So I always thought that acupuncture was just for relaxation and pain management, so when I was researching how to improve my chances of successful IVF treatment, I wasn’t expecting acupuncture to be a suggestion. I found loads of ideas like vitamins, reduced stress, and fertility diets, but something intrigued me about trying acupuncture. I love massages, so I thought it would be similar.
Looking into acupuncture for fertility
I researched fertility acupuncture in my area and emailed a few acupuncturists with a basic request detailing that I was having IVF and wondered if they had an IVF package. I got a response from one acupuncturist ‘what are you hoping to achieve from this?’ Erm, is that not quite obvious? So when I got an answer from a lovely lady saying that she had done lots of treatments for people undergoing IVF treatment, I jumped at it.
Now, it’s not a cheap option. It cost m £45 for an hour’s session, which is fine in itself, but when you consider that advice suggests you do these weekly in the run-up to your IVF treatment and then throughout, the cost adds up.
So I’ve booked in for my acupuncture treatment. I’m excited about it. Then my mum asks where my treatment will be – in my back and shoulders, obviously. Has she not seen pictures of acupuncture before? Well, maybe I should have listened to my mum a bit more!
What to expect at your first acupuncture session
What to wear for acupuncture? I went straight from work so I was wearing smart trousers and a top. That was fine, but I had to take my trousers off and lift the top up, so if you’re not keen on that, then maybe reconsider your outfit choices – maybe loose trousers that can be lifted up, or shorts/skirt? In future, I wore a wrap dress so I could just unwrap it.
When I arrived for my first session, I immediately felt at ease. My sessions were at the acupuncturist’s house and she had a beautiful studio in the garden. Before we started, she asked me some questions I wasn’t expecting and hadn’t considered at all. She obviously asked about my fertility treatment but then also asked if I’m a cold/warm person (always cold!), if I get colds often (very rarely), if I sleep well (I need a lot of sleep, and also wake up regularly through the night stressing about work) etc. She also asked me to stick out my tongue and checked it.
How many needles?!
So once we got started on the acupuncture, I lay on the bed, and she got out what seemed to be a lot of needles. I actually always tried to count how many were in, but as you can’t feel them all, I’m not exactly sure – somewhere between 15-18, I think!
So this is where my main misconception about acupuncture is – the needles aren’t in your back. In fact, I was lying on my back. I’ve attached a picture below to show you the positioning of the needles I had in. The acupuncturist explained the reasons she was putting them in certain places, and it was crazy. There was the ‘fertility channel’ two in my stomach, one at the top and one at the bottom. There were also needles in my feet, ankles, legs, hands, forehead, and back of my neck. She explained that these were for liver, kidney and heart function, amongst others – how interesting!
When she was putting in the needles, there was a little cap on the top that she would press down. This then pushed the needles in the right amount. Some of them I could feel and had a slight pain initially, and some I couldn’t even feel that they were in.
To be honest, it was the hands that were the worst! So once the needles are in, this takes 5-10 minutes (I think!). She then gave them a quick twist and left me to relax for 10 minutes.
I then had a heat lamp placed over my stomach also. She then came back to twist them again and then left me for a further 10 minutes. She did this until about 55 minutes into the session. I really expected that I wouldn’t be able to relax, considering I had so many needles sticking out of my body – but it was actually exceptionally relaxing, and I would find myself dozing off, only to wake up when I heard her come back in the room.
She told me that the reason that the needles are twisted every so often is that the body gets used to them being in so it stops registering that they are there. This would reduce the impact that they have. So to trick the body into realising that the needles are still there, they are twisted every 10 minutes.
After the session
At the end of this session, my acupuncturist explained that I would probably feel quite tired as a result of the acupuncture. I expected this to be a load of rubbish as I had only been lying down, not doing anything strenuous. How wrong was I! I went to see my parents straight after and nearly fell asleep. I slept so well that night!
So I had the treatment each week during my long protocol and just before egg collection and embryo transfer.
The needles that I could feel sometimes changed, and the only ones I hated were the ones in my hands. She was definitely right about feeling tired. I only live a ten-minute drive from her house, and one day, I even had to pull over about two minutes from home to take my contact lenses out and put my glasses on as I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open! She also checked my tongue each week, and it was fascinating what she could tell from it! She knew if I was stressed, feeling a bit unwell, hadn’t slept well etc.
Unfortunately, my treatment didn’t work, but I definitely felt an impact from acupuncture. I felt better within myself and definitely stopped feeling as cold. I’d even say I sometimes started feeling too warm – something I’ve never said before! The effects lasted a good few weeks after I finished my treatment.
I’d definitely suggest acupuncture and I think I’ll go back for my next round. There can be slight twinges when the needles go in and when they’re twisted. But overall, it’s pretty relaxing, and the science behind it is fascinating.
If you want to ask me anything about acupuncture or anything else, come and say hi over in the Hoopsy fertility community, where we would love to chat!