Interview with an Expert: Acupuncture with Katya Chizayeva

Katya Chizayeva

Katya Chizayeva

If you want to learn more about the benefits of acupuncture while trying to conceive, this article is for you. If you're in Greater New Orleans, there is affordable and accessible acupuncture treatment available now; the details are listed below.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine with well documented benefits for families trying to conceive. In clinical studies, acupuncture has been shown to increase sperm count in men, regulate uterine and ovarian blood flow, normalize ovarian functioning in PCOS, ameliorate insulin resistance,  enhance implantation success, increase endorphin levels and hypothalamus function, regulate the menstrual cycle, bring on ovulation in women diagnosed with anovulation, and increase clinical pregnancy rates and live birth rates of IVF. 

Furthermore, acupuncture has been shown to reduce stress among IVF patients as well.  

Queen Bee interviewed herbalist and acupuncturist Katya Chizayeva to learn more about her experience using acupuncture and herbs to enhance women's health and fertility specifically. 

She first explained how acupuncture works in laywomen's terms. She explained that the body is covered with fascia, which conducts electricity and electrical charge. When thin, lightweight needles are used to stimulate certain points, this electrical charge carries over tissues into different systems, turning into chemical messages. These chemical messages stimulate the different systems, are interpreted by the body and result in physiological changes.

Katya then described the way that acupuncture "has potential to build and regulate fluids such as intra and intercelular fluids, and blood. Hormones are also part of the fluid systems. [Acupuncture] can nourish and move blood stagnation that can be caused by trauma and birth control usage, which causes the blood to become malnourished and stagnant."

She also echoed what the aforementioned studies found, that acupuncture is very helpful for regulating your cycle, dealing with estrogen dominance, PMS, pelvic inflammatory disease, severe cramps, and readjusting after years of birth control use. She has found that acupuncture helps to regulate sleep which can in turn help the rest of your body to regulate as well. Lastly, she noted that acupuncture is great for people who can't relax and for type A, high strung individuals. She has found that acupuncture is great for calming the nervous system and resets the bodies of over-thinkers or those with anxiety about the future. 

For all it's benefits, Katya warned that "acupuncture is not a cure all, it's a tool, and it depends on the person. When you are inconsistent, results are inconsistent." As with any other treatment or healing process, acupuncture is not a quick fix. Practitioners recommend at least 3 months of consistent treatment to see lasting improvements in women's health issues. 

From Katya's experience, clients dealing with fertility or women's health issues who have had the most success demonstrate the following qualities:

  • Receive acupuncture 1-2 x per week for at least 3 months
  • The partner also receives acupuncture
  • The client and their partner doing the outside work required for their specific issues (ie, lifestyle changes, diet changes, exercise, losing weight, etc.)
  • The client(s) used prescribed herbs
  • The clients are already committed to shifting their lifestyle change and see acupuncture as an extra push in the right direction, not a magic solution

She described ideal clients as people who are already running forward. Acupuncture is like an extra boost that pushes them further ahead, but will not substitute for lack of effort.

Women who are overweight or dealing with other issues that require medication need to work through these challenges simultaneously to receive the full benefit of acupuncture. Furthermore, the partners need to be involved. Katya described a married couple in which the wife was following a strict regime and dedicated to healing but the husband was taking several medications, not exercising, and not making adequate lifestyle changes to improve his overall health and wellness. She found these types of cases to be the most challenging because sperm health is equally as important as egg and uterine health. All the acupuncture in the world for the wife would do nothing for conception if the husband was not also willing to put in work. It takes two (if you are using your partner's sperm). 

In conclusion, from what Katya has explained, acupuncture is a tool for healing backed by science but requires real life work on the client's part to achieve success. For the best results: be consistent, follow through with lifestyle changes, and incorporate your partner (if their genes will be a part of conception). 

If you are in the New Orleans area and are looking for affordable acupuncture, Katya has space available. She offers private sessions for $50, and packages for preconception, prenatal, and postnatal care. She will also host Community Acupuncture on June 3rd from 2-5 pm at the Sanctuary Arts Center, 2525 Burgundy Street, $25-$40 sliding scale.  Depending on attendance she may continue the Community Acupuncture more permanently at that space. For more information, call her at (415) 5680-0004.

Have you tried acupuncture? What did you think?

Here's Why I Don't Use the Word Infertile and Why You Shouldn't Either

The words we use to describe ourselves have power over us. Choose them wisely.

The words we use to describe ourselves have power over us. Choose them wisely.

When a couple has been trying to conceive for sometime there can be nothing as debilitating and limiting as being described as "infertile". In the remainder of this post I will explain why I choose not to use that term, what I choose to use instead, and why I think it's important.

Our words have power over us. Language philosophers refer to certain language as both descriptive and performative. The descriptive part of language is obvious. When we process an experience, we use words to describe and articulate what we have experienced, what our ideas are, or how we understand something around us. The performative nature of language, however, is sometimes taken for granted. Performative language is statements that not only describe but change the reality that is being described. For example, in a difficult situation, by declaring you are confident (with the right body language) others will consider you to be more confident. When others respond to your confidence with trust and admiration, you will feel a boost in your own confidence, and therefore be more confident in what you are doing. Does that make sense?

