Dr. Joseph Davis of RMA NY discusses the benefits of Acupuncture for fertility with Mary Sabo, L.Ac.
The elation that comes with a positive pregnancy test when trying to conceive is often euphoric followed closely by the joyful excitement that surrounds planning for a new baby. But for women who have experienced a miscarriage, this news often comes with a whisper of doubt and fear of another potential loss. According to the American Pregnancy Association, around 25 percent of pregnancies result in a miscarriage. With this high rate—one in four—one would suspect women are miscarrying everywhere, and it would be more normalized, but most couples suffer in silence, and it is not uncommon for women to feel shame on top of the grief that goes along with it.
There is no protocol for dealing with a miscarriage.
There are no guidelines for grieving this loss. And in our culture, most women think of pregnancy as something they created and therefore a miscarriage is something they "created" and then "lost." It can elicit philosophical questions like "Is something wrong with me?" "Why me?" "Am I being punished?" "What did I do wrong?" "Can I carry to term?" These questions, along with hormones dropping and trying to renormalize, can create quite a bit of emotional suffering.
While I was getting my degree in Chinese medicine, we learned of a different belief system regarding miscarriage that was rooted in the ancient Buddhist philosophy. They believed that the souls of our potential children hang out with the parents and wait for the right moment to "jump in" and activate a pregnancy. This was their explanation for the spark of life and why some cycles work and some don’t. If something goes wrong with the "vessel" or physical form of the fetus once a pregnancy is established, the soul jumps out and waits for another opportunity. I find this way of thinking as a much kinder one that can offer some relief to women grieving a miscarriage, especially if she is open to other religious or philosophical systems.
The majority of miscarriages cannot be controlled or prevented.
We now know that the majority of miscarriages are due to genetic abnormalities in the embryo, meaning the fate of that fetus was determined at fertilization and would never become a healthy baby. A much smaller percentage of miscarriages can be prevented if a problem is detected with blood clotting in the mother or occasionally an immune disorder. Infections in the uterus, hormone imbalances, uterine abnormalities, and tubal disorders can also play a role and be treated. But the majority of miscarriages cannot be controlled or prevented. Many women blame themselves, creating unnecessary suffering, and it is my hope that with more awareness about miscarriage, this self-blame and suffering will be reduced.
Miscarriage is so common that most OB/GYNs won’t do any additional testing until a woman has had two or three of them. However, by that point, the emotional roller coaster for the potential parents can be quite intense, resulting in stresses on a physical and psychological level. Patients often come to me for acupuncture and Chinese herbs, both of which can offer emotional support but may also help correct some of the mild abnormalities that are associated with miscarriage, such as hormone imbalances and mild clotting or immune issues. If a woman has already had several miscarriages, I prefer to work collaboratively with a miscarriage specialist physician, supporting my patient with acupuncture, herbs (if appropriate and approved by her doctor), and dietary advice, while she undergoes testing and treatments directed by her doctor. In some cases, artificial reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization (IVF) with embryo biopsy can be quite helpful in controlling the quality of the chromosomal makeup of the embryos that make it to the uterus. When combined with acupuncture, IVF results can be even better.
By Mary Sabo, L.Ac DACM
Struggling to conceive can sometimes be the toughest challenge a couple goes through. Having the right support from friends and family can make a difference in quality of life during the journey. The following blog was written by Mary for the national blog MindBodyGreen. For the full article, click here.
Couples struggling to conceive can experience levels of stress and anxiety as extreme as patients undergoing cancer treatments. The process reminds us that we don't have absolute control over our bodies or our fertility. It is frustrating, to say the least, and can be excruciatingly painful the more time goes on. The experience can be tough for friends and family members, too, who may not understand the intensity of this journey. According to resolve.org, one in eight couples will struggle to get pregnant, so there is a good chance someone in a couple's life may know how difficult it can be, but for those who don't have an experienced friend, co-worker, or family member, it can make this process even harder. Below are some tips that may help you create a more supportive interaction with your loved ones who are struggling to get pregnant:
1. Don't assume what worked for you, your friend, your sister, your mother, a celebrity or anyone else will work for them.
Each fertility case is different, and there are many reasons a couple may struggle to conceive. What worked for one person will not work for everyone. Unless your friend asks, try not to give advice or assume you know the reason she's not conceiving unless she asks.
2. Her infertility is not a result of her stressing about her fertility, so please stop telling her to relax.
While intense long-term stress can create hormonal changes that can contribute to infertility, it is typically not the cause. A couple does not usually start out stressing about their fertility, so implying that they are causing it with their anxiety will likely make them feel worse. This is a process that cannot be controlled yet even with the most advanced technology, so assuming a woman can control her fertility in any way, including by just not caring anymore, is reinforcing her stress. Relaxing may improve her quality of life, but reminding her about how unrelaxed she is will probably not help her get pregnant.
By Mary Sabo, L.Ac. DACM
This is an excerpt from a blog post by Mary for FertilityIQ, a national online resource for assisting couples in finding their best-fit doctor and clinic. For the full post, click here!
When it comes to enhancing fertility with herbs, the claims and possibilities seem endless. It can be frustrating and sometimes difficult to figure out which herbs might be most appropriate and people often end up taking expensive supplements that may or may not be helpful. If possible, it’s wise to work with a qualified practitioner such as an Acupuncturist, Naturopath, or Functional Medicine Doctor to help you discover which herbs are ideal for your case. If you don’t have access to one of these professionals though, that’s ok too. Keep reading! Let’s explore some of the more common and effective herbs that affect fertility and how they may work to give you a more informed perspective and targeted care.
First, let’s be clear that there isn’t one supplement or herb that is going to be helpful for everyone when it comes to fertility. That being said, incorporating targeted herbs in your comprehensive fertility plan can sometimes boost fertility enough to help some couples conceive.
Here are some common herbs that are readily available and can potentially enhance fertility:
Vitex (Chaste Tree Berry)
A popular herb for balancing the menstrual cycle and resolving PMS, it likely acts on the pituitary gland in the brain, increasing the strength of the Luteinizing Hormone (LH) surge, which triggers ovulation. This in turn can strengthen ovulation and progesterone production in the luteal phase. It has also been shown to decrease abnormally high prolactin, thus improving hormone balance and ovarian function . This herb helps women with ovulation problems and women with luteal phase defect who have a short luteal phase or low progesterone production.
Maca (Lepidium meyenii)
Maca has been in use for thousands of years as a libido and fertility enhancing medicinal. It is indigenous to the Peruvian Andes and is a tuber (like a turnip). It acts as an adaptogen, helping the body cope during times of increased stress, but it may also affect androgens (testosterone) in both men and women. It is unclear if it affects actual levels of testosterone or just the receptor, but it has been shown in both male and female mice to affect fertility positively. In light of the effects on testesterone activity, however, this supplement may not be helpful for women with PCOS, which is associated with elevated androgens.