My female acupuncturist knocked me up — and it was mostly painless

October 28 | Guest post by Susan Finch
Photo by truk, used under Creative Commons license.

When I first met my acupuncturist in a small Brooklyn practice where a mechanic shop spewed fumes nearby, I took one look at her and hoped she would knock me up. In fact, I desperately hoped she was the one. The one who would know just where to stick those freaky needles for my womb to quiver and totally rock out a life force ready to take the world by storm in 9+ months. I hoped she was magic. I hoped it happened immediately.

But it didn't happen immediately. Instead it took just six short weeks. Yes, I was beyond thrilled. The kind of thrilled that documents your first walk post-positive-pregnancy test as your first family outing. But I shared the acupuncture success story sparingly. My friends always cut me off in mid-sentence if I expressed fear that it was taking nearly a year to get pregnant. They told me it was normal. Why was I concerned? It wasn't a big deal.

These were the same friends who had either never tried to get pregnant, or got pregnant without giving it much thought. And they also thought my getting pregnant after weeks of acupuncture was a coincidence. Or maybe it was my very slightly sluggish thyroid that finally woke up. Or the alleviation of work stress when I left a less-than relaxing staff job and went back to freelance. Surely those were the reasons why — maybe acupuncture just helped a little.

When holistic medicine works, it's a placebo effect. Or luck. Maybe a fortuitous coincidence. Or perhaps successful with a combination of everything else you've done. But when traditional medicine works in forms of a prescription pad it's considered concrete and absolute. Had I taken fertility drugs, everyone would have given kudos to its success and started talking pharmaceutical brands.

So I stopped talking about it. Instead I did what felt right for me. And that included exploring all my options before looking at traditional medicine and intervention.

I have a high threshold for physical pain and couldn't care less about needles, but was surprised how much acupuncture didn't hurt yet hurt all at once.

I had booked my acupuncture appointment after a neighborhood masseuse told me the knots in my back were too hard for deep-tissue massage and I should try acupuncture. She recommended a nearby practice and after checking out their website, realized acupuncture for fertility was on their list of services. I booked it after my 10th pregnancy test came back negative. Make that 10 months of pregnancy tests. I'm sure I took more like 25 tests compliments of the Dollar Store.

I have a high threshold for physical pain and couldn't care less about needles, but was surprised how much acupuncture didn't hurt yet hurt all at once. The needles were small and flimsy with flat bottoms. They looked nothing like needles in a doctor's office short of being shiny and metallic. They didn't hurt being flicked onto pressure points where they were magically held in place without breaking the skin. But the throbbing that ensued while they stood up in attention was uncomfortable. It felt like my body was radiating from their shiny spheres.

I felt vulnerable. And I don't do well with feeling vulnerable. But I quietly sat and waited while my body awoke from its slumber.

The discomfort subsided and by my third appointment, I barely felt the needles or pulsating sensation that had initially followed. The acupuncturist kept a chart and asked me all about my cycle, my food intake, could tell what I ate by the color of my tongue, day-to-day symptoms, and anything else I felt like sharing. She gently flicked needles around my womb during specific periods of my cycle and took my pulse to tell me how various organs in my body were reacting to the treatment. I was adorned. I grew to love those little needles standing tall from the tops of my feet to the top of my head.

I didn't really understand much of what my acupuncturist was doing and why, but I felt safe and centered, like my body was working together. I also found myself changing. I felt more confident and powerful in my vulnerability. The hour to unwind and clear my mind was a weekly gift. My husband could also tell a marked difference after an appointment. I felt calm and relaxed. My digestion improved and I slept better. I learned to wait in a way I had never waited before. Waiting for my body to catch up with my mind and vice versa.

I never felt more than rolling nausea from time to time, and aside from fatigue, I had no real first trimester symptoms.

My acupuncturist beamed when I broke the news of my pregnancy. In fact, she was the only person to know after my husband and I. She immediately switched to treating me for miscarriage prevention and to quell potential morning sickness. I never felt more than rolling nausea from time to time, and aside from fatigue, I had no real first trimester symptoms.

