Acupuncture Denver Blog

Comprehensive health, empowerment, joy, and happiness.


Acupuncture in Early Pregnancy

Supportive Care in the First Trimester

By Merry Reasons, M.S., L.Ac. - February 18, 2020

It’s such a joy when we hear from our clients that they’re pregnant. But we also understand that it can be a time full of worries and fears, as well as the excitement and anticipation. Supportive care for early pregnancy with acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is about providing emotional support, physical relief for common first trimester ailments, and about offering our clients information on diet, lifestyle, and self-care. We love to offer continued care through pregnancy at the clinic since having a body-mind-spirit based approach during this time is just as important as it is while preparing for conception. 

Acupuncture is very effective in supporting the physiological processes of early pregnancy. Acupuncture increases microcirculation in the uterus to promote implantation, formation of a healthy placenta, and optimal embryonic development. Treatment objectives are similar in fertility and early pregnancy in that we focus on down-regulating the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPAA) to offset the stress response in the body, increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs and promoting beneficial hormonal responses. In early pregnancy, progesterone is necessary to support implantation and embryo development and ward off excess inflammatory/immune responses until the placenta takes over progesterone production around 10-12 weeks gestation1 As I mentioned earlier, the first trimester can be emotionally stressful, especially for those who have gone through a long fertility journey or pregnancy losses. Anxiety and stress activate the HPA axis and may cause a reduction in progesterone production. We are here to offer supportive treatments to offset the stress response and to provide a safe and relaxing environment for our clients. We guide our clients to connect to their inner peace and trust that their pregnancy is progressing just as it should. 

We recommend weekly or bi-weekly treatments during the first trimester of pregnancy,  then monthly in the second and third trimesters, followed by weekly treatments to prepare for labor beginning at 36 weeks.

Below are some tips from both Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine for early pregnancy wellness:

WESTERN
  • Supplements: prenatal vitamins, Omega-3 fish oil (important for baby’s brain production), methylated folate, and Vitamin D3.
  • Avoid unsafe foods (raw meat/eggs, seafood with high levels of mercury, deli meat, unpasteurized milk products, raw sprouts, hot dogs, meat spreads).
  • Avoid saunas/extremely hot baths/hot tubs/hot yoga
  • Don’t drink too much caffeine (200mg or less is acceptable, but if you can avoid it entirely that’s even better).
  • Quit drinking alcohol and smoking (of course!) 
  • Don’t clean the litter box (to avoid feline waste bacteria and toxoplasmosis)
  • Schedule your first appointment with your OB GYN or midwife.
EASTERN
  • Keep feet warm.
  • Eat warm foods/drink warm water to keep digestive fire strong. 
  • Keep blood sugar balanced with small frequent meals, making sure you are eating enough protein.
  • Sleep and nap if you can! Listen to your body when it needs to rest. Fatigue can also trigger symptoms of morning sickness.
  • Avoid sexual intercourse during the first trimester in high risk pregnancies or if you have a history of miscarriages.
  • And of course, get acupuncture to treat first trimester symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, morning sickness, and body aches and pains.  Treatments can support optimal hormone balance and blood circulation.
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Protect Your Immunity During Cold & Flu Season


By Dr. Megan Wemm, DAOM, L.Ac.

Winter is here and flu season is upon us! How do we fortify our immunity and keep our bodies strong during this time?  Winter is a natural time for the energy of the body to turn inward and for us to slow down, but Traditional Chinese Medicine offers us wonderful tools for boosting immunity. 

From a Western medicine perspective, immunity starts in the gut and digestive system. Without having a well-functioning digestive system, our bodies will not have very strong immunity.  Supplements like probiotics are actually one of the most beneficial for enhancing your immune system. At Acupuncture Denver, we carry Megasporebiotic by Microbiome Labs. These are some of the most effective probiotics on the market and are backed by robust data

From a Chinese medicine perspective, the Spleen qi is the root of our immunity.  It is associated with the element of Earth and directly feeds the Lungs, which are associated with the Metal element.  The Spleen is responsible for digestion and the process of extracting the “clear qi”, or the nutrients, from our food to supply our body with energy.  Healthy Spleen qi is reflected in the muscles, changes our sense of taste, and is nourished by a sweet flavor.  In the winter, the Spleen qi can easily become drained, leaving us feeling lethargic and apathetic.  

