A Skeptic’s Guide to Acupuncture

Welcome to the IF We Believe! Blog Carnival
In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week.

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly IF We Believe! Blog Carnival
hosted by Arpita of Up, Down & Natural.
Scroll to the bottom of this post for a list of other wonderfully brave mamas
who

participated in this Carnival and shared their stories of infertility.

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If you’ve been raised around Western medicine, the idea of acupuncture might seem strange – even scary – to you. From the way Traditional Chinese Medicine understands the causes of disease (the invasion of harmful Chi from such factors as wind, cold, damp, etc.) and the methods of diagnosis (the use of pulse and tongue diagnosis to determine where the flow of Chi has been disrupted) to the methods of treatment (the needles!), the language and tools of acupuncture sound foreign and fanciful.

Acupuncture was not something I’d considered until recently. My husband and I have been trying to conceive for about eighteen months, and we’ve avoided invasive medical procedures. Instead, we’ve focused on more natural approaches – fertility awareness method, changing our diets to eat healthier and more fertility-enhancing foods, and exercise. In researching and talking to people who have had similar experiences, acupuncture kept coming up as a treatment that many women had successfully turned to to get pregnant. So, I thought – why not?

After researching acupuncture options in Kansas City, we decided to go with a community acupuncture setting – Summit Acupuncture Services in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.1 I liked the relaxed atmosphere and down-to-earth practitioner, the ability to be treated at the same time and in the same room as my husband, and the reduced rates. We went into our appointments with an open mind and no expectations.

Our first two appointments were educational and uneventful. I was nervous, but the needle placement is relatively painless (just don’t try to move around after the needles are in place; that might be uncomfortable). After our second appointment, I checked out a book on acupuncture to learn about the philosophy and methods. Bad idea – reading about the five elements, meridians, and other concepts that acupuncturists study made me even more skeptical than I was before.

But I went back again. At my third appointment, I told my acupuncturist that there was no chance that month of becoming pregnant, so she suggested we concentrate on alleviating premenstrual symptoms. Have at it, I thought, and I didn’t think much more about it . . .

Until a week or two later when I started my period with absolutely no premenstrual symptoms. No moodiness, no cramping, few cravings – all typical for me. I was floored. What had she done? And how had it worked? I had no idea, but I liked it.

At my next appointment, I did something that is far outside the norm for me – I fell asleep. Me – the insomniac who can never nap. The person whose mind races at every empty moment. I felt relaxed enough to doze off in a strange setting.

If you are interested in (but skeptical about) what acupuncture can do for you, the following are a few tips that might be helpful.

1. Find a down-to-earth acupuncturist: For those who aren’t familiar with alternative medicine, trying acupuncture may be outside of your comfort zone. When you look for a practitioner, get recommendations, talk to potential practitioners on the phone for a few minutes, and don’t feel you have to commit to the first person you see. Like a family doctor, select someone who is a good fit for your personality.

2. Have an open mind: While your first appointment with an acupuncturist may feel a little bit like going to a doctor (she will take your pulse, look at your tongue, ask about your medical history and concerns), she may also ask about other aspects of your life. Acupuncture is a holistic therapy, which means that the patient is treated as a whole. Your acupuncturist will not treat a single symptom or even a single disease – she will treat you.

3. Try it before you research it: If you are steeped in Western thinking, you might want to ease into the language and philosophy of acupuncture. Go with the flow for a few sessions before you try to figure it out (and realize that you may never figure it out).

Positive!

My preconceptions about acupuncture seemed to be, at least in part, misconceptions, as my nearly symptom-free premenstrual week and period were pleasant proof of the benefits of acupuncture. And only recently, after more than a year and a half of trying to conceive, our three-year-old son looked at my pregnancy test and joyfully announced, “Mama! You are pregnant!

Be sure to check out the joyous video announcement over at Code Name: Mama today!

 

Visit Up, Down & Natural to find out how you can participate in the next IF We Believe! Blog Carnival.  Please take time to read the submissions by the wonderful carnival participants who so bravely wrote about their paths to motherhood or how infertility has touched them.

