Flirting with chinese medicine

I had my very first acupuncture appointment ever today. I never thought I would do acupuncture, I’ve always thought of it on the same sort of level as numerology or something. I’m a skeptic, and I’ve just always believed in what could be demonstrated by evidence and data. This is what infertility can do though. I’ve lost all sense of control over my body and how it functions, so I’m grasping at whatever I can to feel like I have some sort of power over the future.

So here’s how it went down, just in case you’re one of the few infertiles left who haven’t tried acupuncture (I mean, seriously, it seems like was the last hold out). I filled out a somewhat detailed medical history, and then proceeded to wait 30 minutes before a room was available for my session. Once it was finally available, we walked in to a very comfortable room with a padded bed and an ikea rocking chair. The acupuncturist, let’s call her Beth, is a former member of our infertility support group, and has done acupuncture for just about all the members of the group. They all had wonderful things to say about her, including that she’s your number one cheerleader throughout the process of getting/staying pregnant, so it feels like you really have someone on your side. She was certainly very nice, and seemed genuinely interested in helping.

We talked for about half an hour, and it was nice to be able to talk through some of the medical details of my history with someone again. It’s been a year since I saw Dr. O, and he was never really interested in hearing my ‘theories’ of what my problem is, simply because there’s absolutely nothing he can contribute. That is, if I ask, what do you think it means that I have so much bleeding when I’m pregnant, is that a symptom of the problem, or is it the problem itself? Or if I’d say, well, the fact that X has happened every single time probably means Y, right? All I’d ever get out of him was, there’s just no way to know for sure. Of course he’s right, there isn’t any real way to know what any of it means for sure. But I can’t help but think maybe there are clues there, and if only he’d play along maybe we could find some sort of pattern hiding in the mess. I just want someone to be as anal about the details as I am, even if it is just conjecture. Anyways, I’ve gone off on a tangent here.

So, she listened thoroughly, and offered some feedback about several things I’ve been wondering about lately, including taking extra folic acid and baby asprin. I’ve already been doing the former (because it can’t possibly hurt), and I’ve been considering the latter. She didn’t really try to give me medical advice, but agreed that they aren’t dangerous and that it’s reasonable for me to consider.

She then spent a little time explaining, in a very general way, how acupuncture supposedly works. I say supposedly, because at this point I started to hear the voice of charlie brown’s teacher (wah wah, wah wah wah…). I shook my head like I was paying attention, but I didn’t even bother listening. The thing is, if I beleive acupuncture has an effect on fertility, or pain, or whatever else, it will be because it has some inadvertent medical effect. I simply don’t beleive that there are humors or whatever they are (see, I really didn’t pay attention), that control our bodily functions. What I do beleive is that perceptive people might notice that taking some sort of action, or treatment, has an effect on health, and then, in the absence of modern medicine, build up an explanation around it. In other words, it might work even if they don’t really know why it works.

After talking for a while, I got up on the table and she felt my ‘pulses’, and looked at my tongue. Now, I can beleive that there are signs about health in these. I also think they are probably rather subjective, so you might be able to feel/see a difference if you are looking for it. She gave me a short explanation of what she felt and what it meant, then started inserting needles. As much as I’ve always hated needles, I wasn’t that nervous about these needles until she started talking about them. I’d been so nervous about the fact that I was going to an acupuncturist at all, that I hadn’t had a chance to worry about the needles themselves until they were right in front of me. A number of people had told me that it wasn’t painful, and they were mostly right. I didn’t feel the needles in my head or arms, and only felt small pricks of pain in my feet. After a few seconds they started to itch a little, and by the time a minute or two had passed I couldn’t feel anything anymore.

Then came the hardest part. Laying still for 40 minutes. According to everything I’d heard/read, this is supposed to be the best part. There’s relaxing music and you can just take a nice nap if you want. Well, I am not physiologically capable of napping (unless I’m pregnant, and then I could nap all day…), and I don’t find laying still fun. I immediately felt antsy, like I needed to move just because I wasn’t supposed to. I thought, how the hell am I going to lay here for 40 minutes?? Plus, due to some mild degenerative disk disease, I get a lot of back pain when I lay flat. I try not to ever lay flat in bed, and the last time I had to lay still on my back for that long was to get an MRI. By the end of the MRI I was in excruciating pain. I started to get really nervous, so when Beth came back to check on me a few minutes later I asked for a extra pillow for under my knees.