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In layman's terms, what we say affects how we feel (and vice versa), which affects how we act, and how we act affects our reality . If we label ourselves or accept the label of infertile, we are on some level going to feel defeated by the term. The word infertile itself is such an absolute, it carries serious negative connotations and weight to it, and sounds permanent. 

In reality, most cases of fertility are based on certain circumstances and there are ways to improve chances of conception. Just because a couple might be struggling to conceive now does not mean that they will never conceive. Once the issues at hand have been discovered and addressed conception is a possibility. So why use a permanent term to describe a temporary situation? In the case of couples trying to conceive, I believe it is doubly important to use caution in word choice because the situation is so emotionally disruptive. We know that stress does not help conception, and the idea that you are unable to conceive when it's your biggest goal, focus, or priority will certainly stress you more than the idea that you are in a temporary situation that will change.

To highlight the fact that in most cases struggling with fertility is a phase in life, and not a life sentence, I like to use that term exactly, "fertility struggles". By keeping the term fertile and acknowledging that this is just a temporary challenge it allows the space for healing and growth. It allows for the opportunity for improvement. There is nothing constant or permanent about a challenge or a struggle. It is something to be confronted, dealt with, learned from, and overcome.

Challenges are meant to be overcome. The only thing constant is change.

Challenges are meant to be overcome. The only thing constant is change.

For example, let's say you just stood someone up for a date as teenager and you feel guilty about it. In reflection, you could look at the situation in at least two ways. You could look at the experience as a one-time mistake or you could decide it's a reflection of your bad character. Look at the difference between saying,  "I'm a bad person" and "I made a bad decision". In the first statement, you are defining yourself by your actions, making this decision an aspect of your identity. How you identify yourself will influence your decisions in the future. The next time you have to choose between right and wrong, you might choose negatively again, because after all, you consider yourself a bad person. When you attach a negative label to your identity your self esteem suffers and you get stuck in a pattern of negative self-worth.  In the second statement, you are not defining yourself by your actions, but acknowledging that it was a temporary experience. When you frame it this way, you can see yourself as capable of choosing to make a better decision. The next time around you can reflect that you would like to make a better decision, without assuming that because you are bad in nature, you can't choose better.

Similarly, when you refer to yourself as infertile, you may be attaching the label to your own sense of identity (or others may very well do it to you). When you look at your situation as struggling with fertility, or dealing with fertility challenges, you can see the temporary nature of the experience; you can see a situation that can be changed, a situation that is not permanent or reflective of your self-worth. This might be a less depressing and overwhelming term.

You are not defined by your ability to conceive at the current time. You define yourself. 

You are not defined by your ability to conceive at the current time. You define yourself. 

This is not to undermine the experiences and word choices of people who suffer with permanent infertility, such as those with genetic issues, compromised reproductive organs and other factors.

Furthermore, I believe everyone should describe themselves on their own terms. My purpose here is not to define your experience but to suggest that you consider which terms you are using. How do the words you use to describe yourself affect your mood, perspective, and self-image as you navigate through your fertility journey? I think it's something to consider. 

Do you use the term 'infertile'? If so, how does it accurately describe your experience? If you don't use 'infertile', what do you use instead? I would love to hear your thoughts and expand my own vocabulary. Thanks for sharing.   

 

 

Infertility Awareness Fun Run + IVF Giveaway

 

This Saturday, on April 8, 2017, Sarah's Laughter is hosting Baby Steps IV, an infertility awareness fun run at Lasalle Park, in Metairie, LA. 

Queen Bee Fertility is sponsoring the event and will have a table and booth set up with resources for families struggling to conceive, tea for sale, a raffle for a free consultation, and other goodies.

We also have 10 raffle tickets available for the 4 IVFs and $10,000 family building grant that will be awarded to 5 attendees. To be eligible, you must register for the run and be present.

Queen Bee's 10 tickets will be given away at the first come, first served basis. To get your tickets email hello@queenbeefertility.com with a copy of your confirmation for registration. 

The schedule for the day is as follows: Late registration and packet pickup at 7:30 am, followed by the fun run/walk at 9 am, and the grant giveaways will be at 10 am. 

 To learn more about Sarah's Laughter and how they support families struggling with fertility, visit their website here

IVF and Alternative Medicine: Friends, Not Foes

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Have you heard of acupuncture, yoga, herbs or any other alternative medicines to treat reproductive issues? Did this sound too easy, too good to be true, or too far out there for you?

For couples using IVF or other Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) to conceive, alternative medicine can enhance success rates and in this article I will explain how. 

Often times in the medical field two camps are seen as separate and unequal: the traditional (in this case, hormone replacement, ovulation enhancers, IUIs, IVF, etc.) and the alternative (in this case, acupuncture, chiropractics, yoga, herbs, nutrition, reiki, etc.) to treat medical issues. While you can draw a line between the two if you wish and even categorize one as superior to the other, I choose to see them as complementary to one another. This is because by default, each form of medicine has its' strengths and weaknesses. Evidence shows that by utilizing resources from both sides, you can get the best of both worlds. Allow me to explain.

