Acupuncture, one aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), has been practiced for thousands of years and is used worldwide.
In TCM, there are twelve main meridians or channels that carry our vital life force or qi (pronounced chee). The channels run from head to toe and pass through their corresponding organ systems. (For example, the Liver Channel, the Kidney Channel).
In acupuncture, fine, sterile needles are used to stimulate the energy flow at particular points along the channels. These points have specific, multiple functions and produce local, distal and systemic effects.
For example, there is a point near the knee which helps with knee pain or stiffness. It also helps to reduce excess dampness in the system that can manifest as post nasal drip, foggy headedness, or weight and water retention. Also, points at one end of the body can be very beneficial for the other end of the body, such as using a point on the foot for eye disorders.
Acupuncture is regulating and balancing. Stimulating the points along the channels helps carry energy to cells, tissues, glands and muscles that need nourishment and it also clears blocked energy from areas that are stagnant and painful.
TCM is a complete system of medicine and here in California, acupuncturists are considered primary care providers. Many people use TCM for wellness care and for times of illness or injury. My Masters program and internship trained me in all aspects of primary care, such as treating allergies, digestive disorders, insomnia, stress and pain. I also have additional, specialized training in fertility enhancement, reproductive health and pregnancy care.
Acupuncture is recognized by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to be effective in the treatment of a wide variety of medical problems, including:
Addiction – alcohol, drug and smoking
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome
Low back pain
Nausea and vomiting
Urinary tract infections
Most people are pleasantly surprised at how comfortable they are during treatment. There is occasionally a bit of sharpness with needle insertion that then disappears, but often there is no sensation. Sometimes patients feel a heavy, dull pressure where the points are, which is a sign that the qi or energy is being stimulated.
There are many styles of acupuncture. I use a Japanese style – thinner gauged needles, a more shallow insertion and less stimulation – that elicits less sensation than other styles.
Sometimes people feel slightly “spacey.” Many patients feel relaxed and some feel energized. If you are being treated for pain, you may notice an immediate decrease in your discomfort, though it may take hours to feel relief. You may also need more than one treatment for a shift in symptoms, especially for chronic issues.
This is different for each individual. Acute problems, like a recent injury, often require a shorter duration of treatment. Long standing or more chronic complaints will usually take longer to resolve. A general guideline is if you have had a problem for six months, allow at least six treatments before you see a shift.
Patients typically come in more often at the beginning – once or twice a week. Then as they start to improve, there is more space between visits. Eventually patients come in for maintenance/wellness care, which may be every 2-6 weeks.
Chinese medicine is excellent for boosting the immune system and for overall emotional and physical balance and well-being. Many people choose to come in once or twice a month in order to stay healthy. The very minimum of wellness or preventative care is to receive treatment four times a year around the change of season. That is often a challenging time to our system. Also, if you tend to have symptoms during a certain time of year, such spring hay fever or colds in winter, it is very helpful to come get treated a few times before that season arrives.
The rate of conception with full term pregnancy in my practice is estimated at 60-70%. Because I often treat people who are also doing Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) such as insemination or in vitro fertilization, it is difficult to know how to assign success or lack of success, hence the estimate. However, studies continue to show that patients who use Chinese Medicine along with ART have much more success than those who do not.
Documented benefits include:
*Improving blood flow to the uterus and ovaries
*Reducing stress and anxiety
*Calming the uterus to prepare it for implantation
*Helping reduce the risk of miscarriage
*Alleviating side effects of western treatments
*Improving sperm count and motility
*Normalizing hormone function
*Increasing the chance of pregnancy for women using IVF by up to 65%
Besides achieving pregnancy, the goal of treatment is overall balance and well-being. Treatment plans are based on an individual diagnosis for each patient and herbal and acupuncture treatments vary depending on where you are in your cycle.
Patients receive acupuncture once or twice a week and may take herbs and/or do an external therapy called moxabustion. We will be working as a team – there is an emphasis on lifestyle and self-care. A minimum of three consecutive cycles will begin to regulate a woman’s system.
