Updated: Jun 9
There was a time when the thought of acupuncture totally weirded me out. But when a couple of my health practitioners suggested I try it for fertility in 2018 or 2019, I decided I should. Maybe I might even like it. And I did.
Having experienced acupuncture on and off (more on than off) for nearly three years now, I'm no longer a newbie. During this time, I've encountered people who love it, hate it, and those who are hesitant to try it, as I once was. So, for those of you who have questions and those who are either hesitant to try acupuncture or to continue it, here are 7 things to know about acupuncture.
1. It takes time.
One or two acupuncture sessions are not enough to judge its benefits. It takes time for your body to adjust, so give it at least five sessions. Like anything else, it doesn't work for everyone. The first time I did it I didn't hate it, but it felt a little awkward. But you can say the same for a lot of things. It wasn't easy to stay still for so long, and I remember wondering when my acupuncturist would come back to the room to get me, but I had faith in it and kept returning. Now, during sessions, I close my eyes, my body easily stays still, and the time flies by. I'm a pro.
2. It's a supplementary practice, not a cure.
I started doing acupuncture for fertility in 2020 shortly after I began my first cycle of IVF, just before the COVID pandemic lockdown. Many months and cycles later, I still had no success. But this was not to say that acupuncture isn't helpful. My issue is that I needed to get to the root of the problem. In July 2022, after undergoing laparoscopic surgery, I was finally diagnosed with Stage 1 endometriosis and had the endometrial adhesions removed by ablation (where they are burned off). Now I had an answer, apart from my age and my thyroid disorder, why I had so many failed cycles. In addition to my history of chromosomally abnormal embryos due to my age, the endometrial scar tissue had gotten in the way. Acupuncture can be a great add-on practice for fertility to help treat an under or overactive thyroid, circulate blood flow, improve egg quality, and assist with implantation, but if you have an underlying issue, such as tubal blockages or inflammation caused by endometriosis, you need to solve that first.
3. It can be affordable.
You might be scared off of acupuncture thinking you can't afford it. But that's not always the case. Some practitioners take insurance, and if you don't have insurance or they don't take your specific plan, some will work with you on a sliding scale. Review your health insurance website or call your insurance company. In my case, I had (and still have) high deductible plans where once you meet the deductible, you no longer have a co-pay (usually within three and six months), and treatment is free through the end of the year. While most of us don't meet the deductive that easily, when undergoing fertility treatments, such as IVF, you definitely will.
4. It's great if you're lazy.
A lot of people tout the benefits of holistic wellness practices like yoga and acupuncture. While they both have health benefits, acupuncture is a lot less work. Let me explain. I attended yoga classes for a few months in 2019 and would drop in for a class or two every week. Newbies should be aware that there are beginner and advanced yoga classes as well as different types of yoga classes, such as Hatha (a slower, more restoring practice) and Vinyasa (meaning "flow," Vinyasa yoga can cause you to work up a sweat). Yep, yoga is exercise ---- low impact, yes, but still a form of exercise. While I did notice a difference in how I felt after a class, as yoga helps improve the circulation of blood flow within the body, as does acupuncture, I didn't always have the motivation to do it, especially if it wasn't a more relaxing class for beginners. Acupuncture, on the other hand, requires you to lie down on a table and zone out for about 45-50 minutes, almost like a meditation session. That's it.
5. It's amazing for headaches.
While I can't yet speak of acupuncture's benefits on fertility from my own experience since I haven't yet had a successful pregnancy, I can attest to its benefits on relieving headaches. I occasionally get tension and sinus headaches, but, while I undergo weekly acupuncture sessions, I don't get them. Recently, I took a six-week break from acupuncture and the headaches returned ----- likely from stopping my sessions and tapering off the antidepressant I had taken for eight years (and another for six years before this). The day I returned to acupuncture I had a headache; afterward it was gone. This is especially beneficial so you can limit your intake of medication for pain relief, like Tylenol or Excedrin. Taken in excess, these over-the-counter medications can have harmful side effects. As I always say, "Everything in moderation."
6. It requires research.
All acupuncturists are not the same. Some have more experience than others. Some are medical doctors, and some are not. Some have specialties, and others are general practitioners. Like you would do with any specialist, take your time to research practitioners, including their educational background, training, licenses, and certifications, and find the right one for your needs. In my case, I go to Beijing Acupuncture where I see an acupuncturist who obtained her medical degree in China before becoming a licensed acupuncturist in Pennsylvania and becoming certified by the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Her specialties include chronic pain, infertility, and anxiety.
7. It's not painful.
The question on everyone's mind (myself included, as a person who's always had a fear of tattoos) when it comes to acupuncture is this: "Is it painful?" While everyone responds differently, from my experience, it's not painful at all apart from a few quick pricks when the needles go in. Once that's done, you don't feel a thing. Like anything else, you get used to it. And, from my own perspective as a human pin cushion undergoing regular injections and bloodwork for IVF, it's nothing. In my opinion, the benefits totally are worth it.
Does the thought of acupuncture weird you out? Have you tried acupuncture and decided it wasn't for you? I welcome comments!