 

Who says traditional and alternative medicine can't be combined for optimal results?

Who says traditional and alternative medicine can't be combined for optimal results?

When couples use ART to conceive, there is a sense of control and comfort knowing that you are under the care of well-trained physicians who are experienced in their fields and the ability to regulate your body to compensate for whichever reproductive struggles you may be facing. To receive a diagnosis, however debilitating, is somewhat relieving because you have an answer to a burning question. Well established and common treatments, however challenging, are seen as safe and reassure you that you are doing the best you can for your reproductive health. 

Thus, it is understandable that when faced with information that falls outside of these doctors' expertise, be it the use of herbal medicines to regulate menstruation or yoga practices that enhance blood flow, it may feel uncomfortable, less controllable, and ultimately, less of a sure deal. Why? Because these forms of medicine are not widely used in Western science you may have less exposure to them, less experience with them, and therefore less trust in them. Concepts such as stagnant energy, depleted nutritional stores, and misaligned skeletal system may seem outlandish when you hear about them for the first time. 

If you're skeptical about using alternative medicine, you're not alone. 

If you're skeptical about using alternative medicine, you're not alone. 

Furthermore, as I discussed earlier, the two camps are considered to be antagonists. Traditional medicine, which is more popular and common among Western families, largely depicts alternative medicine as quackery or pseudoscience (notice the words themselves, "traditional" verses "alternative"- which sounds safer to you?). Alternative, or complementary medicine, often seeks the same results as traditional medicine with different methods and therefore does not advocate for the other side either. There is a gap between them that neither side is particularly trying to bridge. Again, I think there is a bigger picture in which families can benefit from using all of the resources around them to enhance their fertility, regardless of popularity or familiarity.

In my research I have found that traditional ART has its' successes, there is no doubt. The past 40 years (and especially the last 20) have brought us forward in leaps and bounds in terms of what we are able to accomplish with ART, from the use of frozen sperm and eggs, to the increased genetic testing of embryos, to the evolution of the drugs themselves.

At the same time, average success rates for IVF hover around 40% for women under 35 with good health, and that decreases with age. With all the time, energy, resources, emotion, and money families put into IVF, I believe 40% just isn't high enough. And this is where alternative medicine comes in. 

Technology has brought us many new techniques for conceiving but the odds still hover around 40% for IVF

Technology has brought us many new techniques for conceiving but the odds still hover around 40% for IVF

Let's use a common scenario that many couples face: a woman over 35, with poor quality eggs, supposedly due to age.

We do know that on average, women's egg quality tends to decrease with time, and we know this hinders eggs' ability to to successfully develop, divide, implant and thrive. Let's examine the different ways our two styles of medicine focus on treatment.

Traditional medicine acknowledges this and so encourages women to produce more eggs during ovulation via drugs (the idea being more eggs=more chances of a higher quality egg) or to utilize donor eggs from a younger woman to ensure the egg's viability.

Alternative medicine also acknowledges this. However, instead of focusing on either replacing the egg or increasing the pool of eggs available, alternative medicine points out that you can enhance your egg health, and that is the focus of treatment. The idea here is that egg health can improve with lifestyle factors, therefore increasing your opportunities to conceive, with just one of your own high-quality eggs.

Egg health is not fixed, it can be enhanced or diminished with lifestyle choices.

Egg health is not fixed, it can be enhanced or diminished with lifestyle choices.

Most people know that women are born with all our eggs, and because quality generally decreases with time, conclude that there is nothing you can do but start young, hope for the best or use a younger woman's eggs. That can be a depressing conclusion for women trying to conceive in their late 30's or 40's. Again, what alternative medicine brings to the table is another perspective and type of treatment that sees you as an active agent in your health.  

Did you know that there is a 3-month time frame leading up to ovulation during which our egg quality is highly sensitive to the environment? During these three months, our egg quality can be enhanced or diminished by our lifestyle factors. Eating egg enhancing foods, taking high-quality supplements and vitamins, reducing our exposure to environmental toxins, and releasing stress and worry enhances egg health. Conversely, a poor diet, high stress, excessive worry and environmental toxins reduce egg quality.  

Now, taking our hypothetical situation, a woman who is set for an IVF treatment (traditional medicine) who is said to have poor quality eggs can only benefit from adjusting her lifestyle (alternative medicine) to enhance the quality of her eggs.

You can improve your egg health during a 3-month window before ovulation. You have options. 

You can improve your egg health during a 3-month window before ovulation. You have options. 

That is just one small example of how alternative medicine can be beneficial for those using ART. In the following series I will give you a list of the best ways to improve egg health, from which supplements to take to which household items to avoid. 

In the meantime, I encourage you to explore your options on the alternative side as well as the traditional side if you are struggling to conceive. Families who are utilizing IVF can especially benefit from improving egg health, sperm health, and overall reproductive balance to increase chances for success at this sensitive time. Stay tuned!