I felt like I knew a big secret no one else knew. Or that no one else would embrace without tainting it with stories of friends of friends and sisters of co-workers who had no success with similar treatments. But I had discovered the truth: not one treatment or technique works for everyone the same way. And rejecting one only suffocates your hopes and dreams from a world of possibility.

My husband likes to rub my ever-growing belly and talk to his child before we go to bed at night. She calms down and stops kicking to listen to his voice — something I hope that continues when she's born. We love drifting off to sleep, just the three of us. But we both know there was a fourth, that it wasn't just us who conceived our daughter; it was a stranger in Brooklyn who helped my body and mind align to make room for new life.

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  1. This is great, thank you for sharing. We're going on 10 months now, too. I'm not sure if I could even find an acupuncturist in Oklahoma but when it comes to having a baby, my mind is way more open to something holistic like this, than it is to something pharmaceutical that could result in having 8 babies at once! And I'm like you, I'm not particularly weirded out by needles. My biggest concern would be finding someone as experienced and knowledgeable as the woman you saw. If we don't get pregnant in the next couple months, I'm going to look into this. Thank you, again.

    4 agree
    • I am from Oklahoma, what county are you in? If you're near where I was, I can recommend a really great acupuncturist.

      1 agrees
      • I am in Oklahoma as well – and we're on month 13. While I have an appointment with an OBGYN this month, I would much rather go with something natural vs pharmaceutical. What part of OK is your acupuncturist?

      • Jumping on the bandwagon, I'm from OK and interested in as much holistic local info as I can get my hands on–and recommendations are even better!

    • Acupuncturists who specialize in reproductive "ailments" (for lack of a better word) have an accrediting body called the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM). You can always start there as well. This is what my acupuncturist (she's still mine even though I moved away) belongs to.

      1 agrees
  2. I can relate. I started seeing an acupuncturist, a shiatsu massuese and a chiropractor who I ditched in order to see an osteopath (who did manipulations, including cranio sacral). After 6 months of all that, my acupuncturist did a few electro needles (weird weird weird!) and I saw the osteopath 3 times, moved and six weeks later, I was pregnant.

    Who knows what therapy or combination worked, but it did and I'm forever grateful for my (now) five year old. ­čśÇ

    (We tried for two months shy of two years.)

  3. Your story is beautiful and it gives me great hope. My husband and I have been trying for 5 years and I don't respond well to chemicals. So our next avenue is going to be acupuncture as soon as we can afford it.

    • Look for a community accupuncture clinic in your area. They offer treatment on a sliding scale, or way less than private practice. But check your insurance first, a lot of plans cover accupuncture.

  4. I just found out my insurance covers acupuncture! This is our next route…plus I feel like it's good for my entire being–unlike the ovulation stimulators(which I know are successful for many, but were not for me) that served one purpose but made me feel all out of whack.

    • Please make sure they are a Licenced Acupuncturist and not just a doctor that took a few classes. This is extremely important! Licensed acupuncture study for years!

  5. Acupuncture is fantastic! My husband and I tried to get pregnant for about a year with no success. We ultimately decided to do IVF due to male factor infertility and we both believe that acupuncture really improved the outcome of our IVF cycle (which was successful). We had read studies that showed that IVF cycles with acupuncture are more successful than those without. I highly recommend giving it a try if you're trying to get pregnant.

    1 agrees
    • Congrats!! I read this too, that it really increases your chances. Had I not gotten pregnant, I would have tried fertility drugs at some point but continued the acupuncture. I received so many other benefits I wanted to continue.

      • Where is the accupuncture place located in Brooklyn and what is the name of the doctor?

  6. It's def. A case of what works for you. We weren't trying very long (one month not so bad) but everyone had an opinion on why it didn't happen that first month, seriously one month not so bad. I think the delayed ovulation and a month performing in Italy along with the fantastick wine and food did it for us.

    • Jeez, people were wondering why it didn't happen the first month? Sometimes it just doesn't happen the very second you start trying.

