A highly respected doctor specializing in infertility treatments had convinced me that I would never conceive naturally. He said I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) a condition in which the ovaries grow many small cysts in a classic ring-like structure, that lead to hormonal imbalances (mainly the overproduction of the male hormone, testosterone), and to fertility problems. The doctor said that my case was so extreme, the only way I could have children was through In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF.) I was in my late 20’s, in good health , from a stable home and married to an extremely caring man who also desperately wanted to be a father. We were ready to be parents and we knew we would do everything to have a baby. IVF, however, was just not an option - it was unaffordable and more importantly, it made me feel “barren.”
I respected the doctor who tried to help us get pregnant over two years. I had gone through one and a half years of taking clomid - the first line of infertility treatment that helps the eggs mature and release on time - and failed. I had switched doctors and gone to a university teaching hospital to try another method. This time I used a fail-proof injectable medication that supposedly made the process more efficient - and failed. The last resort before IVF was In-Utero-Insemination (IUI) - a carefully controlled experiment in which the sperm is injected into the ovaries right before ovulation to increase the chances of fertilization. We failed even this one. By the end of two years, my uterine lining was so thin - a known side-effect of clomid - that I couldn’t have conceived naturally. I was very close to giving up. My days were so dark, I had the worst nightmares.I just couldn't bear the thought of not carrying the child of the man I so dearly loved. I couldn’t accept that I was infertile.
I had heard of Ayurveda, the ancient healing science originating in India, and about its effectiveness in overcoming infertility. As a last resort I decided to give it a try. Before I could go to India, however, I thought I’d inquire about Ayurvedic practitioners in my local community. Nobody had heard about Ayurveda but a friend, Kerri Diamant who headed AlterMed Research Foundation, an organization that studied alternative medicine, recommended Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture. For the first time, I heard about Rachel Blunk who practiced fertility acupuncture. I was extremely skeptical about needles inserted into various parts of my body helping me conceive a child. It just didn’t seem plausible. But I didn’t have a choice. It was either go to India, or give acupuncture an honest shot. The needles were definitely more cost-effective!
In my first meeting with Dr. Blunk, she asked me to call her Rachel. She sat down beside me and made sure I felt comfortable in her small but well appointed treatment room. She didn’t wear a doctor’s coat and had the most genial smile on her face. She looked at me with genuine interest and looked like someone who wanted to help. I felt like pouring out my sorrows. And I did without a pause. I shared with her the horror of how I tried to get pregnant using conventional methods - the drugs, the countless ultrasounds, the injections, the negative pregnancy tests, and anger, humiliation, helplessness and desperation. I told her about my PCOS and that I was made to feel “inferior” because of it.
After about 30 minutes, she took a deep breath and asked me to stick my tongue out. I thought it odd but did it nevertheless. She looked at my tongue for what felt like an eternity. Then she checked my pulse. In the end she said the most unexpected. In her professional opinion, I did not have PCOS at all, definitely not one that could result in infertility. She pointed out for example, that I didn’t have excessive facial hair or obesity - classic symptoms of the testosterone imbalance in patients with PCOS. I wondered why that hadn’t been brought to my attention before. She felt that all I needed was some relaxation. My “Chinese heart” was weak and need stabilization. She then told me that not only could I get pregnant naturally, it would happen within six months. All I had to do was come to a weekly session of acupuncture and take some Chinese herbs to help me relax. All that by looking at my tongue??!!
I just couldn't believe my ears, Did she really know what she was doing or was she just playing “doc doc.?” A part of me really wanted to believe her but the bigger part was extremely unsure.Of course the perennial self-doubt consumed me. I hadn’t questioned on Dr. Expert before? Was I making the same mistake again? How much did I really know about acupuncture? Would the needles hurt? Would the herbal medicines have any side-effects? Ultimately would this really help me mother a child? Was I asking for the moon here?
After discussing the situation with my husband, I decided to give Rachel the benefit of doubt. I had nothing to lose after all and a lot to gain. The herbs were not expensive and Rachel had promised that the needles wouldn't hurt. She was also absolutely sure that I would have a baby within six months. The carrot she dangled was irresistible and that's how I began my weekly tryst with acupuncture.