Back pain problem solved, I proceeded to lay still and try to relax for the remaining 30 minutes. I did eventually relax, although my mind was still spinning and I kept hoping it would be time to get up soon. Beth returned to remove my needles, I got dressed, and that was it. She warned me that I might feel sleepy for the rest of the day, and I suppose I’m a little sleepy, but overall I feel pretty normal.

I made another appointment for next week, and I’m definitely keeping an open mind about the whole thing. I don’t think it can possibly hurt to give it a shot, and I do beleive that it’s possible it might help, even if it’s just a placebo effect of some sort. I’m feeling more optimistic about my chances of a BFP this month than I have in a while, so any tiny thing that can nudge me in the direction of finally getting pregnant is great. Then, I’ll worry about the staying pregnant part when I get there.

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15 thoughts on “Flirting with chinese medicine

  1. If it makes you feel any better I haven’t tried acupuncture myself yet. So you are not the last hold out. And I’m actually a believer, it’s financial reasons that have kept me away. It was very interesting to read about the experience from the point of view of a skeptic, thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Yeah, I forgot to mention the financial part. My husband is not exactly happy with the cost, but I keep telling him if it were for doctors appointments he wouldn’t be complaining at all. If it works it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than adoption, so there’s that!

  2. Good for you for trying something new hun. I totally get the fidgety sensation you feel. I was like that at first. It takes some adjustment but I think after a while you get used to needing to be so still and the whole relaxation thing kicks in. Hope it continues to get more comfortable for you because I think it can contribute to good things xx

    • Yeah, I think it took about half the time I was laying there before I relaxed, but I did eventually stop feeling antsy :). It’ll probably be better next time since I’ll know what to expect.

  3. I have been visiting an acupuncturist every week for a year now. I became pregnant again since seeing her but then had another miscarriage, So who knows. I don’t really think it’s the magical fertility solution some people say it is. However, I still continue to go every week because I do feel better after every visit. I tend to work myself into a ball of stress and my acupuncturist always has a way of relaxing me and helping to let my crazy mind go for a bit 🙂 Hope you find it helpful!

  4. I haven’t tried it either. I opted to try a chiropractor first and fell pregnant shortly after seeing him. And so far this pregnancy is going really well. Acupuncture was next on my list of the Chiro didn’t work.

    You sound like the kind of person who would really enjoy reading “Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre. It’s a very interesting read about medical studies and cause and effect.

    I’m crossing everything for your BFP this month!

  5. It was great to read the take of a semi-skeptic. I often feel the same way about alternative therapies—very skeptical that they are the magic bullet. My OB recently warned me to be careful in what I try because “if you ate a lot of peanut butter and had a successful pregnancy you’d think from then on that peanut butter = healthy pregnancy.” Correlation without causation. But those therapies can have a great effect on outlook, positivity—which is so good for the mama-to-be just in general. Reiki actually blew me away. But unlike you I actually love lying still on tables. (:

  6. I am an acupuncture whore. I have been to so many different practitioners (partly for financial reasons, partly because certain people claimed to be fertility specialists). But the woman I’m seeing now is AWESOME and I only pay $15 to see her (that’s a bonus bc I feel like I can go twice a week if I need to). Look for a community acupuncture clinic in your area if money is an issue. It’s not as fancy as private practice, but it gets the job done! And you will find that the 30-40 minutes pass quickly sometimes (you know it’s a good session when your snoring wakes you up) and other times you have a monkey brain. Anyway, hope you enjoy it and it becomes something you look forward to – a vacation for the mind. 🙂

  7. I’ve been doing acupuncture for 3 cycles already, and while it hasn’t gotten me pregnant yet it has sure made a hell of a difference in my PMS and cramps. I used to be crazy for a week leading up to my period and now I am completely normal and my cramps are a lot less intense then before I started it..So there is definitely something to it.. Oh and I read during my sessions, I also can’t just lie still, reading helps a lot though..

    Baby dust to you and wishing you a big preggo belly 😉

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