Sunday, 6 September 2015

Voluntarily subjecting myself to needles

I hate needles. I don't think I know anyone who likes them, but I really don't like them. I have a tendency to faint. As described in my post about my laparoscopy, my veins really, REALLY do not like IV's. But a bunch of people in several fertility support groups recommend acupuncture for fertility. And since my extended healthcare plan allows me $350 of acupuncture per year, I thought I'd give it a go, to try to optimize "try # 1" to make it "first and last try."

As it turns out, the acupuncture clinic pushes starting treatments about 3 months before you are attempting to conceive / before your IUI/IVF procedure, in order to optimize egg health. But they were willing to work with me anyway, even though I had already started my cycle.

The intake form was seriously intense. Many questions that I had never really thought about or considered to be 'medical'. Questions about my body temperature or whether I thought of myself as often irritable. A LOT of questions about the quantity and quality of my menstrual flow, urine and bowel movements. Totally TMI.

The first appointment was a general consultation. No actual acupuncture, just an extensive and repetitive review of my form, more questions about my diet and lifestyle, etc. I have arthritis, so there were a fair number of questions about that. (Bonus: if the acupuncture can help my fertility AND my arthritis, I just may be a customer for life...)

Then, instead of acupuncture, I was somewhat disappointed to be recommended a special elimination "detox" diet thing with expensive protein powder supplement "Mediclear" and little else to eat, which the acupuncturist recommended I do for 3 weeks. He brought out a glossy brochure and painstakingly went over the foods that were allowed and not allowed during the three weeks. I tried to move things along but that did not work at all. And that took up the appointment time.

I said I would consider the diet. Because I had been thinking about how I could have a food sensitivity that was affecting my arthritis. Many people do, and are able to manage their symptoms through their diet. But this was just too much. I went home and read the brochure in detail - no dairy, no beef, no gluten, no tomatoes, no sugar, no food. And another thing that concerned me: the brochure warned against using the diet during pregnancy.

I decided to do some good old fashioned research.  I googled the hell out of Mediclear. Mediclear plus clinical study. Etc. The company that makes Mediclear is called "Thorne Research" and make a big stink on their website about their affiliation with the Mayo Clinic. Their website has a page called "Clinical Trials". actual trials. No actual research. Apparently the only one talking about this wonder product from Thorne Research is...Thorne Research.

The following week when I saw my acupuncturist I told him I would not be going on the diet. He asked why, and I said the brochure said it was not for pregnant women. He said that it was just a supplement and whole foods and that it would be fine. Then I said there had been no clinical trials, and I like my medicine to be at least SOMEWHAT evidence-based (see summaries on some clinical trials regarding fertility acupuncture here). He looked at me somewhat quizically at that moment, as if he was wondering what I was talking about. I gave up. Let's move on from this diet thing and onto why I'm here: needles. I did commit to reducing my dairy and gluten intake for a while (I already eat very little sugar) to see how that went. Again, that somewhat surprised me. I would have expected his focus to be on eliminating the potentially inflamation-causing nightshade group (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes etc) but nope. Gluten. He wants me to be one of THOSE GLUTEN PEOPLE. God help me. No.

I should pause at this point to tell you that in the months and year leading up to this point, I have been trying to become more healthy in preparation for this process. I have just made it to a healthy weight according to my BMI...until about two months ago I was underweight. So...the thought of eating even healthier and probably less food was not particularly appealing to me from the get go.  But I will try to (gently) exercise a bit more.

I've now had two sessions of actual acupuncture, in addition to the consult. It's fine. There are needles, you feel them, but not too much. I have had a few tiny bruises, but that's all. Laying there on the "ion something or other" bed with sounds of the ocean and a lavendar eye pillow is kind of lovely. But I'm not sure I'm getting anything out of my $90 per treatment that I couldn't replicate at home sans-needles.

When I asked some people I know about their experiences with acupuncture and what they felt they got out of it, they said 'relaxation' and 'de-stressing'. Again, do I need needles for that?

I hit the max of the extended health benefits next session. I think I'll go for 4 sessions of actual acupuncture and then stop, unless I experience some kind of miraculous something or other.

Worth a try, though. I mean, it can't hurt.

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