The easiest way to fortify the Spleen qi is through diet and gentle exercise.  When the Spleen qi is depleted, our focus needs to be on easy-to-digest foods.  Warm, cooked foods that don’t require as much energy to digest are recommended while cold, raw, and greasy foods are not. Sugar, dairy, and alcohol are also detrimental to the Spleen Qi and cause dampness and phlegm in the body. Gentle exercise is the best way to work the muscles without further exhausting the body’s reserves and helps drain dampness and stoke our digestive fire. Foods that nourish the Spleen are yams, winter squashes, rice, quinoa, oatmeal and foods with a bland, sweet flavor.

Pregnancy is defined as a Spleen qi deficient time, particularly during the first trimester.  Since all the nutrients ingested are continually feeding the baby, it’s crucial to keep the body strong and fortified. The immune system is also weakened in pregnancy, so it's crucial to boost immunity with a Spleen-qi fortifying diet, supplements like prenatals and Vitamin D, and proper self-care. There's some interesting research here about Vitamin D in pregnancy how it can stregthen immunity in newborns. 

In the first trimester of pregnancy the Spleen Qi can be very deficient, depending on a person's constitution and lifestyle. This can lead to morning sickness, nausea, fatigue, mental fogginess, and intense food cravings.  Acupuncture and herbal treatments are very effective during this time, especially since most other medical modalities are not advised. For women who have experienced miscarriage, acupuncture and herbs are especially effective in stabilizing threatened miscarriage.

Ginger, especially fresh ginger, called Sheng Jiang, is a Chinese herb, food, and spice that particularly nourishes the Spleen.  It has been used regularly in Chinese culture and medicine for over 4,000 years as a Spleen tonic and an immune booster.  It also helps to reduce motion sickness and nausea.  By strengthening the Spleen’s function, it has been shown to reduce cholesterol.  Including fresh ginger in tea or soup daily can help to support your immune system, your digestive strength and your body’s vitality.  From a Chinese medicine perspective, fresh ginger helps to redirect the stomach qi downwards, hence why it can pinpoint nausea, morning sickness or motion sickness.  During the first trimester, this herb can be very helpful.

Astragalus root, called Huang qi, is another herb used to tonify the Spleen qi.  It has been shown to enhance immune function as well as help with loose stools and diarrhea, exhaustion, mental clarity and even organ prolapse.  The energetic movement of this herb is uplifting. This is an herb that is safe in pregnancy and because of its lifting function, it is used to prevent miscarriage.

Medicinal mushrooms are also helpful immune boosters.  Examples include shiitake, reishi, maitake, tremella, chaga or turkey tail.  Medicinal mushrooms are considered adaptogens.  They have been shown to naturally activate Natural killer cells and T-cells in the body.  Along with enhancing immunity, they strengthen the Spleen, clean the Liver, tonify energy reserves, reduce cholesterol and calm the spirit.  

Western supplements you can use to further support immunity include elderberry, Vitamin D3 (which everyone needs!), Zinc, Vitamin C, garlic, turmeric and oregano oil. Teas of chrysanthemum flower, hibiscus, echinacea or ginger are also excellent options during this time.  Honey is an especially effective antioxidant.  Manuka honey is even stronger in its ability to fortify the body and strengthen its immunity.  

Chinese herbal formulas are regularly used to support the immune system and release the exterior.  These common formulas include Gan Mao Ling, Yin Qiao San, Gui Zhi Tang and Xiao Chai Hu Tang.  It is best to check in with your Chinese Medicine provider as to which one is best for you. We have custom herbal formulas in stock at the clinic and also carry modern Chinese formulas like Anti-Virii and Anti-Biobotanical by Panaxea that are super effective. These are great formulas to have on-hand so you can take them when you start to feel like you’re coming down with something. 

