Acupuncture and Pregnancy: Getting to the Point with Rebecca

Rebecca Gemperle, Healing Foundations Co-Founder    It should come as no surprise that Rebecca received regular acupuncture and complementary therapy treatments throughout her two pregnancies.

Rebecca Gemperle, Healing Foundations Co-Founder

It should come as no surprise that Rebecca received regular acupuncture and complementary therapy treatments throughout her two pregnancies.

If you're a regular at Healing Foundations, chances are good you've crossed paths with an obviously-expectant mom, or maybe even a baby or two in the Healing Foundations lobby. Since opening six years ago, the clinic has provided pre- and post-natal care to many dozens of moms and their little ones.

Clinic co-founder Rebecca Gemperle says that treating fertility and pregnancy directly correlates to the holistic nature of acupuncture. "Simply put, our treatments support a woman's body so it can produce an optimal environment for conceiving and carrying a baby. We work on managing stress and general wellness, but also specific issues they may be experiencing before they become pregnant— like regulating monthly cycles."

Historically, about half of Healing Foundations' prenatal patients have had or are receiving fertility support like IVF (in-vitro fertilization) or IUI (intrauterine insemination). "We work closely with the patient to minimize the sometimes considerable side-effects of hormones and medications required in those processes, and to prepare and support her body for egg retrieval or embryo transfer. Certain things happen at particular times in the process, and each acupuncture treatment reflects each step and what comes next." Rebecca adds that "Once a patient becomes, treatments focus on supporting the mother to allow her body to best provide for the growing embryo."


"Babies are adorable. They're fun.
But also, it makes women check in and take care of themselves.
It's part of why I like doing fertility work."


"Western medicine does have technological advantages that we don't," Rebecca points out. "Important things that affect a woman's ability to conceive can be discovered with blood and hormonal testing for example, or the means to diagnose PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)— those diagnostics that are beyond the scope of our practice. Most doctors are encouraging when it comes to their patients seeking acupuncture because what we do supports their efforts. The difference between ART (Assisted Reproductive Therapy) working or not can depend upon the baseline of their patient. That's where we come in— helping to improve the odds of conception holistically, without additional drugs or side effects. And of course, when an OBGYN or reproductive endocrinologist (fertility doctor) does diagnose a problem, we devise treatments to assist with those issues as they arise."

As the mother of two young girls, Rebecca understands her patients well. "The drive to have a baby is very strong," she says quite dryly. "When you want a baby, you want a baby. Babies are adorable. They're fun. But also, it makes women check in and take care of themselves. It's part of why I like doing fertility work. Addressing what your stressors and lifestyle are, and how it affects your chances of growing your family become a big factor. Our approach includes the obvious basics like managing stress levels, promoting proper sleep and diet while treating the symptoms and effects of pregnancy."

Regular acupuncture treatments can help with a number of conditions some expectant mothers suffer: morning sickness, back and joint pain, fatigue, mood swings, heartburn, constipation, plus preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure) and gestational diabetes.

"Acupuncture is sought out most commonly to treat morning sickness, but for the best results over the course of a pregnancy, we can create the most benefit by starting before someone hopes to actually conceive," reports Rebecca. "If you're thinking of trying, that's the time to begin acupuncture treatments. It takes about three months of 'prep work' to create an optimal environment for conception — quality follicles,  appropriate hormone levels, a good endometrial layer— all these things take time to get ready." She's quick to add that acupuncture for reproductive health isn't just an issue for women. "Research shows that acupuncture is really helpful for men, when it comes to the health and viability of sperm. Plan ahead," she advises.

"All of us at Healing Foundations have worked with hopeful parents excited about growing their families. We see the whole process, and encourage continuing care after the big arrival. We also see plenty of little ones for pediatric acu-therapy and herbal remedies, and even offer infant massage instruction to help keep everyone healthy and happy," says Rebecca, with a smile. "And of course, that's wonderfully satisfying."

