I recently started going to an acupuncturist at Pulling Down the Moon —a clinic that specializes in “integrative care for fertility,” with locations in the Chicagoland and D.C. metro areas (and more coming). They’re affiliated with the fertility clinic I go to in downtown Chicago (FCI), and I met one of the owners earlier this year when I interviewed her for an article for Parenting.com—she's a fascinating and very informed woman named Tami, who I email for advice now.
I asked Tami what I should be doing during this “time off" from fertility treatments. I’ve considered yoga, a fertility massage, acupuncture, vitamins, nutritional counseling, the whole suite of products they offer, all of which help with fertility and keep stress at bay—which, I’m convinced, has been my biggest hurdle since I started trying to conceive. It’s a leading cause of infertility, and one of the hardest things to control on your own.
“Just relax and you’ll get pregnant” is a big bunch of b.s. And as much as I wish I could enjoy a bottle of wine after work like I used to, I’ve lost my appetite for alcohol after all those hormone-induced migraines I suffered last year. Yep, you read that right—I hardly drink anymore, and when I do I always regret it.
I met with one of Pulling Down the Moon’s acupuncturists who designed a program for me, at Tami's suggestion. Everyone’s needs (schedules and budget) are different, so what makes sense for one person may not make sense for another. After my last failed frozen embryo transfer in January, I told myself I would take a different approach this time, and give myself ample time to heal. These last few months have restored me; I feel like I’ve “healed” from a physical perspective, but the emotional side of it (and accompanying stress) doesn’t miraculously go away.
So I’m currently doing acupuncture once a week, and considering starting a six-week yoga for fertility class. Acupuncture for fertility can do all sorts of good things for you, including (according to their website): increase blood flow to the uterus, improve sperm count (for men), relieve stress, regulate the hormones and increase ovarian response function, reduce the side effects of hormone treatments, strengthen the immune system, improve the success rate of IVF, and decrease the chances of miscarriage.
I hated acupuncture the first couple times I tried it, before and after my last two transfers (the German protocol). It did the opposite of relax me—all I could think about was the transfer procedure and the needles poking me. I couldn’t escape for an hour and let my mind settle down. I was so focused on how uncomfortable I was, and how stressful the whole ordeal had been for me.
Infertility was unfortunately not my only problem at the time—if you remember, I lost my job two weeks before my first transfer in December. Though I knew long before it happened my company would be relocating its headquarters, it was a job I had (and loved) for 10 years. It marked the end of a big chapter in my life. Under the best of circumstances infertility is a hard thing to cope with—my circumstances were less than terrific at the time. Obviously the fact that I was so sick for all those months didn’t help my stress levels either. I was sick, working full time, then worrying about not having a job (especially with all these medical expenses), and feeling horribly guilty about the huge toll this was taking on my family. Then our longtime nanny quit, while I was freelancing part-time and looking for a new job full time. All of this happened during a two-month period, at the same time I did two back-to-back (failed) FETs.
Despite some other personal set-backs, which probably haven’t helped us in the TTC department either, taking things slowly this year with the fertility stuff, and doing things to help my frame of mind—like acupuncture—is helping me keep my head clear. It may not be a guaranteed way to help me get pregnant, but it's a nice distraction from all the noise in my life. "All I ask is that you give me one hour a week," my acupuncturist said on my first visit. The sessions are getting easier, and I'm actually starting to enjoy them.
Acupuncture isn't the only thing I do to relax; I also treat myself to massages and/or facials once every couple of months. I indulged in a spa day at the Trump Hotel with my best friend from high school for our birthdays recently, and felt no guilt about it whatsoever. I don't do it often, but I've vowed to make an effort to do what I can to decompress and give myself a break every once in a while. I gotta say, a day at the spa does wonders for me.
Do you do anything for you—and only you—to relax, while going through infertility? If not, you should!