      1 agrees
  7. As a scientist I have some comments on this post. Yes, you can say "it worked for me", and I am happy to hear it did. But I do not agree with the statement "When holistic medicine works, it's a placebo effect. Or luck. Maybe a fortuitous coincidence. Or perhaps successful with a combination of everything else you've done. But when traditional medicine works in forms of a prescription pad it's considered concrete and absolute. Had I taken fertility drugs, everyone would have given kudos to its success and started talking pharmaceutical brands." I could claim: acupuncture works as a method of birth control, since I used it and did not get pregnant, and then complain it does not get as much credit as taking the pill would. "It worked for me" stories are by definition anecdotes. Pharmaceuticals or medical procedures do undergo long and expensive trials to prove that they work and that is why they get credit. But that is not unfair towards alternative medicine, it is just how science works. For acupuncture these studies are still underway, and so far not conclusive, and therefore it cannot be credited in a more than anecdotal manner. This does not mean acupuncture should be dismissed as a possible treatment, only that needs to be studied before it can be credited.

    2 agree
    • I don't think the author was discounting the efficacy of acupuncture – she was commenting on how many people perceive pharmaceutical drugs and medical procedures as being effective and acupuncture and herbs as folk wisdom that probably don't work.

      1 agrees
      • But, the problem with this is the large pharmaceutical companies have to show effectiveness/lack of harm before going on market while more folk knowledge stuff doesn't have to go through that process. Some herbs and stuff really do work and are documented to do so – but other things are inconclusive at best and acupuncture is one of them.

        5 agree
    • I understand what you mean. In my own personal experience, people seemed more prone to suggest fertility drugs to me than anything holistic. And when I talked about acupuncture, they suggested it was a coincidence or placebo.

      I agree more trials and studies need to be done to understand better how acupuncture works for fertility and also with fertility drugs..

    • It is being studied and the case for acupuncture as an effective treatment is mounting up. These studies are just not in the public arena yet, still in small medical journals or university reports. I can ask my acupuncturist for study references…

      • accupuncture is scientifically proven and available on the NHS for certain conditions as well as being recommended for many more… it HAS been through trials and proven enough that the medical body has offically accepted it

  8. Thanks so much for the wonderful feedback! For those concerned about the cost – google "community acupuncture" or look into acupuncture schools. Community acupuncture works on a sliding scale. My appointments were very affordable. And as far as a school – you can find senior students who are just kicking off their practice.

    Talk to your doctors too. There's always a chance your insurance may somehow cover it if it's prescribed.

    But the real key is to keep trying and try what's right for -you-. Try meditation, a gluten-free diet, different exercise… your body responds to different things.

  9. Thank you for posting this GREAT article. We are on cycle #5 TTC and, from the start, I have gone the route of acup, herbs, meditation and stress-reduction. I am almost 39 and realize that "age" may play a factor into our pregnancy odds – but I'm placing my odds on the fact that my body, when "in tune", knows what is right. While I am aware there is a large body of western medicine at hand to assist in my reproduction, for now I'm trusting that a holistic tune up of my body and conscious living are the right prescription.

  10. Also, not all acupuncturists are as skilled as others so try around until you find someone you are comfortable with and ask friends or others for references. It's the same with chiropractors or physical therapists or massage therapists – they all get similar training but some of them excel and some are just "okay."

  11. I'm so glad this worked for you. I actually had the opposite experience. I gave acupuncture a try for several months, including multiple inseminations and one (failed) IVF attempt. I finally got knocked up on my second cycle of IVF, after I ditched the acupuncture (and used a totally different medication protocol). While I tried to relax and like the acupuncture, it actually stressed me out. When I defaulted to my standard relaxation strategies (hot baths, going to bed early, working out and the occasional massage), I had better luck.

  12. Wonderful story, thanks for sharing. One of my close friends struggled with unexplained infertility and took various fertility drugs with no luck. After a year of it, she gave up and tried a holistic approach and got pregnant on the first cycle after acupuncture. When they started TTC for baby #2, she started with acupuncture again and was pregnant after just a few months.

  13. Thanks for sharing this, I am now looking into acupuncture in my local area. Have you found it to be relatively affordable?

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