Welcome to I’ll-Try-Anything #427: Acupuncture! I’ve heard a lot of amazing (and expensive) things about acupuncture and since all of my dollars are going toward making a baby this year, I decided to give it a shot. The place/parlor/office/whatever-you-call-it I chose specializes in infertility treatments, and even has an infertility yoga class that I won’t be attending (let’s not get crazy now). There are rumors out there that acupuncture can fix egg quality and assist with implantation – both of which sound pretty good considering those are my main issues (for now). Not to mention that it’s also supposed to help with: anxiety, stomach issues, insomnia, headaches, backaches, all-aches, “facial pain” (I hope that includes RBF), and a whole list of pregnancy related issues that I know nothing about (one thing at a time, ladies). They should update their slogan to, “Acupuncture: if it annoys you, we can fix it!”
I’m always intrigued by people who claim they can tackle my anxiety – they might as well declare that they can remove my arm by blinking (“good luck” – in ‘Taken’ voice). But the prospect of being anxiety-free and having some sexy looking eggs is enough to draw me in, so I gave them all my money for the month and prepared to meet with what I hoped would be an elderly Asian woman with 50 years of experience in curing infertility who sent me home with a bag of magic herbs and teas at the end of each session. NOPE! My experienced elder turned out to be a blonde woman named Emily who is probably younger than me (which doesn’t matter but like…it matters), and Emily wants to ruin my life. Okay maybe she doesn’t really want to ruin my life, but all I’m saying is the two months I followed through with my acupuncture treatments are the same two months where everything went to shit. Acupuncture Month #1: She turned my egg into a cyst! Acupuncture Month #2: She made my almost-mature follicle disappear! This would all be fine and dandy if I was at the world’s weirdest magic show, but I can’t justify the means (cash) for these ends (cysts and missing follies).
She also seemed to be real stingy on the needles. I imagined I would be made into a human pincushion – covered from head to toe, when really Emily must’ve been told she has a maximum of ten needles to use on each patient and had to pick and choose where to put them. What I really wanted to say each week was, “You know, there’s a hell of a lot of things wrong with me other than infertility, might as well just stick me with the lot!” But I’m afraid of what would happen to my body if Emily covered me in needles – would all my organs disappear? Grow new appendages? What is this madness?! And don’t even get me started on how she didn’t bother telling me what any of the acupuncture points she chose were for (the control freak in me needs answers, dammit!) …I’m starting to think I might be high maintenance.
We both know that regardless of my acupuncturist trying to sabotage my uterus, you’re still going to give the belly needles a shot (because that’s what we do when we’re TTC: try ANYTHING), so here’s what you need to know before your first appointment:
- This. Is. Expensive. Like, “is it worth it?” expensive. Before you start reaching into your own pockets, double check with your insurance company to see if they cover acupuncture visits (mine doesn’t, but I have IVF coverage sooo, fair trade?) If it isn’t covered, make sure that you find a clinic that offers packages so you can pretend you’re getting a deal as you spend $600 to willingly get poked with needles once a week (in addition to your other routine needle-poking). It’s hard to justify the cost when that’s the price of a dang hysteroscopy and you’re already struggling with your infertility bills, so don’t be afraid to stop if you don’t think it’s helping.
- The needles don’t hurt. No but really, I mean it! Tiny little pricks beat out blood drawings and trigger shots any day (especially when compared to the rough techs at my RE’s office – do you HAVE to jam the needle in there Sharon?!) And you’ll probably get a similar treatment as I did, with something along the lines of: one in each foot, three in each leg, one in each wrist, two in your stomach, one in the top of your head (painless, I say!), and a bonus one in each ear if you’re consumed with anxiety like I am. If you’re DEATHLY afraid of needles: maybe try that fertility yoga instead.
- You gotta get cozy. If you’re coming from work (just kidding, I know we all quit our day jobs since we’re too busy getting daily ultrasounds and worrying about our fertility to work anymore), you’re going to need some casual clothes. If you’re in a private room, your acupuncturist might have you take off your bottoms (since, you know, we just do that for every appointment we ever attend now – hence why I’m not welcome at my salon anymore) and put a sheet across your lap. If you’re in a…I don’t know what to call it, a shared room? Because that’s a thing? Then you’re definitely going to want to be wearing shorts or loose pants so that they can still access your legs. When it comes to tops – I opted for tanks so that they could be easily rolled up for tummy-needles and also because that heat lamp gets damn hot. Expect to pit out through your blouse if you stay in your portofino from Express.
- Prepare to discuss all of your inner-flaws. You know how sometimes when a doctor asks what’s wrong with you suddenly you’re perfect and you can’t remember a single thing, even though inside you’re screaming, “EVERYTHING! Everything is wrong, please fix me!!!” Yeah, don’t do that here. Pretend that you’re talking with your favorite Infertile, because you’re going to be asked some questions that even your RE hasn’t pressed you on (think: flow & clotting & color & your deepest darkest secret). You’ll most likely be asked to fill out an extensive questionnaire before your visit, which will cover everything from your emotional ‘yikes’ to your physical ‘ughs’.
- Napping is encouraged. As long as the heat lamp they put over your belly doesn’t tick like a running Pizzazz (thanks, Emily, now I have a craving for pizza), you’ll likely start to doze off. After all, there’s nothing else to do besides lay there with your eyes closed, which is the ideal set up for a snooze. If your acupuncturist allows it, you could pair your favorite meditation podcast with your treatment to help loosen up those limbs. Soothing British Voice: Now just relax, and picture yourself standing in the middle of a quiet field. Forget that if you move even slightly, you could be pushing a needle deep into your wrist. In the beginning you’ll feel like you’re getting set up to play Light As A Feather, Stiff As A Board, but as time goes on you should start to lose the tension and do some of that ‘relaxing’ that everyone demands you partake in.
Obviously this hasn’t helped my eggs or lining or ability to implant – but what about my anxiety? Well, after being shamed for my caffeine intake (“it’s not good for anxiety”) and then getting some crap for my Xanax (“it’s not good for the liver” – oh boo hoo) I can say with certainty that this too will not cure my anxiety (it’s a good temporary fix if you are out of Xanax though!) And sure, after talking with her I switched from coffee to green tea and it makes me way less anxious, but maybe I was planning on making that lifestyle change before Emily mentioned it! Of all the things I’ve tried in the past year and a half, I’m okay with this one not working. Oh shucks, can’t spend almost $1,000 a month for a nap anymore. Looks like it’s back to pure, expensive science for me!