In continuation of our interview series, following is an interview with Anjali Hasija, a National Board Certified, Licensed Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist. Anjali is also the owner of SATORI Holistic Wellness & Beauty in New York City, which offers a variety of services including acupuncture, massage and energy therapies, as well as personal spa care. Anjali became my acupuncturist back in 2009, when I was about to begin my third attempt at IVF.
While undergoing your infertility struggle, you might want to consider the benefits of the centuries old Eastern medicine of Acupuncture. It is widely believed that alternative therapies such as acupuncture are common complementary therapies for IVF and a successful pregnancy. Acupuncture can safely be used prior to and concurrently with fertility medications and procedures but of course before moving forward with any alternative activity please check with your doctor.
So here is everything you ever wanted to know about the medicine of acupuncture and how it can help you in your infertility struggle.
Me: What is acupuncture and can you provide some detail about its origination?
Anjali: Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a 3,000 year old system that incorporates acupuncture, Chinese herbs, cupping, moxibustion, nutrition, and exercise (such as Qi Gong and Tai Chi). Acupuncture is a technique in which very fine needles are inserted into specific points, or “gates,” along meridians that are associated with particular organ systems. TCM is a system which emerged from the observation of nature and cycles of movement and balance within the body.
Me: How can acupuncture help people struggling with infertility?
Anjali: The benefits of acupuncture for fertility can be found in Chinese medical literature dating back to 11 AD. Acupuncture works by regulating the hormones and bringing the body into a state of balance. Fertility is supported by improving egg quality, regulating the hormones to produce a large number of follicles, and increasing blood flow to the uterus to build a thick uterine lining.
There are many different reasons a woman may have fertility issues, such as an irregular menstrual cycle, fibroids or cystic ovaries, or a hormonal imbalance. In an acupuncture treatment, we address the person as a whole, looking at their constitution and the root of the problem, not just addressing the symptoms.
Me: What can a patient expect during an acupuncture session?
Anjali: An acupuncturist will take a thorough intake for each new client, known as the “10 Questions.” You can expect questions ranging from information about the menstrual cycle to digestion, to temperature, sleep, energy, and pain. We also look at your tongue as a guide to any areas of heat, cold, damp, or stagnation in the body and feel your pulse to determine if there is any excess or deficiency in each organ. Using this information, a pattern and diagnosis is formed. In the olden days, Chinese medical practitioners were expected to diagnose simply by feeling the pulse as the male doctors were forbidden to see the female patients.
During the acupuncture session, an average of 10 – 20 needles are placed in various points on the body, such as the head, stomach, arms, and legs. A session typically lasts 20 – 30 minutes. The client may feel a tingling, electrical sensation traveling through the meridians. During a treatment, endorphins are released and alpha waves are transmitted, often inducing a deep sense of relaxation.
Me: How often should a patient come in for acupuncture?
Anjali: For fertility treatments, a client generally comes in 1-2 times/week anywhere from 3 – 6 months. For pain relief, acute symptoms usually take less time and chronic symptoms may take longer. Generally speaking, it takes about 1 month of treatment for every year a person has had a condition. When treating fertility, a more consistent treatment plan is recommended.
Me: Are there certain times during the IVF cycle that a woman should come in for acupuncture?
Anjali: As acupuncture has a cumulative effect, any time during the cycle is helpful. There may be different points that are used for various phases of the cycle, so it is important to let your acupuncturist know where you are in your cycle and what medications you are taking as well. Acupuncture can be very helpful in alleviating some of the side effects of the medication. Many of the scientific studies have shown that it is most effective to have an acupuncture treatment before and after the transfer.
Me: Are there benefits for the male spouse to also receive acupuncture?
Anjali: It is often helpful for the male spouse to be involved in the fertility process and acupuncture will benefit them as well, especially for stress relief! Sometimes, however, the reason for fertility is due a problem with the sperm count, either with the size, shape, or motility of the sperm. In this case, acupuncture can be beneficial, as it helps with any weakness of the sperm, just as it helps improve egg quality in women.
Me: Is there any reason someone shouldn’t receive acupuncture?
Anjali: There are several reasons someone shouldn’t receive acupuncture. If a person is unwilling or afraid, it may cause more stress in a time when keeping stress to a minimum is key. Other reasons to hold off on acupuncture include bleeding disorders, liver failure, severe immune disorders, or unstable diabetes.
Me: Are there other alternative treatments that could help someone struggling with infertility? What about Chinese herbs?
Anjali: Chinese herbs help with all internal manifestations of disharmony and can be very effective in support of or in lieu of IVF medications. An herbalist will work closely with you and give you a prescription based on your needs. Some formulas are more supportive and nourishing and can be taken through the entire cycle, even while pregnant. Other formulas can be used for stimulation, and only taken part of the cycle. If a client is taking stimulating meds, we wouldn’t give them a stimulating formula, for instance.
Another great treatment for fertility is Maya Abdominal Massage, as developed by Rosita Arvigo, ND. It is a massage that addresses the positions and health of the pelvic and abdominal organs and is best known for the correction of the prolapsed, fallen, or tilted uterus.
So perhaps you should give acupuncture a try … if nothing else, I can promise you 30-60 minutes of “ME” time a week, which during the stress of infertility a little “ME” time can go a long way.
SATORI Holistic Wellness & Beauty is located at 248 E. 73rd Street, NYC; (212) 744-9949