Many women express surprise when they learn that acupuncture can support reproductive health and improve fertility. Often, they believe that acupuncture just relieves pain or muscular tension and maybe reduces stress. In reality, “Fertility Acupuncture” can significantly support a woman’s efforts to conceive, increase the likelihood of her carrying to full-term, benefit and ease labor, and help post-partum healing, including improved lactation, hormone rebalancing and emotional wellness.
While I have treated women in their efforts to conceive for almost 20 years, I have always hesitated to call myself a “fertility acupuncturist.” I see reproductive health as simply a product of total body/ mind/ spiritual wellness, as a part of the whole woman. I try to meet each woman who walks through my door exactly where she is. My goal is to support every woman with whatever she is experiencing, from infertility to menopause and everything before, after and in between.
When it comes to infertility, I see women at varying stages in their journey. Many women are initially only open to what I see as the “surface” or physical level of the process. In this case, often they want me to review their labs, see what’s off hormonally and help guide their body into balance. Dietary and lifestyle changes combined with weekly acupuncture can improve any underlying imbalances in the body that might be impeding conception or sustained pregnancy. This is a completely valid way to rely on acupuncture to conceive, and usually within 3-6 months, we notice significant improvement in a woman’s hormone levels as well as her uterine and follicle health. My online fertility course, The Fertile Mama Fertility Fix, begins with this level of balancing the body, improving reproductive health and restoring egg quality.
In my practice, I have about a 75% success rate working with women at this level.
Of course, I always love to go deeper, and I’m starting to see more and more women who recognize that their reproductive health is related to so much more than just what is physically apparent. Out of balance hormone levels, “unexplained infertility,” PCOS, endometriosis, “swollen uterus,” recurrent miscarriage. On a deeper, emotional and energetic level, it’s all connected to not just how a woman relates to (patriarchal) society and the Earth, but even how she is holding the trauma and wounding from her maternal lineage.
In these instances, we often dive deeper into what it means to be a fertile woman on this planet. We look at past trauma, generational wounding, the deep-seated beliefs about the value of the feminine. We look at how a woman presents herself in the world, how her body internalizes her values and beliefs about “Mother” energy. We look at her connection to nature and how the energies of the elements (wood, water, fire, metal, earth) are held in her body.
I recognize that this might sound like a foreign language to many of you, so I’ll give you an example. I had a patient who first came to me after she had been trying to conceive for almost a year. She had been diagnosed with “unexplained infertility” and also mentioned, in passing, that she had been suffering from chronic left-sided hip pain.
In Chinese Medicine, the left side is related to the feminine, the right to the masculine. She said she felt like her leg was just hanging on, not really connected to her body. We discovered that her left side was actually much weaker than her right. It was tightening up to defend against injury from that weakness. Her right side was much tighter, rigid and tense, although not experiencing pain.
In beginning to explore how her body might be holding her core beliefs, we looked into her ideals about the masculine and feminine. She was a professional woman, viewed herself as an entrepreneur, and greatly valued the more “masculine” or “yang” expression of presenting herself in the world: as productive, busy, rational, efficient, intellectual and effective.
When we discussed how she related to more “yin” or feminine energy, she recognized that she felt completely disconnected. They felt foreign to her. “Yin” energy tends to be about the darker, more intuitive and receptive modes of being. It’s about trusting, BEing, intuiting on a more energetic level, relating to the world and to people and to ourselves from an almost mythical and magical perspective, as opposed to the more mental consciousness of yang energy.
In all people, male and female, yin and yang must be in relationship for a person to feel “whole.” Most people are more naturally in touch with one or the other, and typically males are more connected to Yang, masculine, energy. But I’ve been finding that many women, too, tend to view this Yang mode of operating — effective, productive, intellectual — as having more value than the more yin mode of being.
Communing with nature, gardening, being with the land, with animals, in deep, intuitive connecting with other people — these are not things that have been valued in our society for centuries, or since Judeo-Christian religions began to overtake the more aboriginal communities and their nature-worshiping belief systems. Consider the witch-hunts, where connecting and communing with nature resulted in being burned at the stake. I strongly believe that, at the root of our society’s epidemic of infertility is this lack of valuation and even fear of the yin aspects of our selves.
Upon further exploration, my patient remembered that, as a child, she had felt connected to animals and enjoyed being in nature. She loved art. But she recalled being told she was “overly sensitive” and whether consciously or not, worked to suppress those qualities that were deemed inappropriate or lacking value.
By the time she came to see me, she didn’t even recognize that those qualities could still be a part of her. She expressed that even if she had felt curious about them, she wouldn’t have felt like there was time to do explore them: to reflect, relax, meditate — it felt “lazy” or “indulgent” or like a “waste of time.”
While working together, my patient was able to explore how, in her family of origin, the male role was all-important, and her stay-at-home mom was not really valued. She “learned” that the more yin qualities of nurturing, receptivity, connection, mothering were not rewarded, so she abandoned them. We uncovered a deep wound of rejection of the feminine.
In defending against being totally disconnected, the feminine/ yin had been calling out for attention, calling out with left-sided physical pain. It was spasming and tightening up in resistance against being ignored, forgotten, neglected, rejected.
Her right side/ masculine/ yang, by default, was carrying her whole being. It was holding it all because it wasn’t balanced by the feminine/ yin.
We worked together to bring her energy and attention back to her womb space, so that she could explore and experience the intense power that is held there.
My patient began to recognize an energy within her womb, her divine feminine wisdom, which she could experience as being where much of her feeling of “self” resided. She began to explore various ways she could work to continue to connect with this aspect of her being. She began spending time in nature and with animals, focusing on her breathing, connecting to her womb via womb massage and deep listening, recognizing how and where she had been subjugating this important aspect of her self.
This patient did become pregnant and has gone on to have 3 children. But more importantly, she connected to herself as a fertile, creative being on the planet. While she doesn’t desire to expand her family at this time, she continues to do her womb work, continues to explore and work to cultivate these more yin aspects of herself. She recognizes that this connection helps to remind her of who she is, guiding the way she mothers, the way she connects with the people with whom she is in relationship, and how she feels most present in herself.
While I haven’t treated her since I moved out of state, we have stayed in touch. Recently she expressed to me that when she first came to me for acupuncture, she was doing it as a “last-ditch” effort before moving on to IVF. She felt like maybe, if anything, it could improve her stress level so that IVF could have abetter chance of being successful.
She shared that, instead, her acupuncture treatments felt like they opened up an entire consciousness that she had never before experienced. It helped her feel more connected to her body, so that she could feel how and when she was getting out of balance, and have the tools to do what she needed to continue to find balance in her life. She knows that she’s a more conscious and aware mother and woman than she might have been otherwise.