When I started ttc over the age of 40 and was gearing up for IVF, I decided I should start acupuncture to help maximise my chances. Boy, have I learned a few things since then!
How to tell if your acupuncturist is NOT a good choice:
I initially chose an acupuncturist who was quite close by, whom I eventually decided wasn’t a good choice. To help others choose a good one, maybe it would help to describe what made me think so …
- Didn’t ask me what day of my cycle I was on when I went, and didn’t alter acupuncture points according to where I was in my cycle.
- Did not have a clear understanding of IUI/IVF, i.e. what happens at different parts of the cycle.
- Didn’t seem to have a clear understanding of what happens in a natural cycle, e.g. when implantation occurs (7-10dpo).
- Wasn’t able to explain clearly what my Chinese medicine diagnosis was, or the rationale behind the treatment plan. [This wasn't an ESL issue - the person was a born and bred kiwi.]
- In hindsight, seemed to be trying to treat so many things in one acu session (loads of needles; I was a total pincushion) that I started wondering if some of the points used were actually cancelling out the effect of others.
- Wasn’t actually formally trained in acupuncture. [I know, I know, what was I thinking?!]
When I switched to another [competent] acu, the difference was just night and day on ALL the above points.
Acupuncture Qualifications and Credentials
The New Zealand Register of Acupuncture has a list of those acupuncturists who are members of the NZRA. If someone is NOT a member of NZRA or another relevant professional association, you should certainly raise an eyebrow. However, the fact that someone is a member of one of these NZ ‘registers’ is NO guarantee of quality. The acupuncturist I mentioned above, who had NO formal qualifications in acupuncture, was (and is) a long-time member of NZRA. Current requirements to join NZRA include a “qualification that meets the NZRAâ€™s criteria” and some form of clinical assessment, but it would appear that several acupuncturists with no formal qualifications appear to have been “grandfathered” into the association early on and not subject to these requirements.
So, who IS a good acupuncturist?
For those of you looking for an acupuncturist, here’s a list of people who come highly recommended by fertility patients around the country (note that I can’t vouch that they really ARE brilliant since I’m not a Chinese medicine dr myself, but am just sharing what others have said). The following interpretation guide should help:
**Absolutely raved about ALL the time by patients (including those who’ve had success!) AND I’ve also heard endorsements from at least one credible expert source
* At least one or two patients have spoken positively about them AND I’ve also heard endorsements from at least one credible expert source
[no asterisk] Have been recommended by patients, but I haven’t also heard any expert endorsement about their competence, nor any concerns
- Dr. Vitalis, Mairangi, North Shore, 09 486 5111 **
- Laura Bradburn, Acudoc, Auckland Central, 09 626 7120 (but she’s apparently on maternity leave in late 2009)
- Lisa Houghton, Acudoc (above) and the Motherwell Clinic, Mt Eden, 09-630-0067
- Bessie Lu, Village Acupuncture, Mt Eden, 09 630 3168
- Jackie Kiddle, Acu Med Ltd /Napier Acupuncture Clinic, 193 Kennedy Road, 06 843 3888 *
- Katrina Gasgoigne at the Clinic of Oriental Medicine in Mana, Wellington, 04 233 9800 **
- Debra Betts in Wellington CBD (however, she does a lot of seminars/travelling, so may be hard to get hold of for regular treatment) *
- Various other members of the Fertility & Acupuncture Childbirth Team (who also do acu for IUI/IVF)
- City Osteopaths in Wellington
- John Black, Nelson Chinese Medical Clinic, 22 Nile Street, Nelson 03 546 8733 *
- Paddy McBride, Acupuncture Richmond, 40 Oxford Street, Richmond, Nelson 03 544 0411 *
- Dr. Tracey Bourner (Ph.D. in research), Riverside Acupunture and Chinese herbs, Opawa, 03 981 1683 *
- Georgia Bryant, Acupuncture for Health, South Brighton, 03 388 7346 *
- Eleanor Marks in St Albans 03 960 9702
- Suzy Tapper, Ferrymead Acupuncture, 03 384 8589
What should I ask a prospective acupuncturist before agreeing to work with them?
Whether or not a prospective acupuncturist is on the above list, it’s always a good idea to ask them a few questions before you agree to work with them. Here’s a list of questions to help get you started:
|Where did you train? What acupuncture or Chinese Medicine qualifications do you have? Have you done any advanced training or courses since then? Are you a member of the New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists or some other professional association?||[The 'gold standard' would be a bachelor's degree in acupuncture from a reputable school in China or elsewhere PLUS some advanced training (master's degree or other), preferably specifically in acupuncture and Chinese medicine for fertility PLUS some sort of certification that actually evaluates competence. Note that being "registered in New Zealand" simply means being a paid member of a professional association and is no guarantee of competence.]|
|[Assuming this is at a first/introductory appointment:] What is my Chinese Medicine diagnosis? Please explain (in lay terms) what it means and what your treatment approach would be.||[Just my view, but if someone can't explain what they are doing in understandable terms, that's a good indicator they don't REALLY have a good understanding of it themselves.]|
|How would my treatment differ before vs. after ovulation in my cycle?||[Wrong answer: It wouldn't. A good answer might include explanations like: The follicular (pre-O) phase usually emphasises kidney yin treatment, whereas in the luteal (post-O) phase we typically treat kidney yang. Also, points used after O should be those that would support a pregnancy; some of the ones used before O are good for that phase of the cycle but not safe if you might be pregnant.]|
|How would my treatment differ during an IVF/IUI cycle vs. during a natural cycle?||[Wrong answer: It wouldn't. A good answer would show some thoughtful logic such as: You'd generally tend to use less aggressive acupuncture treatment while someone's on stims - you don't want to make their ovaries blow a gasket!]|
|What successes have you had with women/couples of a similar age and with a similar Western diagnosis to mine/ours? Please describe one or two recent success cases.||[Obviously, more success cases similar to yours are better. But keep your ears tuned too for evidence of the kind of systematic detective work a good practitioner would use to 'listen' to how the body responds and tweak the treatment. A fertility-challenged body is like a squeaky old violin that needs to be worked with carefully to make it sing the sweetest tune it possibly can.]|
|What professional associations are you a member of? Which Chinese Medicine-related conferences and seminars do you regularly attend? How else do you keep up with new developments?||[You want to make sure you are working with someone who understands Chinese Medicine as not just an ancient tradition that you get trained for once and that's it, but as a growing discipline that creates new knowledge all the time. If your acupuncturist isn't making an effort to keep up with the field, that's not a good sign.]|
|What would you say are the two or three most important advances in Chinese Medicine for the treatment of infertility in the past few years. Do you have a copy of a good recent article I could look at?||[If your prospective acupuncturist can't rattle off a few really interesting recent developments that are relevant to your case, that's a sure sign he/she isn't keeping up with the play. And beware of someone who doesn't want to give you an article "because you probably won't understand it" - first, they may not actually have any relevant articles because they don't keep up with the field, and second, that's a hint that they don't see you as an intelligent and active partner in your own treatment.]|
If the choice is not clear cut after asking the above questions, I’d suggest doing a session or two with each possibility and seeing which one seems like a better fit for you. Even the raved about acupuncturists on the list above have some patients who just don’t ‘click’ with their style. So, make sure the person you choose feels right for you.