The other day a beautiful 40 year old yoga teacher come into my office seeking acupuncture to help her get pregnant. We sat down and started talking about options and strategies and she revealed that she was planning on doing IVF or in vitro fertilization and had heard acupuncture could help with a positive outcome.
In 2008 a study was published in Fertility and Sterility (which is the primary medical journal of reproductive endocrinologists worldwide) showing that acupuncture substantially increases pregnancy rates in women undergoing IVF. I frequently work with some of the best REs in NYC helping their IVF patients get pregnant. Not only does acupuncture increase ongoing pregnancy rates but it also mitigates some of the side effects of the IVF drugs (and may reduce the incidence of ectopic pregnancy). So it was no surprise that this lovely woman might be seeking my help with her IVF cycle. What did come as a surprise was when she expressed her feelings of shame around doing IVF to get pregnant. She felt that as a yoga teacher and someone who believes in alternative medicine and healthy living she was somehow “copping out” by doing IVF. Many of her friends and family were pressuring her try only natural therapies like relaxation, visualization, acupuncture, herbs etc… My patient felt ashamed that she was not willing to risk the last months/years of her fertility on alternative methods and wanted to try something that in her particular case gave her better odds of conception. She had great concern that I would judge her (as many of her loved ones were doing) for doing IVF.
Wow was I happy to explain to her how much that was not the case!
First and foremost let me say I am a feminist and as a feminist I love anything that gives women more personal power and freedom of choice in life. In my opinion one of the most empowering things women can do is take charge of their fertility; both the ability to bear children and the freedom to not bear children when that is the right choice for them. Many of my IVF patients are incredible women that have had extraordinary careers and because of that have chosen to bear children later in life. Some of my patients waited to have children because they were waiting for the right guy and didn’t find him until they turned 40. Some of my patients stopped waiting for the right guy and are using donor sperm. I love empowering all my patients with all of their different life journeys to make the choices that are right for them.
When creating a family some patients are only willing to try naturally, some are willing to do IVF, some are open to adopt, some not. The important point is that as women we have these choices and I love supporting my patients in doing what feels right to them. In addition I take my patient’s desire to have a baby very seriously. For some of my patients no matter what kind of lifestyle changes they make and how many herbs they take their chances of getting pregnant naturally are exceedingly slim to completely impossible. IVF can make pregnancy possible when before it was impossible… or just shorten the odds immensely and for many patients that makes it well worth it.
So long story short I explained to my beautiful yogi patient that I absolutely honored her choice to do IVF and that I was thrilled to support her journey to motherhood over the next weeks and months in whatever way I could.