I started acupuncture again yesterday and didn’t realise how much I needed it/would enjoy it. Those 40 minutes – when I put my phone on flight mode and listen to new age fertility meditation tunes (I’m usually asleep by track 3/4) – are a welcome respite from the chaos of my workday and, as importantly, make me feel like I’m doing “something” to further this babymaking cause (IVF can otherwise feel a little helpless).
I have actually explored the benefits of both TCM and acupuncture in past posts, but I thought I would revisit some of the myths and realities based on what I have learned over the years/my own IVF experiences, and some of the popular questions I see in the support groups I belong to.
- No pain, no pain? Truth, the acupuncture needles do not hurt as much as you imagine, and you actually get used to it quite quickly (CAVEAT: sometimes you do get a bit of a sensation that feels like an electric shock – this, apparently, is normal). My therapist gets it done quickly and then places a heater over the needles. It kind of feels like being in a warm bath. There is also a method to it – prior to transfer, most needles go into the belly (and head, hands, feet) and improve circulation to your womb. After transfer, my acupuncturist focuses on the extremities and stays away from the belly.
- Not all acupuncturists are equal: I am susceptible to the vibes from the people around me. Stand-in acupuncturists have left me feeling drained and uncomfortable. I had a situation during two cycles when my transfer was on a Saturday (my physician’s day off) and every happy feeling I had from the transfer felt like it was replaced by a darkness, every needle felt misplaced and painful. Both of those cycles failed – for whatever reason. The last cycle, I skipped the post-transfer sessions and did it two days later, when my own therapist returned to work (neurotic, I know). BUT, the embryo took (even if we suffered an eventual loss). Find a physician that you’re comfortable with, and that you’re happy enough to blast with questions or chat to. Many clinics also have several acupuncturists, so don’t be afraid to ask for someone different. You have so much invested in this. Acupuncture should make you feel positive, comfortable and secure.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine is a bunch of hocus pocus: Acupuncture is close to 5000 years old and is recognised by the World Health Organisation as an effective way of treating a number of diseases. Some of the scientific evidence backing acupuncture can be found here. It also addresses the issue of “reporting bias” in studies coming out of China. There are also studies more specific to acupuncture and IVF. My doctor encourages it – although he generally is an advocate for anything that makes you feel better without causing any harm. Ultimately, see if it makes you feel good.
- More needles? IVF already requires you to overcome a major mental hurdle – mixing up drugs and stabbing yourself with needles, the kind of business you look away from when a nurse or doctor is prepping jabs in a clinic. Do you really need more needles in your life? Maybe not. But I if you’re already creating enough holes to take on water in a pool, what’s a few more? Heh. Just kidding. With acupuncture, there is no dramatic bleeding nor are there scars, and the needles are actually inserted quite close to the surface.
Anyway, if you’re wondering why I am such an advocate of acupuncture with IVF, it’s because it makes me feel better, energised, and less wary about this whole process I cannot control, whether or not it’s having any kind of positive effect on my babymaking bits. In fact, I recommend it to friends who are simply tired, down or overwhelmed, since any kind of lift is a good thing.
In any case, while we’re looking for uplifts from the East, here’s a tune for you. It is a prayer to Ganesha, the elephant god, who is capable of removing all obstacles. Because we could do with all the help we can get.