Protecting your digestive system is the key to boosting your immunity. Including simple, easy-to-digest foods every day can enhance your ability to ward off colds or the flu.  By strengthening our Spleen, we can also give ourselves increased physical energy and improved mental clarity. Check out the recipe below to make a delicious immune-boosting winter soup! 

The Ultimate Immune Boosting Soup courtesy of thehealthmaven.com

Makes 6-8 bowls

Ingredients:
          • 1 T coconut oil
          • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
          • 6 garlic gloves, minces
          • 2 clergy stalks, sliced
          • 1 lb shiitake mushrooms
          • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
          • 1/4 tsp black pepper
          • 1 tsp turmeric
          • 12 cups water
          • 4 heads baby bok Chou, bottoms chopped off
          • 1/2 head kale, chopped
          • 1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
          • Optional: whole chicken
          • Optional: miso

Instructions:
  • Chop off the bottom of the stem from your mushrooms and discard. Separate stems from tops and slice tops and remaining stem if necessary, into large pieces. You will only discard the very bottom of the stems, not the full stems as they contain many nutritional benefits!
  • Heat up coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  • Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes or until translucent.
  • Add in garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
  • Add in celery and mushrooms and sautee for about 10 minutes or until mushrooms have wilted.
  • Add in spices (including ginger) and water and bring to a boil.
  • Then let simmer, covered for 1 hour or as long as you want (the longer you leave, the                better!)
  • Add bok choy and kale in the last 10 minutes of cooking to wilt.
  • If you’d like to have your soup with chicken, boil and cook a whole chicken in 12 cups of water.  Remove chicken from the soup, remove the meat from the carcas.  Shred the meat and add to eat bowl.
  • If you’d like to add miso, add a small spoonful of miso the finished soup.
            
Serve warm or store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
 
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Rest & Reset in a Chaotic World

Making 2020 a year for self care

By Jane Gregorie - January 19, 2020

We live in troubling times: fires rage out of control in the Amazon and Australia, climate change is causing extreme weather around the world, divisive partisan politics are dividing our nation, and the threat of war looms in the Middle East. While it feels like our world is falling apart around us, we also have to also deal with our everyday personal stressors and traumas. Sometimes it all seems like too much, too fast. And even though most of us aren’t actually running from the proverbial tiger in the jungle, our fight-flight-freeze response is triggered constantly by everything from deadlines at work to a Facebook post announcing yet another friend’s pregnancy (I’m talking to you, my beloved fertility clients).

When our sympathetic nervous systems are activated by real or perceived threats, our minds feel anxious, our heart rate increases, our blood pressure goes up, our digestive (and reproductive) systems shut down, our metabolism is impaired, and our brains become primed for anxiety, depression, and addiction. Many of us get caught in a chronic state of fight or flight that leads to elevated cortisol levels, higher glucose levels, and inability to heal. 


At Acupuncture Denver we’re all going to commit to self-care, rest, and resetting our nervous systems this year. Acupuncture has been shown in many studies to have a direct effect on the central nervous system, influencing areas of the brain and neurochemicals that govern sympathetic and parasympathetic activity. It’s been shown to down-regulate the sympathetic (fight-flight-freeze) response and restore the parasympathetic response (rest and digest). We can think of this autonomic balance as restoring the balance of Yin (parasympathetic, restful, cool, calm, nourishing) and Yang (sympathetic, active, hot, dynamic, fast) energies in our bodies. This central nervous system regulation is one reason acupuncture is such an effective treatment for fertility issues. 

Merry, Mally, Megan (the 3-Ms) and I realized that while we offer this powerful nervous system-calming intervention to so many clients on a daily basis, we’ve forgotten to practice what we preach and get ourselves on the tables regularly, even when we’ve been super-stressed. So after a much-needed treatment last month I decided this will be the year we all commit to weekly treatments, not only to regulate ourselves, but to offer the best of ourselves to our clients.

