Did Acupuncture for Fertility Really Help Me Get Pregnant?

Frustrated that she wasn't getting pregnant, but not yet ready to turn to infertility treatment, Whitney Harris tried acupuncture to help her conceive.

I spent 10 years dating my now-husband trying desperately not to get pregnant. All through college, his law school, and our young professional lives, we doubled up on birth control: I was always on the pill and he used condoms. We were that cautious. Finally, almost three years into marriage, we felt ready to try for a baby.

Transitioning Off Birth Control

In February 2014, I went off the pill, expecting to get pregnant in about a minute. I was a healthy, active 29-year-old who ate organic and tried to lead a stress-free life. My period was more regular than any high-speed rail, and everyone had always told me how easy it would be to conceive. "You'll be preggers within a month!" friends and family had all shouted with glee well before I was trying. I've even had psychics tell me how fertile I was.

I was elated the first month without a period because I figured we'd been lucky enough to get pregnant on our first try. But multiple pregnancy tests revealed otherwise. Then March, April, and May went by, and I wasn't anywhere closer to being pregnant. I still hadn't resumed a post-pill period.

For the first few months, I told myself to be patient and not obsess over whatever was (or wasn't) going on with my body. Stressing out is the surest way not to get pregnant, right? But instead of rubbing my pressure points with calming essential oils and practicing some downward dog, I fell down the wormhole of infertility message boards.

Seeking Alternative Therapies

By June, I was frantically searching for alternative therapies. I had seen my OB-GYN, and she assured me that I was healthy and should be patient. When I told her that I'd been reading about acupuncture and the positive effect it could have on fertility, she gave me the green light to try it.

I had heard that acupuncture could help people resume ovulation, and I preferred to do things as naturally as possible. So rather than stepping on the gas to a fertility clinic (which was tempting), I decided to give acupuncture a shot. My doc agreed that traditional Chinese medicine was a good option since I wasn't rushing to get pregnant. (If I had been, she recommended I take an ovulation-enhancing drug like Clomid.)

The idea of letting someone stick me with myriad needles every week was a little off-putting at first. But I was assured there are no serious risks if you visit a licensed acupuncturist. I found a practitioner specializing in infertility and prepared to be treated like a pin cushion.

Learning to Practice Patience

I endured six months of being poked with tiny needles without a twitch from my fallopian tubes. I could feel tingling sensations now and again at the insertion point between my eyes but none of the life-changing magic promised.

I made a list of what might be wrong with me. I categorically researched them one by one: PCOS, fibroids, poor liver or thyroid function, premature ovulation failure, and every other scary Google search term I came up with. I knew I'd eventually have to get tested, but I told myself to wait an entire year. I circled February 2015 on my calendar in red ink.

Once December 2014 arrived, I convinced myself to take some time to enjoy life without thinking about my health. After one last acupuncture session, I dove into Christmas shopping and holiday preparations. Every once in a while, a niggling thought would crop up—"You haven't had a single drop of blood in 11 months!"but I would calmly wish the impulse away and refill my champagne flute or hot chocolate mug.

A Positive Pregnancy Test

Then, one evening, I took a pregnancy test before attending a wine-fueled holiday party. Just to be safe.

One pink line appeared. And then another. Two pink lines. Pregnant.

I figured it had to be a mistake. When my husband returned from the drugstore with two more pregnancy tests, and both came up positive, we stared at each other in disbelief. How could I be pregnant? Was this some kind of miracle?

We didn't believe in magic, but it was pretty amazing to see that I became pregnant when we had no idea what—if anything—was going on inside my body for nearly a year. I want to think that the weekly acupuncturist visits (amounting to about $1,800 in the end) contributed to our success, but we may never know. Still, my journey to parenthood felt a little more in my control whenever the practitioner swabbed my skin with alcohol and gently inserted those countless tiny needles.

If nothing else, acupuncture gave me time to pause and practice patience—something I rarely do but is always a valuable lesson.

If you're considering trying acupuncture, here's how to get started:

What To Know Before Trying Acupuncture

If you're curious about trying acupuncture to help you on your pregnancy journey, it is wise to do some research first. It is important to know if acupuncture is safe for you and what to expect going into it. Here are a few tips to help get you started.

Speak to your OB-GYN

Depending on your age and health, your doctor may recommend a more proactive approach to fertility. They will help you weigh your options and establish a timeline that you can follow to feel more in control. You may have blood work done and then try acupuncture to address your specific needs. But acupuncture may not be worth your time and money if you have certain conditions, like endometriosis.

Find a licensed provider

Research your state's licensing board to confirm that your acupuncturist is licensed and up-to-date on all certifications because some expire after two to four years. If that's the case for your practitioner, find someone else who's current.

Know what to expect

Your acupuncturist may ask you to take a basal body temperature reading every morning, check your cervical mucus, tweak your diet, and/or incorporate herbs into your daily routine. Be prepared to make a few changes to your lifestyle if necessary. And always ask questions to keep yourself informed.

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