Updated: Jun 15
"How Do You Choose A Good Fertility Acupuncturist?"
The answer to that question could be as long as a piece of string - personal recommendation, personal connection, experience, training, appointment availability, location and even opening hours may all influence your choice. But it is definitely worth conciously bringing this decision making process into focus.
Can All Acupuncturists Treat Fertility?
I am firmly of the belief that anyone who concentrated during their Acupuncture degree would be able to work with you to improve your fertility by improving your underlying health. Chinese Acupuncture is based on the principles of Chinese Medicine, the body is seen as a whole entity, and any improvement you make to any area will have a beneficial effect on other aspects of health. For this reason, many acupuncturists advertise 'fertility' on their websites, with no additional training beyond that included in their general acupuncture degree. This is a bit like going to see a GP; perfectly adequate for straightforward, relatively simple cases if you pick a good GP, but for more complex cases, in-depth, specialised knowledge is needed. If your case is more complicated, you want to work with someone who has expert knowledge. You want to choose someone with expert knowledge of the complex underlying biology of fertility, conception and early pregnancy, knowledge of menstrual hormones; someone who knows their AMH from their FSH, someone who understands the complexities of the multiple causes of PCOS and when and why to run blood tests to check hormone levels.
I had numerous success cases in my clinic long before I acquired the specialist knowledge that I now have. These successes happened because I applied the basic principles of supporting health and wellness from a Chinese Medicine perspective and the body responded by boosting fertility as general health improved. But as I worked increasingly often with fertility clients, occasionally I would come across a particularly difficult case - a case where I felt there was more to it. Yet I had nowhere to go for the answers, within the acupuncture world we don't have a GP/Consultant system in place, and if the magic isn’t working, we have no easy way to work out why it isn’t happening.
My Decision To Specialise in Fertility Acupuncture
As a direct response to this frustration, I took a conscious decision to specialise in fertility acupuncture so that I could dive in deeper, learn more and make personal connections within the fertility world that I could draw on for those more difficult cases. I knew that I couldn’t take this decision lightly; to me, each and every case I take on feels like a personal crusade. I struggled with unexplained infertility for years, battling endometriosis, PCOS and long periods of amenorrhea (non-ovulation). I have been through IUI and IVF and felt sharply the dread and fear that so often accompanies a pregnancy after a long episode of infertility. In order to work exclusively in this field, I needed to be at the top of my game.
As a member of the British Acupuncture Council, I am required to complete a certain amount of continuing professional development each year. For a few years I bounced around from one course another, soaking in all the knowledge I could, finding myself increasingly frustrated, at times it felt as though the training that I wanted was simply not available.
For me, something was clearly lacking. I didn’t want to keep going to mid-level courses that simply regurgitated the same information, I wanted knowledge, technical, scientific and detailed knowledge. I personally had no interest in aligning myself to a brand name - I am unwilling to align myself with any particular brand of supplements, books or other elements of the 'fertility industry' (I will recommend products that I firmly believe in for certain issues, but few products get on my list!).
If I was to work in this space, I had to go in fully tooled up – I needed to be totally confident in my own knowledge, and I needed to find a network of intelligent, experienced and like-minded souls to associate with that I could call for support for a particularly complex or difficult case. I wanted to understand stuff from both a western and Chinese medicine perspective. There is so much information out there about the Western medical understanding of fertility, and so much information out there about the Chinese medicine approach to fertility, but the two worlds are usually so far apart.
The Solution - Naava Carman's Diploma in Advanced Level Fertility Acupuncture
At this point I stumbled across Naava Carman’s Diploma in Advanced Level Fertility. In contrast to all the other courses I had taken, this was the only one that had a strict prior knowledge requirement, and the questions tested the limits of my Western medical knowledge so I knew I had stumbled across something different. I hoped this would mean that the course would go beyond the basics, dive deeper than any of the courses I had already taken; I was not disappointed.
Naava’s diploma course was long, complex and fascinating. While rooted in Chinese medicine, the course is incredibly technical from a Western medicine perspective – far beyond the level of detail that most general acupuncturists would want to go to, but absolutely what I hoped for. Throughout the course there were numerous light-bulb moments, and so much information that has totally revolutionised the way that I work in clinic.
My knowledge and understanding of the mechanisms behind many of the hidden causes of infertility has grown exponentially. I used to be able to competently treat a basic cycle to improve fertility – that was a fine way to work and helped many ladies to conceive, but my approach now is so much more advanced. I have confidence in my knowledge, I know what I know and I know how to find out what I don’t know. I thrive on the tricky cases, the ‘unexplained infertility’ cases. I am able to work with my clients to extract vital clues from their cycle, from their blood tests and scan reports – all while working on soothing angst and emotional pain, and gently supporting the cycle with acupuncture and lifestyle advice.
The feedback I get is incredible and my clients feel empowered – I teach them how to know their cycle, how to read their hormonal indicators, to understand how to support their cycle to move towards a healthier state. I know what blood tests I need to deepen my understanding of someone’s cycle; I know how to interpret the results and how to use that information to guide treatment. I know when to push my clients to insist on further testing, and why it is so important that they do so. Blood tests and scan reports are also invaluable tools for monitoring the impact of treatment.
Knowledge really is power, for both me and for my clients. I am able to explain the intricacies of FSH and LH levels to someone, to talk about the mechanisms that drive PCOS or help someone else to understand how subclinical hypothyroidism can impact their fertility. But one of the most valuable aspects of training with Naava has come in the form of our ongoing support network– fondly referred to as the ‘hive mind’! When stuck with an unusual set of blood results, or trying to work out the meaning of an unusual symptom, I have a network of some of the most amazing fertility practitioners to call on. We are an active, mutually supportive group, an incredible pool of knowledge and experience.
If you are an acupuncturists considering specialising in this amazing space, I can’t recommend the Diploma in Advanced Fertility Acupuncture enough – it really is a game-changer. And if you want an acupuncturist who understands the whole picture, who can work closely with you to work out how to improve your fertility, search your area for a Fertility Support Trained Acupuncturist and be prepared to dig a little deeper.