I have compiled a list of questions relevant to qualifications (below) for a potential acupuncturist that will be helpful in assessing their educational background, experience, and ability to treat your particular concerns, especially if you are seeking treatment for fertility issues.
Do you have any advanced training in fertility treatment beyond acupuncture school classes?
Most acupuncture schools offer little, if any, specialization in terms of TCM gynecology or the treatment of infertility. For a practitioner to specialize in fertility their training starts postgraduate. Conscientious acupuncturists calling themselves specialists in fertility have sought out and completed advanced training in treating infertility.
Since graduation I have studied with two practitioners Jill Blakeway, L.Ac. and Francis Goodwin, L.Ac. who have dedicated their practices to treating fertility and women’s health issues. When studying for continuing education programs I have focused on fertility and women’s health issues.
I participate in a program called Clinical Excellence in Fertility Professionals. The CEFP community is a group of practitioners from around North America who have dedicated themselves to the specialty of fertility. The group has extensive ongoing training with bi-weekly conference calls and bi-annual continuing education programs. The program leader, Randine Lewis, author of The Infertility Cure and the founder of the CEFP, has invited 50 practitioners to join her in a circle of expertise. When you come to me you share in the collective experience of the CEFP.
By concentrating my education and knowledge of fertility and women’s health issues, you are ensured access to information for your questions, guidance in your journey and a treatment plans with focus.
Are you NCCAOM (National Board) certified in BOTH acupuncture AND Chinese Herbology?
Some acupuncture practitioners never study herbs as part of their formal education, but can, with an acupuncture license in most states, recommend and sell herbs to their patients, even without any academic training. If your practitioner will be recommending herbal formulas, be certain they are NCCAOM certified in Chinese herbology–the minimum standard certification they should hold to dispense herbs in their practice. It is also advisable to seek a practitioner who can create custom formulas to match your individual patterns and presentation. Being able to offer custom loose-herb formulas or granules is a good sign that the practitioner is not just practicing “cookbook” style herbology and can make a sophisticated formula that not only meets your needs but will be safe in all phases of your menstrual cycle. Also, if you are taking pharmaceutical medications, your practitioner should be aware of potential herb-drug interactions and contraindications. Some herbs are potentially toxic and some are contraindicated in pregnancy. An uneducated “herbalist” could potentially cause more harm than good by recommending a formula that is inappropriate for you.
I am National Board Certified in both Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology. I only use the highest quality herbs and prescribe custom formulas for my patients. I am well aware of herb-drug interactions and what precautions to take when a patient is on a particular drug regimen. In particular, I have studied herbal prescriptions that relate to gynecology and fertility extensively and can create a sophisticated, custom formula to meet your needs in each phase of the monthly cycle.
How much of your practice is devoted to working with patients facing fertility challenges?
It is important that your practitioner is familiar with western medical conditions associated with infertility and is aware of any testing you may have had. They should be able to interpret your basal body temperature charts and be able to understand basic hormonal lab values that are pertinent to your case. Greater levels of experience and education will make them aware of important factors that could be crucial to your success in conceiving.
For instance, I had a client who had mid-cycle bleeding. Within two 2 months of treatment, her BBT charts where well balanced but the mid-cycle bleeding continued. I felt this cyclic bleeding was interfering with conception and was not related to poor progesterone levels. I referred her to a reproductive specialist who found a uterine polyp. The polyp was removed and after another menstrual cycle with acupuncture/herbs she was pregnant. If I had continued to treat her with Chinese medicine only, not recognizing her possible need for further evaluation and medication, she would have lost valuable time and money and potentially not conceived. While licensed acupuncturists are not qualified to make a medical diagnosis, fertility specialists should be able to recognize “red flags” that would alert them to your need for further medical testing.
Additionally, your practitioner needs to be well-versed in the protocols and treatments used by reproductive endocrinologists. In order to properly work in conjunction with your RE and not counteract any of their protocols, your practitioner needs to be familiar with assisted reproductive techniques, their actions, and their potential side effects. Someone who has more experience and facility working with fertility issues can be a great ally and support as you go through the intense and often stressful processes of IUI, IVF, and hormonal suppression or stimulation.
Whether you want to try a strictly natural Eastern approach, or a combination of TCM with hormonal stimulation, IUI, or IVF, I will tailor your treatments to fit your specific needs. Having worked through this process with so many patients enables me to help make your experience more relaxed and less intimidating. I get active referrals from RE’s in CT and NY, because they feel my quality of work is well rounded and effective. I can answer questions such as
- “How does a follicle grow?”
- “Why did my RE pick this drug?”
- “What does this BBT chart mean?”
- “Should I be worried if my RE can’t find active antral follicles?”
- “I’m only 33 years old, how can I have POF?”
- “Should I do IVIG treatments?”
- “Sex is stressful, what can I do to elevate the tension between me and my husband?”
My clients look to me as a guide through the mysterious world of reproductive medicine. They access my knowledge as a fertility advocate, who can provide information to answer their questions so decisions can be made.
Who is your practitioner as a person? How can they support you in the healing process?
Most practitioners who have devoted themselves to this field are genuinely concerned, compassionate, and deeply empathetic people. Fertility patients have a difficult journey and it can be an especially painful and frustrating one. Trusting your practitioner’s experience, education, and commitment to this work is vitally important. Because the fertility struggle affects us on so many levels, working with someone with whom you can connect on a deeper level is of great benefit to the healing process.
Your practitioner should be a healer, not just a technician; having a heart-centered approach to Chinese medicine is the hallmark of an exceptional acupuncturist. Randine Lewis’ success in this field is due not only to her immense knowledge of both western and eastern medicine, but to her depth of being, her connection to spirit, and her skillfulness in terms of giving patients just what they need in the moment. I am grateful to her for not only teaching me how to practice this medicine more effectively, but also for giving me a perspective on life that is deeply rich and ever-fulfilling.
I can attest that working with people facing fertility challenges has been the most rewarding aspect of my career. I am truly passionate about helping make your journey towards conception rich and fruitful.
Call (914) 572-5137 today or click here to schedule an appointment & learn more about how we can help you.