I had my weekly acupuncture treatment just yesterday and can report that I slept like a baby, the knots in my upper back have softened, I feel happier (yay for acupuncture influencing serotonin!), and my chronically stiff low back and hips have loosened up. I even woke up this morning with the motivation to write this long overdue blog post, do two back-to-back spin classes, and put away all the laundry. I can't wait to get another treatment. And I feel crazy for all the weeks I haven't been taking advantage of receiving acupuncture from the best practitioners in Denver (I love you, 3Ms!). 


I’m excited to see how the commitment we’ve made to our own self-care this year will ripple out to our clients. I know it will make our wonderful clinic an even better source of healing, fertility, and wellness for all those we touch. By the way, it's even easier for you to book with us now-- just click on this link to book with us online! 

 
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Miscarriage and Infant Loss Awareness

What You Can Do

By Jane Gregorie - October 21, 2019

October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. Having gone through two pregnancy losses myself, I know how difficult it can be—how it feels shocking at first, then like an emptiness that can’t be filled, then like grief that will stay with you forever. It can also feel lonely, since few people talk about it and friends and family might not even know about the early pregnancy at all. Miscarriage and infant loss feel like experiences of the shadow realm since those who haven’t gone through that particular dark night of the soul don’t seem to get it and aren’t comfortable talking about it. Or even worse, they might talk about it, but say the wrong thing like, “at least you can get pregnant.” 

I’m passionate about helping women feel less alone through this experience by giving them a space to speak of it openly and honestly in the treatment room. I’m also passionate about honoring and remembering the babies who were with us briefly but will always be part of us. Whether this means speaking their name, creating a ritual for the anniversary of their passing, or just welcoming their presence into a quiet, contemplative moment together, it’s important to me to acknowledge these babies. In Japan, these beings are called mizu-ko or “water-children” and offerings are made in their honor to the Bodhisattva Jizo-sama, their guide and protector. We could use more ritual in our culture to allow us to fully grieve these losses and honor these beings who passed from us too soon. 


In terms of clinical issues around pregnancy loss, if you’ve had more than two miscarriages, it’s standard of care to get a workup with your OBGYN or a reproductive endocrinologist. Most miscarriage, especially those in the first trimester, are due to chromosomal abnormalities or aneuploid (abnormal) embryos. I heard a statistic at the ASRM conference once that stated that up to 64% of all fertilized embryos stop developing even before a woman would get a positive pregnancy test. Of those losses that occur during the first trimester, around 75% are from chromosomal defects. Other causes of miscarriage include clotting disorders, uterine abnormalities, genetic issues in the parents (like translocations), thyroid issues, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, or infections. 


Many women who’ve had miscarriages get diagnosed with subclinical hypothyroidism.  While there is wider range for normal TSH in the general population, it’s ideal for fertility and in pregnancy to have TSH levels between .45-2.5. It’s frustrating that not all physicians recognize that a slightly high TSH level can lead to miscarriage. In terms of uterine issues, a uterine septum can cause miscarriage if the embryo implants on the septum instead of the endometrial lining. Clotting disorders like Factor V Leiden can cause clots which cut off blood supply to the fetus and can also lead to loss in later trimesters. While autoimmune issues are rare, they can also cause recurrent losses. And if a parent carries a genetic defect like a balanced translocation, they can pass that on to the embryo repeatedly. Doing IVF with CCS preimplantation genetic diagnosis is one way to deal with genetic defects that could be repeatedly passed down. 


A typical workup for recurrent pregnancy loss would be a basic clotting panel that includes autoimmune factors like ANA, APA, and ACA, karyotyping of both parents to check for genetic issues, an HSG, SHG or hysteroscopy to check uterine contours, bloodwork for TSH, and a basic fertility panel (Day 3 FSH, LH, Estradiol, AMH, Prolactin). Some doctors also test for uterine infections like mycoplasma and ureaplasma by running cultures. 