 

Link: Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy
Link: Study Shows Alternative Treatment May Help Male Infertility Problems
Link: Correction of Breech Presentation: A Randomized Controlled Trial

 

The long road to awareness: FDA seeks to formalize the inevitable

On May 10th, the US Food and Drug Administration released a proposal for what primary healthcare providers should know and share with their patients about integrative medicine as it pertains to pain management (1).

It's a addendum actually, to recommendations the agency put together in 2011 in response to the United States' escalating problem with overuse and abuse of prescribed pharmaceuticals. The problem isn't only that prescriptions get abused, but also that for some people, opioid painkillers are so addictive they sometimes serve as a gateway to abuse of non-prescribed drugs, too. In Ohio last year, a record 3,050 residents died from fatal drug overdoses. Most of those deaths were from heroine or legal painkillers like Fentanyl (2). Fentanyl is the legal and very powerful prescription drug that killed the singer Prince.


The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services states quite dryly, that: 

"Opioid abuse is a serious public health issue.
Drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States."


The FDA believes that if physicians are educated about non-pharmacologic alternatives to pain management— and share that information with their patients— a broader, more inclusive, and potentially healthier approach might replace the singular stranglehold drugs have on patients' consciousness— before addiction takes place. The fact is, acupuncture and chiropractic care, which the FDA also added to its recommendation, are drug-free therapies that provide pain relief for many people, but are historically left out of the conversation in physician's offices. For the most part, patients have been left to explore and discover non-pharmaceutical therapies on their own, which only reinforces the idea of a separation of traditional and integrative care.


“[Health care providers] should be knowledgeable about the range of available therapies, when they may be helpful, and when they should be used as part of a multidisciplinary approach to pain management,” says the FDA in its proposal.


This development is welcome news to providers of integrative therapies that have been traditionally marginalized by Western medicine, but these recommendations haven't been adopted as official protocol as yet. The FDA is accepting public comment on its proposal through July 10th. It is a small thing just to be included in the health care conversation, but a really important step in the right direction for providing thoughtful and appropriate health care for everyone.

The best news is that this move by the FDA isn't really all that ground breaking. There's been a spate of recent articles highlighting how Western medicine serves patients better when integrating therapies once thought of as being alternative. From Shakopee Hospital and Owatonna Hospital in Minnesota, to world-renknown Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston, hospitals around the country are seeing how acupuncture can assist and improve patient care before, during and after traditional treatments.


“They think what we do is hocus pocus, and we don’t do hocus pocus.”

– Dr. Marcia Prenguber, University of Bridgeport; Massachusetts 


A terrific article from Connecticut Magazine explains the inevitable rise of integrative medicine, for problems ranging from substance abuse to better care for cancer patients. “The health care market needs it, the patients want choices,” says Dr. David M. Brady, Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of Bridgeport. “They don’t want just drugs and surgery, they want more comprehensive solutions to their chronic health challenges.” 

 

 

1) LINK: https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/NewsEvents/UCM557071.pdf
2) LINK: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ohio-coroner-runs-out-of-room-for-bodies-spike-in-opioid-deaths/

RELATED: Drug makers push back on limiting access to their products: https://www.statnews.com/2016/09/18/drugmakers-fought-state-opioid-limits-amid-crisis/?s_campaign=trendmd

Know your practitioner: Is it really acupuncture?


Not all needling is acupuncture

Popularity of acupuncture in the U.S is growing and becomes more integrated with Western medicine practices every day. General Practitioners are referring their patients to acupuncturists on a regular basis, the use of acupuncture needles has begun filtering into a number of healing therapies. 