You said WHAT?!: Arpita @ Up, Down & Natural lists the 10 things you should NEVER say to someone Trying to Conceive – AND what to say if someone says one of these hurtful, inconsiderate and downright rude things to you.
The Thought of You – My Journey to Motherhood: Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama shares her journey to motherhood from her very first thoughts of baby through his arrival.
Like Gets Like: Arpita @ Up, Down & Natural writes about ancient traditions of different cultures which support the theory that spending time with new borns may increase your own fertility.  Hormones are a funny thing!
After Rock Bottom: Kat @ Loving {Almost} Every Moment ~ When you hit rock bottom, you sometimes find the peace and strength you’ve been lacking…
EAV Acupncture and Moxa for Fertility: Arpita @ Up, Down & Natural writes of and reviews treatments you can add to your acupuncture for fertility to enhance the effectiveness and overall sensations.
A Skeptic’s Guide to Acupuncture: Dionna (aka Code Name: Mama) guest posting at Natural Parents Network ~ Curious about acupuncture for fertility, but skeptical of the practice? Read some simple tips from a fellow skeptic.
Easter & The Elusive Egg: Arpita @ Up, Down & Natural shares the story of the origin of Easter!  Fertility is the reason for the season.
Me and My Infertility: Team Baby CEO @ Go Team Baby!  describes how infertility challenges but strengthens you by requiring at all times that you be the advocate for making your dreams happen, one treatment at a time.
My Inner Granola: Granola Girl @ My Inner Granola writes of her journey to natural conception and healthy living.
National Infertility Awareness Week: A Guest Post – Maria’s Journey: Charise of I Thought I Knew Mama hosts a guest post ~ Maria of Life, Loss, and Other Things Worth Mentioning shares a beautiful post detailing her heartbreaking journey through infertility on I Thought I Knew Mama’s blog.
Be sure to read all the wonderful Guest Posts on Up, Down & Natural on April 30th of the stories of families who have been touched by infertility.

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Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with their healthcare provider. If you are pregnant, are nursing, have a medical condition, or are taking any medication, please consult your physician. Nothing you read here should be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis, or courses of treatment.

  1. Please note that Dionna of Code Name: Mama has an advertising relationship with Sage of Summit Acupuncture Services.

About The Author: Dionna

Code Name: Mama CodeNameMama My NPN Posts

Dionna is co-founder of Natural Parents Network. She blogs about natural parenting and life with a toddler-almost-preschooler at Code Name: Mama. She also co-founded NursingFreedom.org, a site dedicated to normalizing breastfeeding anytime, anywhere.

27 Responses to A Skeptic’s Guide to Acupuncture

  1. Kristin @ Intrepid Murmurings  

    Woohoo!!!! So happy for you guys!

    I am definitely a skeptic of a lot of alternative treatments but both my husband and I (and he’s more of a skeptic than I!) have both had good success with acupuncture, too! It worked really well for regulating hormones/cycle stuff, and for helping with pain. I did it some during pregnancy for hip pain and that was good too. I also tried it for increasing milk supply but didn’t see any change for that, sadly!

    Yay again! Great timing on your announcement and this article!!!!

    • Dionna  

      I’m hoping that acupuncture will continue to be beneficial throughout the pregnancy. Unfortunately it hasn’t done a whole lot for my morning sickness, but I haven’t gone as often as I should.

  2. Mama Mo @ Attached at the Nip

    Oh, congratulations, Dionna! What great news! I’m so glad you found acupuncture beneficial. It was hard for me to get over the otherness of Eastern medicine, but then I realized taking a pill that made my cramps go away was just as incomprehensible to me as the little needles alleviating the same pain. It’s all about what you’re used to, and what you learn! I also found acupuncture to be helpful in managing my morning (all-day) sickness. Good luck to you!

  3. Dena

    Oh my goodness that ending brought tears to my eyes! Congratulations and thanks for sharing information about acupuncture.

  4. Amy  

    Like it! :) Congrats again on baby. Thank you for sharing your experience about acupuncture. I love to learn more about various forms of increasing and maintaining health.

  5. Charise@I Thought I Knew Mama  

    I’m so happy for you, Dionna! I had a very similar journey with acupuncture. It’s so mysterious, but it really works!