The sessions always started with Rachel asking me how I felt. She was always personable and professional. She made me feel at ease. All sessions began with her checking my pulse and peering into my outstretched tongue. Then I had to lie down on a comfortable table, much like a massage table and she would insert the needles into strategic treatment points on my body - around the rim of my ears, my forehead, chest, wrists and ankles. Some around my navel too. The needles didn’t hurt at all - they were extremely fine and felt like small pin pricks. I had my eyes closed and in many a session even drifted off to sleep. After an hour, Rachel would come back and inquire about me. The needles came off and she gave me the herbs I was to take home that week. The herbs were in pill form and easy to take and had absolutely no side-effects. I started enjoying my weekly meetings with Rachel and felt much better. I was finally off the hook with ultrasounds and all-important doctors telling me how to treat my sex life. I was almost back to feeling like my old self again. Till I was six weeks into my acupuncture treatment.
At the end of the sixth session, Rachel asked me to take a pregnancy test and report to her the following week. I thought Rachel must have been out of her mind to even consider that I may be expecting. It had only been six weeks!
I took the test the next week just to tell Rachel that I wasn't with child. I was so sure the test would be negative, I didn't even bother to look at it. I was pottering around the house and came back a few minutes later to discard the test. Lo and behold! There it was - the second line that had eluded me for so long, I simply couldn't believe it was actually there and clearly visible. I was definitely pregnant. I was ecstatic. My husband was out of town and I wanted him to be the first one to know. I tried his number with trembling hands. It was busy. I tried again and again and again for a good 10 minutes when he finally picked up. I was bawling by then and am sure he must have been sick with worry when he picked up the 100th call. Of course he didn't believe that the home pregnancy test was positive. Just like me he had his hopes dashed so often that it took a lot to convince him that he was going to be father. To make matters worse, I just couldn't stop crying. We were going to a family, we would have a child of our very own. I wasn't a failure…
Rachel had known a week before that I had conceived and knew that a pregnancy test would bring home the good news. She had been right again just like with the other women. When I told her, she was genuinely happy for me. We hugged like friends - a woman to woman. She understood...
For the next three months, I took acupuncture treatments to make sure I gave my baby the best possible start. The treatments were designed to prevent a miscarriage and to help bolster my general health. I was perhaps the happiest during that time. And I finally believed in the power of acupuncture and in the power of positive thinking. Rachel was right - I didn't have PCOS after all. All I need was some TLC.
I had a healthy, uneventful pregnancy and a normal, full-term baby. He was the most beautiful newborn and when he opened his eyes to look at me, I knew I had met my destiny. A year and a half later, I conceived again. I didn't even know I was expecting till seven weeks later. His too was a full-term, uncomplicated pregnancy. I had not been taking any medication, even prenatal vitamins. I was just happy being a mother and God rewarded me again…
My experience with Rachel was so positive that I told everyone I could. A friend who had also been given the “death sentence” of IVF due to PCOS got help from Rachel and got pregnant after four months of treatment. Yet another friend got help for her fibroids under Rachel’s treatment but couldn't conceive, unfortunately, because of other complications. I am not advocating acupuncture as a cure-all for infertility. Several factors have to be considered before embarking on this path- age of the patient, correct diagnoses of the underlying problem, the academic credentials and successful track record of the acupuncture practitioner etc. The game changer, however, is faith. A strong belief that non-conventional treatments help the body do what it was designed to do naturally.
My children are thriving today and are as boisterous as children can be. I am an extremely happy and grateful mother. I learned an important lesson along the way: alternative medicine has an important place in restoring our body’s natural rhythm. Our bodies are capable of healing themselves with a little help. Western medicine definitely offers quick results but it also comes with a lot of excess baggage in the form of long-term side-effects. More and more women are finding that acupuncture can help them in their journey toward motherhood, either used alone or in conjunction with standard medical protocols.
I am posting this anonymously but am happy to answer any questions. Just email me by commenting on this post and I will try to answer your questions to the best of my ability. Thank you!