What is dry needling, and how is it different than acupuncture?
Dry needling is the practice of inserting acupuncture needles into tender or painful points in muscle or tissue, then rotating or lightly jiggling them to induce a spasm and/or increase blood flow. Doctors or therapists in a number of fields often offer dry needling as an á-la-carte service. Practitioners using this method are not licensed acupuncturists, and have not received the training and education required to be one. Dry needling (using acupuncture needles) is a less involved way to leverage the efficacy of acupuncture by performing it without studying or employing it's diagnostic or treatment complexities fully or practicing it in a clinical setting. Obtaining the needles used in acupuncture is considerably easier than getting the training to use them. In recent years, everyone from physical therapists to cosmeticians have begun offering dry needling services, while inaccurately promoting that acupuncture is based in psuedoscience.


 

Licensed, degreed Acupuncturists
accumulate 1,500 to 2,000 hours of hands-on experience before they're allowed to practice on their own.


Click here to see CCAOM's comparison of required study hours for different acupuncture applications.

 

 The difference is in the training— and It's the law.
Acupuncture is just one modality belonging to the holistic, drug-free therapies of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Anyone who practices acupuncture must have extensive education, and by law, must be licensed to do so. Licensed Acupuncturists (LAc) who've obtained an accredited degree and passed national certification exams have 1,500 to 2,000 hours of hands-on experience before they can begin practicing on their own. Knowing acupuncture's strengths, limitations and even risks is an important part of a licensed acupuncturists knowledge base. Even doctors in Western medicine who choose to integrate acupuncture in their practice are only required a minimum of 200 hours of training—just a tenth of a licensed acupuncturist, and they're are required to know when the scope of their training ends, and to refer their patient to a fully-licensed acupuncture practitioner. If anyone is using acupuncture needles to treat you, you deserve to know the basis of their treatment, and the amount of education and expertise they possess to perform it.

Security, safety, knowledge, and experience:
Every one of our acupuncture practitioners at Healing Foundations have graduate degrees in Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (AOM). Eighty percent of their schooling is exclusively in AOM, and they've undergone 3-4 years extensive clinical training. When we say that Healing Foundations offers Acupuncture and Complementary Therapies, that's not just talk; our practitioners have the education and training to back up every one of your treatments, plus the knowledge and experience to carry out your holistic treatment plan.

Getting in the Game with Integrative Medicine

For many people, ya gotta see it to believe it. And everybody did. Those dark circles dotting the backs and shoulders of the Olympic swimmers caught everyone's attention...and suddenly practitioners all over the country were inundated with inquiries about cupping. Rebecca was among those interviewed for a story on the phenomenon in the Chicago Tribune. She and Lisa, Revital and Jennifer have all kept busy cupping in the weeks after the Olympic games, and now we're beginning to see those clients again, and they're bringing referrals, too.

Cupping isn't new of course, nor are any of the other therapies available at Healing Foundations—and Chinese Medicine isn't new to sports, either. If you follow us on Facebook, you know that along with scientific findings, goings on and a few pretty pictures, we like to share links to stories about pro athletes like the NBA's Pao Gasol and a few of the (numerous) players in the NFL who rely on acupuncture to stay in the game. Along with other acupuncture stories, we'll occasionally even throw a non-sports celebrity or animal story into the mix (some of the more peculiar stories involve both).


 

Athletes have a heightened awareness of their bodies and the utmost interest in getting and staying healthy.  
They don't dabble, and they don't take chances with it.

 

What's great about athletes is that they have a vested interest in maintaining their optimal health, and for better or worse, people watch and follow them. The influence of sports isn't limited to t.v. and social media. Advances in orthopedics, technology, and even nutrition that originated in athletics have greatly influenced the general public. We're not talking "breakfast of champions" here; we're talking about surgical and rehabilitation techniques, plus better safety and training practices for youth, weekend athletes, and armchair athletes, too.

We don't advocate basing your healthcare on what you see on television, but it's only natural that if someone who inspires and exposes you to something new, you're likely to take notice and engage in conversations about it that you might not have otherwise. Being aware and informed about your choices is crucial—and smart. Being "in the game" may not mean becoming an athlete, it may just mean being educated on all your options. We at Healing Foundations are healers, not pro athletes. Still, we hope that our care and the therapies we offer are part of your heath and wellness agenda.

