acupuncture to your IVF, IUI, or medicated cycle?
You’ve probably read or heard a little about acupuncture for fertility, but maybe don’t know much about how it can help you. Here are our top five reasons why you should book an acupuncture treatment with your next cycle!
Increases Chances of a Take Home Baby: Research shows that acupuncture not only improves pregnancy rates (up to 60%!), but can reduce miscarriages leading to an overall increase in the chances of a take home baby! After all, this is what everyone facing infertility really wants! This research is typically done on IVF cycles, but the same mechanisms of action can help improve an IUI, medicated, or natural cycle in much the same way.
Improves Blood Flow: Acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow to the uterus. This improved blood flow is associated with a better chance of embryo implantation in IVF cycles. It can also facilitate better nutrient delivery and waste product removal to potentially increase the the quality of your follicles and endometrial lining.
Hormone Regulation: Over the course of 1-3 months, acupuncture can help to regulate your reproductive hormones. For example, women with PCOS often begin ovulating after treatment with acupuncture. Subtle cycle changes also occur as hormones become more balanced. Changes often noticed during the course of treatment include: increased fertile cervical mucous, a longer luteal phase, reduced PMS symptoms, and even changes in your basal body temperature chart.
Reduced Stress: We all know struggling with infertility is stressful. Acupuncture can help you cope with this stress so you can relax and feel normal while going through treatment cycles. It causes a release of ‘feel-good’ chemical called endorphins in your brain that will…. well, help you feel good! You may also notice that you sleep better or have better digestion after treatment as well.
Treatment of Side effects: Often when we are treating patients during their cycles, we use points to reduce headaches, nausea, bloating, irritability, insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats, constipation, anxiety…. you name it! Making you feel comfortable during treatment is a huge part of what we do. The way we see it is that, for many couples, success can be a matter of time. Time finding the right medication combination that works with your body and time waiting for the right follicle to develop. If we can make that wait easier, you’re more likely to try an additional cycle or two and increase your chances of success! Additionally, we all know you can’t push the pause button on life while you undergo fertility treatment, so we work to help keep you at your best so you can continue to be a wife, co-worker, student, mother, sister, friend, and/or superwoman!
As you can see, combining acupuncture to your fertility treatment plan is a great way to, not only, increase your chances of pregnancy, but to feel more comfortable, relaxed and get a more regulated cycle!
We work with both men and women to find a treatment protocol that works with the timing of their cycles to give you the maximum benefit of acupuncture. Please give us a call or contact us online and we’ll walk you through what is best for your situation. Or, if you’re ready, you can schedule an appointment online now!