Before your first appointment
Do your research
If you haven't already, check out our guide to what acupuncture is and how to helps with fertility problems.
Save your pennies
Acupuncture costs from around £50 a session, and with regular consultations over the course of a few cycles, it can get pretty pricey. Selina recommends doing several things in preparation for your first consultation to make sure you get your money’s worth.
Visit your GP
“Ideally clients will already have had investigations into any reasons for their infertility,” explains Selina. “It’s important to get your GP to check all the structural things are working, that there is sperm, that your tubes are clear, that sort of thing.”
Know your cycle
The more info you have about your cycle, the easier it will be for your acupuncturist to understand how your body is working. Selina is fanatical about keeping a record of your basal body temperature. You can get a thermometer and booklet to do this online (search for “basal body temperature thermometer) and take your temperature every morning, absolutely first thing before you even move (apart from reaching for the thermometer!).
It’s also a good idea to note down when you have sex and the length, flow and any other details of your period as this will also help you track your progress with treatment.
Learn about cervical mucus
Another, even less glamorous thing to look for is your cervical mucus. Nope, there really is no such thing as too much information in the TTC world!
“During your cycle, your body is protected from bugs and infections by a mucus plug at your cervix. In combination with your cycle, once a month, this plug is expelled, giving sperm its best chance of reaching the egg before it builds up again,” explains Selina. She advises keeping an eye out for this mucus, and noting down any changes in consistency or amount, as well as the date it happens.
How many sessions will you have and what will happen?
Sessions aren't regular
You’ll have four sessions each cycle, but these are dictated by your body and so aren’t at regular intervals. “We usually have a flurry of texts in the morning as we rearrange appointments because clients don’t get their period the day they expect or when they notice their cervical mucus has arrived. It’s a very fluid process,” said Selina.
Treatment won't start straightaway
At your first appointment, don’t expect to begin treatment right away. Your acupuncturist should take a thorough medical and menstrual history and, if you haven’t already, get you to start keeping a record of your base temperature. You will probably also be asked questions about your diet and lifestyle to build up a complete picture.
Each session has a different purpose
Treatment sessions begin on the first day you start to bleed. There is a sort of acupuncture D&C, which helps your uterus clear out completely, to begin the next cycle on a smooth, clear surface. The next session will be on the last day of your period and aims to encourage the growth of Yin (the nurturing, passive energy). This nurtures the growth of follicles, secretions and the endometrium to give a fertilised egg the best chance of settling and taking.
The next sessions takes place when you notice your cervical mucus and encourages a change to the Yang energy. The next will be when your base temperature increases, to support the Yang (the warmer, more active energy).
Timing is vital
Timing is very important so you need to be flexible and pay attention to your body.
If it’s all sounding a bit out there to you, it’s worth remembering that acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years. But it doesn’t work for everyone, so speak to several acupuncturists when picking your treatment and go with your instincts. You may want to find other women who’ve tried it to discuss their experiences. As with all medicines, both Western and ancient, an open mind goes a long way.
Combining acupuncture and IVF
When combined with IVF, acupuncture could be more useful still. Many of Selina’s fertility patients are either undergoing IVF or are preparing to begin it. She says that while in the past many women came to her hoping to conceive naturally, over the last few years she’s seen an increase in those wanting to use acupuncture to partner IVF.
If you’re thinking about IVF, it’s worth seeing an acupuncturist first, a few months before you begin treatment as the aim of acupuncture is to regulate your body, and particularly your cycle to prepare you for IVF, to give it the best chance of working.
There have been studies that show the positive effect of the two combined, and Selina believes that part of the way acupuncture can help is by relaxing the uterus, which can become irritated by the hormones and stimulation required to harvest eggs by IVF. This, combined with regulating the cycle and a the very unscientific ingredient – good luck – might just be enough to give you that baby.