We're thrilled when our clients talk about their experiences at Healing Foundations, but even if we'd bought a Super Bowl commercial, we doubt we could have created as much buzz and as many conversations about integrative therapies as those polka-dots upon expanses of those barely-covered Olympic bodies, and we love them for it.

When alternative becomes alterna-not: choice, integration, and health will prosper.

“I don’t know how it works, but it works.” That’s what a patient said today when they called to book an acupuncture appointment. Three thoughts come to mind. First and foremost, acupuncture had relieved the condition this patient had been suffering from and the experience prompted them to seek out treatment again. Second; do we as patients always understand exactly how medicine works? And lastly; if it works, does it really count as "alternative?"
 
In the United States, more than 67% of office visits to physicians of Western medicine involved drug therapy(1). Do we know—really know—each drug’s chemical makeup, which organ excretes what hormone in response, the chain of reaction that causes our condition—or symptoms of that condition—to improve? Does not knowing impact our belief or investment in them? Western medicine and pharmaceuticals save and improve the quality of people’s lives, but like all forms of medicine, it's a marriage of art and science. Dosages are adjusted and alternatives are explored. There are undesirable side effects. On the whole and as a culture however, we have tremendous faith in the system of Western medicine: at any given time, 48% of the U.S. population is using at least one prescription drug (1).
 
Slowly, the American experience is changing. In recent months we’ve posted numerous articles to the Healing Foundations Facebook page about the growing presence of acupuncture on the healthcare landscape. The U.S. military is using and expanding acupuncture for the treatment of PTSD and chronic pain (2). Among its many studies involving acupuncture and other integrative medicine (3), Yale Medical School is engaged in a fifteen-year research project to reconcile Eastern and Western medicine theologies by applying modern scientific research standards to Traditional Chinese Medicine in the treatment of liver, pancreatic and colorectal cancers. The results have been extremely promising (4).


It is time for all stakeholders making or influencing health and medical care decisions to step back, take a collective breath, and consider what they can do to restructure the highly reductionist biomedical approach to health, illness, and disease that continues to fall short of meeting the needs of many Americans...
Dan Cherkin, PhD.


This past March, The Journal of the American Medical Association published a paper by Dr. Dan Cherkin (5) that said what many have thought but were previously afraid to say: "Hold up a minute! What are we doing, here?" Cherkin's call to inaction was in response to a randomized controlled trial examining the value of mindfulness-based stress reduction for people with low back pain. The findings showed that the alternative treatments were no more effective than sham treatments—and that's what the people picked up on: that the "alternative" medicine wasn't worth anything because it was no more effective than fake treatment. Except...neither was the traditional treatment. No treatment proved better than the sham treatment: not "standard," not "alternative." Huffington Post did a good job of summarizing the scenario, but regretfully— they buried the story in the "Healthy Living" section (6).

Sure, we would have been very happy to share the news if the study had proven that acupuncture or another "non-Western" therapy had outperformed other methods, but the story the results tells is actually quite amazing. Science is finally proving that alternative is alterna-not. 

We're confident in the scientific future of acupuncture and other holistic therapies: no one methodology will have an upper hand. The future is integrative, not separatist. Western medicine and all it's miracles will join forces and work hand-in-hand with holistic practices to decrease pain and side effects, and improve the lives of everyone. And that is all we could ask for. 

Healing Foundations
Acupuncture and integrative holistic health, since 2011.

References:
(1) http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/drug-use-therapeutic.htm
(2) http://ripr.org/post/pulse-battlefield-acupuncture-alternative-therapies-reduce-pain-veterans
(3) http://medicine.yale.edu/integrativemedicine/research/areas.aspx
(4) http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=33147
(5) http://trialsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1745-6215-15-211
(6) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-weeks/integrative-pain-research_b_9775060.html