by Mary-Elizabeth Meagher
In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that one in five women experience infertility, and another one in four women suffer complications that result in miscarriage. These statistics can feel overwhelming to those who want to be parents but find it a challenge to conceive or sustain a full-term pregnancy.
Of course, there are conventional medicine options that seek to help with infertility, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). But these treatments can cost upwards of $12,000, and the results are not always effective. What you might not know, however, is that a holistic alternative to artificial insemination exists. Not only is this treatment less invasive, but with patience and consistency, it can be quite successful. Believe it or not, I’m referring to acupuncture.
In honor of Women’s Health Month, I have asked Dr. Christina Captain, DAOM and owner of Sarasota Center for Acupuncture and Nutrition, to share her wealth of knowledge on how this natural modality just might be the solution you’ve been looking for to combat infertility and achieve your dream of motherhood.
Natural Awakenings: How prevalent have you found infertility issues to be in your practice, and are there any specific known causes to be aware of?
Dr. Christina Captain: Difficulties with fertility in both men and women become increasingly more common with each passing year that I spend in practice. While most infertility cases occur due to numerous factors, I would say the most common threads are stress, anxiety and the feeling of pressure to conceive a healthy child.
NA: Which holistic treatment modalities do you recommend for the clients who come to your practice seeking help with infertility?
Dr. Captain: Acupuncture is the main modality I use to treat infertility issues, but supplements, dietary counseling and lifestyle change recommendations are also part of the treatment plan. I have a subspecialty in lab testing analysis as well. Assessing lab results from a functional medicine perspective can be the linchpin of a successful pregnancy.
NA: Are there any misconceptions that you encounter around infertility—and if so, can you give the facts that both men and women need to know?
Dr. Captain: In my experience, most people wait too long to investigate alternative modalities to the conventional assisted reproductive technologies. In addition, many do not understand that receiving acupuncture as an adjunct to their IVF cycle can improve the chances of a healthy, full-term pregnancy and birth. In fact, the chance of a successful conception is higher with the use of acupuncture before and after transfer during an IVF cycle than with IVF alone.
You can also use acupuncture as a solo treatment plan for fertility. Six months is the recommended time frame to prepare woman's body to sustain a successful pregnancy. Treatment frequency will depend on the age of the mother, but it’s usually two or three times per week, and commitment is essential. It’s also expensive, but the fact is, everything about parenthood—from delivering to raising a child—is a major financial investment.
Ultimately, keep in mind, that the goal is not just to become pregnant—that’s only the first step. The goal is to conceive, maintain a full-term pregnancy, then deliver a healthy newborn into its mother’s arms. However, there is no guarantee of a successful outcome. As with reproductive technologies, you invest in the process with no certainty of how it will turn out.
Infertility is not just relegated to women’s bodies either. In some cases, the father will experience infertility issues due to the impact of both external and internal stressors on healthy sperm production. Therefore, acupuncture sessions for the father are also part of my holistic treatment plan until a pregnancy is achieved.
NA: Which steps do you recommend that someone, who wants to conceive, takes in order to optimize their reproductive health?
Dr. Captain: First, determine that you want to have a child. Some people who come to my practice arrive with the mindset of, “Maybe I want to be pregnant,” or “Maybe I should work to increase fertility along with my other acupuncture therapy goals.” This ambivalence does not work—it has to be a firm commitment.
Once you make this decision, the next step is to schedule an appointment with a licensed acupuncture physician. You are welcome to see me at the Sarasota Center for Acupuncture and Nutrition (SCAN). In addition to these treatments, some other lifestyle habits and factors you’ll want to take into account include consistent exercise, healthy eating, optimal sleep, and stress management. Follow this protocol for the best chance of reproductive wellness.
To further illustrate, I have a story of someone who came in for fertility treatments. A 39-year-old female, whom I will refer to as Katie (not her real name), had not been able to conceive naturally despite several attempts over a number of years. She had previously undergone tests from her OB/GYN, but no diagnosable cause of infertility was found.
She came to my practice and began a treatment plan of acupuncture sessions, dietary changes and a supplement regime. Several life issues surfaced for her in the midst of those treatments, and the COVID-19 pandemic hit during this time as well. But in spite of the setbacks, both Katie and her husband chose to commit to the plan.
Eventually, discouragement set in, influencing her to consider IVF therapy, but I asked her to wait for just one more menstrual cycle. The next week, Katie and her husband were able to celebrate the news that she was finally pregnant, and she has since fulfilled her lifelong dream of becoming a mother to a healthy, vibrant little boy.
Dr. Christina Captain, DAOM, is the owner and lead practitioner of Sarasota Center for Acupuncture and Nutrition. Her practice is located at 2650 Bahia Vista Street, Suite 101, Sarasota. For more information and to schedule an appointment, call 941-951-1119 or visit SarasotaCenterForAcupunctureAndNutrition.com.
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer is the Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Sarasota–Manatee. She also works as a freelance writer, blogger and social media marketer. Her personal blog HealthBeAHippie.Wordpress.com features tips for embracing an active, nutritious, balanced and empowered lifestyle.