While I treat couples of all ages, and all walks of life wishing to conceive, I see a great many women 40 and over trying to get pregnant. Perhaps that is because I, myself, thanks to the power of Chinese medicine, overcame recurrent miscarriage and had my second child naturally at age 44. Additionally, I have helped numerous women from their 20’s up to age 45 (even those well into perimenopause) conceive naturally, using fresh or frozen sperm, or through Chinese medicine as an adjunct to Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).
Success Rates and Age
To be clear, conception and going to full term is not a slam dunk. My success rates are about 60% overall in the age-30+ range, and about 40% overall in the age-40+ range. There are both known and unknown factors that contribute to those percentages. I believe it’s helpful to know in advance that the older we become reproductively, the more effort it may take. It can be more expensive (vitamins, herbs, and other forms of self-care); it can be more time consuming (diet, exercise, tracking fertility signs, etc.); possibly more medical (lab tests, imaging; exams); but ultimately worthwhile. However, you are never expected to do it all. Your efforts, whatever they may be, should make you healthier, stronger, and more aware, and are for a limited time period. And if all goes optimally, there will be a baby, to boot!
Some of the issues that respond to treatment include unexplained infertility, thin uterine lining, blocked fallopian tubes, fibroids or endometriosis, amenorrhea, irregular cycles, PCOS, benign pituitary tumor, perimenopause, elevated FSH levels, thyroid imbalances, and autoimmune issues, among other concerns.
Some people’s journeys also take them to unexpected places, such as uncovering ambivalence around having a child. For some, this work provides a helpful opportunity to face such questions and seek more clarity in next steps, whether it be moving forward to the degree that is comfortable, or coming to a different path altogether. Whatever the choices, there are no mistakes.
Perhaps one of the more difficult things to embrace when working with Chinese medicine, especially when one wants a baby yesterday(!), is that in order to prepare the body for conception, whether naturally or through ART, it is best to invest in at least three months of weekly treatments and herbs (sometimes less, sometimes more).
The benefits of the three-month approach are two-fold. One, it helps increase the odds of conception. Two, it helps decrease the risk of miscarriage. All too often, people (understandably) rush to conceive before conditions are optimal, and leap for joy over a positive pregnancy test, only to be devastated by a miscarriage soon after. While not insurmountable, we want to avoid this at all cost as it is emotionally traumatic, and physiologically slows the process down by weeks or months. Preparation is key (as is post-conception support), and even gives you a nice break from what can become a tedious process in order to make a baby, giving you a chance to rejuvenate, bring out your juiciness, and find your true spirit for creating new life.
For men, acupuncture is often less frequent if at all depending on his health status, though statistically speaking, issues around infertility are distributed equally between male and female. So, a word to the men, including sperm donors: it is best to get that sperm analysis done! Unfortunately, some women go through months of trying to conceive, testing, or alternative treatments only to discover there was a simple and treatable sperm issue all along, or even some seemingly unrelated health issue in the man that, once resolved, was followed immediately by a healthy conception! If there are any sperm issues, know that it takes three months for the newly generated healthier sperm to fully mature.
If you are pregnant, congratulations! This is a wonderful accomplishment. If you are considering acupuncture and/or Chinese herbs to support you and your baby, you are making an excellent choice! Even for a completely healthy pregnancy, acupuncture has many benefits. There are specific treatments for different months that are said to enhance the different aspects of the baby’s spirit, and a special acupuncture point used at key times that is said to produce a “child with particularly luminous complexion who would sleep at night, laugh in the daytime, be virtually immune to diseases, or if he/she did catch a disease would heal quickly, be sane in mind, morals and body.” This child “would not have any of the poor judgment of his/her parents.” Who wouldn’t want that?! In fact, in my own observations, it seems that ‘acu-babies’ tend to be very calm, alert, bright eyed, and aware.
Higher Risk Pregnancy
As for higher risk pregnancies, Chinese medicine during the first trimester is specifically geared towards preventing miscarriage, treating spotting, cramping, or slow heartbeat, among other concerns.
Additionally, there is research-based evidence that Chinese medicine is effective in treating:
· Morning Sickness
· Depression (during pregnancy)
· Pelvic and Back Pain
· Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH)
Empirical evidence and experience have also shown acupuncture to be effective for cholestasis, PUPPP, carpal tunnel, digestive problems, sciatica, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia (high blood pressure), insomnia, anxiety, and stress.
Frequency of Acupuncture
A typical course of treatment during pregnancy might be once a week in the first trimester, especially in higher risk situations. In the second and third trimesters, once a month is usually sufficient. However, the sixth month of pregnancy is “Happy Baby Month” during which specific treatments are utilized. One to four treatments are administered that month, as per tradition, to optimize the baby’s health. After a few monthly treatments, weekly treatments may be resumed around week 36 to prepare for a smooth labor and delivery and prevent postpartum depression.
I am usually available on-call to attend births if needed for stalled labor, undue pain or discomfort, weak contractions, and retained placenta, among other issues, all of which acupuncture is extremely effective in treating.
Postpartum recommendations are given, including the traditional concept of “Mother Roasting”, specific postpartum herbs to speed healing and recovery, and if needed, follow-up appointments for breastfeeding problems, mastitis, hemorrhoids, postpartum depression, etc.
Perimenopause and Menopause
Many women come in to regulate their hormones as they start to fluctuate in midlife, causing any number of symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, depression, headaches, irregular periods, hot flashes, insomnia, vaginal dryness, low libido, hair loss, etc. If you would like to feel better without using conventional hormone replacement therapy, Chinese medicine has an excellent track record! Some symptoms can take several weeks of weekly visits to treat, but hot flashes and irritability often improve in just a couple visits.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are highly effective in treating hormonal imbalances. PMS and PMDD (more extreme PMS) are no exceptions. Irritability, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, bloating, cramping, tender breasts, acne, and fatigue are all symptoms Chinese medicine can address. It can take 3-6 cycles of treatments to completely resolve, depending on the case, but results should be felt within a month. For one month, weekly treatments are strongly recommended, and then many cases can go down to two treatments a month until symptoms resolve.
Irregular or Painful Periods
Non-Specific, Fibroids, Endometriosis, or Ovarian Cysts
Whether it is amenorrhea (no periods), heavy or light periods, painful periods, painful ovulation, or long or short cycles, Chinese medicine can help. It is important to treat these issues both for lifestyle reasons and health reasons. The importance of Chinese medicine in treating these complaints is in addressing the root cause of the problem; whereas, conventional therapies may give relief from the symptoms, but the underlying cause remains an ongoing source of imbalance to one’s health, leading to recurring problems as time goes on. Most cycle-related problems require 3-6 cycles to treat, preferably beginning with one month of weekly treatments, followed by treatments every 1-2 weeks until the problem resolves.
Treating children, Women's Health: Menstraul Issues, Pregnancy, & Fertility. Also, treatment of chronic viral issues, as well as various autoimmune disorders, chronic stress, digestive issues, mood disorders, hormonal issues, and most types of pain, including headaches. Abigail welcomes complex cases that require research and creative thinking, such as: allergies, asthma, skin disorders, brain function problems, circulatory problems, endocrine disorders (thyroid, pituitary, etc.), sleep issues, immune system issues, prostate, kidney stones, chronic, recurring, and acute infections (urinary tract, sinus, ear, upper respiratory tract, etc.), and so on. Chinese medicine is also an excellent adjunct to mainstream cancer therapy. If your health issue is not mentioned here, please call and ask. If it is not something I treat, I keep alist of referrals you may download here.