If you are trying to conceive during treatment, it is important to be consistent with acupuncture and herbs even if you experience a setback. Effects are cumulative and you will have more chance of success in the future if you allow your body to be as strong and balanced as possible.
• Drink at least 6-8 glasses of room temperature water per day.
• Have your partner get treated too. Chinese medicine can benefit sperm health and reduce stress that both partners may experience in trying to conceive.
• Do basal body temperature and cervical mucus charting. For more information go to www.fertilityfriend.com and/or read Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility.
• During mid-cycle do not take Advil or other pain relievers as they can interfere with ovulation.
• Keep your feet warm. Avoid walking around the house (especially on tile or wood) barefoot.
• During your period abstain from intercourse and wear pads, not tampons, while sleeping.
• Buy organic produce, meat, eggs and dairy. Conventional produce has pesticides and animal products can contain antibiotics and hormones that are xeno-estrogens. Your body responds to them as estrogen which can upset your own healthy hormone balance. Use a stainless steel water bottle instead of plastic for the same reason.
Also, stress reduction is key:
Acupuncture promotes relaxation and helps people switch from a fight or flight/sympathetic nervous response. When we are in this stress state, blood is shunted away from the digestive and reproductive organs. Acupuncture allows one to enter into a parasympathetic nervous system state which promotes circulation back to the core, thus increasing reproductive function.
Some other good resources for the body/mind/spirit connection are:
Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup, M.D.,
To address stress and subconscious blocks affecting conception and other areas of wellness, I highly recommend B.E.S.T (Bio-Energetic Synchronization Technique). Linda Croyle – 805-450-7125
Herbal medicine, which I typically prescribe in pill or powder form, is a safe, effective addition to acupuncture treatment. The herbs I use come from GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) companies that test for heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and pesticides.
Herbs are helpful for nourishing and strengthening the system and for helping to relieve issues such dysmenorrhea or cysts. Some Reproductive Endocrinologists ask that their patients do not do herbs, especially while they are doing hormone treatment.
I recommend that most patients follow a “spleen diet.” In Chinese medicine, the spleen is the main digestive organ and it benefits from warm, cooked foods. When it is under-functioning, we do not assimilate nutrients as well and therefore compromise our ability to produce good energy and blood supply. A weakened spleen can create excess dampness in the body which can lead to cysts or fibroids.
Information about specific foods and habits to incorporate and avoid will be provided.
Yes! I am well-schooled on the proper use of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine during pregnancy. There are certain points that are contra-indicated during this time and those are not used. Treatments are relaxing and helpful for many health concerns.
Nausea and vomiting/ “morning sickness”
Anxiety and depression
Musculoskeletal conditions (such as back or rib pain, carpal tunnel syndrome)
Small for date babies
Threatened or incomplete miscarriage
• Through approximately week 14 – Weekly acupuncture is recommended. This is especially helpful for nausea, with history of miscarriage or if a woman is carrying multiples.
• Week 13 & 26 – Along with the regular treatment, gold needles are used at “Kidney 9” acupuncture point. This is classically significant for eliminating the transmission of negative ancestral traits. It is thought to engender a healthier infant in body, mind and spirit with qualities such as sound nighttime sleeping, cheerful daytime disposition, a bright complexion, and a strong immune system.
• Approximately week 15-34 – Every two weeks
• Week 35 until delivery – Pre-birth treatment once or twice per week–Treatment is aimed at helping body and mind prepare for labor and to help strengthen and balance the system. Acupuncture has been shown to help ripen the cervix, reduce labor time and decrease the need for induction. It is best to receive treatment in advance of the estimated due date rather than waiting until past one’s EDD and coming in to avoid medical induction. However, acupuncture can still be helpful in this situation as well.
For more information about acupuncture for labor preparation, please see article by renowned German M.D./ acupuncturist Gabriel Stux
Chinese medicine is very beneficial for issues such as low milk production, mastitis, caesarian recovery, back pain and depression. At least one or two home or office visits are recommended within the first month after delivery.