  6. Rachael  

    Congrats again — and thank you for this post, Dionna. It includes the magic words, “community acupuncture,” which is available at low cost just five blocks away from us. I called the center a few months ago, and whoever answered the phone didn’t think that fertility treatment could be had in the community setting, and we certainly couldn’t afford individual treatment. I just stopped by the center today to ask again, and it turns out that whoever answered the phone that day was wrong. So I’ll be heading over for my first treatment this week! Thanks for the info!

  7. TinkAe

    Congrats, Dionna!

    May I ask, was your cause of infertility male or female factor?

    We also have TTC’d a long time and we have both found the value in acupuncture. Your story about a “no symptom” cycle start was very much like my own.

    TinkAe

    • Dionna  

      Thanks TinkAe! Our fertility problems were me – I have PCOS, suspected endometriosis, and a tilted uterus.

      • TinkAe

        Thanks, Dionna.

        Ours is male factor: low motility & poor morphology. Previous IUI failed. But, due to acupuncture, his count on the 2nd day was way higher than the first. =) Neat, huh?

        IVF & ICSI are recommended :( That would give us a 6 in 10 chance of conception…kinda pricey for slightly better than 50-50 odds.

        Meanwhile, DH has been on lots of supplements including antioxidants, we’ve changed diet, etc. It’s been about 3 mos. So, we’ll get a semen assay soon & see what we see.

        TinkAe

      • Dionna  

        That is so cool about the increase in sperm count! Diet was definitely a good thing for us I think. Good luck on your journey – baby dust to you!!

  8. Momma Jorje

    I’ve been treated with acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome by a Massage Therapist. It was wonderful! I don’t suppose I would rule it out for anything, but I tend to try to fix whatever I can from home. I didn’t realize you had been trying for so long. Great that you found something to help!

  9. Terri  

    So wonderful! Congratulations – what joy.

    I read my first acupuncture book when I was just 10 yeasr old and thought that was what I would be when I grew up. That never happened but I’ve used it on a few occasions and found it very beneficial. I’m really happy it worked for you and that you have the voice to share the benefits of this therapy with others.

    Also for the tilted uterus – have you heard of The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Massage? Supposed to be excellent for tilted uterus and many other menstrual and fertility issues – not sure if it can be used while pregnant but others who are TTC and looking into natural therapies may be interested. Her site is https://arvigotherapy.com/

  10. Moorea  

    I had severe morning sickness (hyperemesis) but before it got so bad I had accupuncture. It seemed to lessen greatly with one treatment. When I went back a week later the treatment seemed to bring on worse symptoms immediately. The whole thing confused me. However, I have used accupuncture for anxiety in the past to great results! Dionna, I Hope you do find relief for morning sickess. If it is bad, I suggest vitamin b and magnesium inflused IV treatments (they do these at some naturopathic centers)

    • Dionna  

      Thanks Moorea! I’ve been disappointed so far in the acupuncture results for m/s. However – it seems to be getting a tad bit better now that I’m not trying to force myself to eat much beyond carbs (meh). I’m sure it will all be better in a few more weeks at any rate.

  11. Lisa  

    I recently got a chance to try acupuncture. I suffer from a chronic form of arthritis. I was pleasantly surprised at the results. I will be going back again.

  12. Lauren  

    I love this story — and the ending! As someone who keeps having acupuncture recommended to her but who has never gone, I will keep your tips in mind. And congrats again!!

  13. teresa  

    Congratulations!!! I only just got here to read this. I’m so happy for you.
    Great post about Acupuncture.
    I became a believer in my teens when I went for severe headaches. It’s absolutely fantastic for some things and I hope you continue through your pregnancy. Especially since you were lucky enough to find someone you work well with and trust. It’s just like anything else…. so much depends on the person/practitioner.

  14. Mark

    My wife and I are expecting our first child soon and I have been researching all related issues avidly (as most folk do). I am pretty shocked to read this ‘it worked for me’ story about acupuncture presented here as a ‘skeptics’ guide. Everything I have read written by actual skeptics does not support the claims made here- the few studies which support TCMs use in pregnancy have pretty obvious flaws which anyone with a bit of science education could spot. Good rigorous tests always show that acupuncture is just a placebo. I am really dissapointed in so much of this advice for new parents which seems to be trying to sell them sham ‘alternative’ treatments and products.

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