In terms of what you can do naturally to prevent pregnancy loss, I recommend getting acupuncture to improve blood flow to the ovaries and uterus (ideally up to 3 months prior to conception for optimizing egg quality), avoiding BPAs and plastics around food, taking prenatal vitamins with methylated folate, fish oil, vitamin D3, as well as antioxidants for cellular health like Ubiquinol, PQQ, and Acai berry. I’ve seen many women with histories of recurrent loss conceive naturally and have healthy babies, but I always recommend getting a full medical workup to rule out any causes that require medical intervention (like surgery for a septum, or blood thinners, or thyroid support).

At Acupuncture Denver, we’re very familiar with any red flags we might see in labs or based the detailed history and intake we provide. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions about how we can help! 

 
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A Love Letter To My Clients


By Jane Gregorie - January 12, 2019

Dear Acupuncture Denver Clients, 

Have I told you lately that I love you? I’m quite certain the words “love” and “clients” aren’t meant to be used in the same sentence, and that love letters penned to clients (much less to patients) are entirely inappropriate. But at this stage in the game, I’m less concerned with propriety than truth. So, I’ll say it plain: I love you, Acupuncture Denver clients. 

Each of you radiate a particular starshine that is revealed by the light in your eyes, the beat of your pulse, the sound of your voice, and even the liquid heartbreak of your tears. Now that I’m into my twentieth year of clinical practice, I realize that I’ve been basking in the light of the stars all this time. Even though I’m working. Even as I’m learning. Even when it’s hard. 

I love you because I love learning, clients. Sure, I’ve gone through acupuncture school and read textbooks and taken courses in every aspect of TCM and Western reproductive medicine and attended Fertile Soul retreats and done internships and passed exams and memorized hundreds of Chinese herbs, but I’ve learned most of what I know about fertility from you, clients. I’ve learned about every possible IVF protocol under the sun; about domestic and foreign IVF clinics; about obscure and experimental reproductive immunology treatments; about when it’s best to time intercourse around an IUI; about the best surgeons to choose for endometriosis or Asherman’s syndrome; about which reproductive endocrinologists have good bedside manner; about how to get that sticky estrogen patch adhesive off the skin; about the best way to take the progesterone in oil shot; and most importantly, about what it’s like to live in a body which carries a soul which endures being poked and prodded and examined by too many hands and has endured too many months of disappointment and in some cases unimaginable losses too, and still, despite it all, glimmers unmistakably with hope. 

I love you because you are my tribe, clients, as much as I tried to deny that I was just like you: was the practitioner, wasn’t infertile, wasn’t bereft, wasn’t brought to my knees by the bottomless pit of longing for a child (right?). It was you who got me through my own miscarriages. Shannon gave me an oak leaf and a polished river stone that still sits on our office altar today, a symbol of fragile vulnerability and incredible strength. Lynn took me out to lunch. Kate, who was adopting from Ethiopia at the time, planted a seed in me that grew into the miracle of my own motherhood and expanded my heart in ways I hadn’t imagined were possible. 

These connections have been my lifeline and have wound themselves into my own blood and bones so that I can touch people now with a deeply known certainty: you will get through this dark time, you will survive this, you will be OK. 

I love you because I love laughing. And let’s face it, if I wasn’t an acupuncturist, there is a slim chance I could have made it as a stand-up comedian. I love Ellen for making me laugh every time I see her, once so hard that tears were streaming down both our faces: her belly needles bobbing every which way, me leaning over to catch my breath and control my convulsive hysteria so I could get back to business. Who gets to do this at work? It’s amazing. 

I love you because I love smart, interesting women and I love learning from them. You have shared your intimate knowledge of so many varied subjects with me, including but not limited to: petroleum engineering, criminal defense law, special education, occupational therapy, kombucha-making, executive coaching, geology, taxes, African safaris, fine dining, political science, film production, marketing, real estate investing, feline psychology, dog training, bodywork techniques, exercise physiology, paleo diets, addiction recovery, world travel, cultural differences, immigration, child development, human trafficking, attachment theory, Freudian analysis, art therapy, Hinduism, Islam, evangelical Christianity, Mormonism, opiate addiction, jewelry making, reiki, shamanism, Instant-pots, corporate consulting, and more. Who gets to learn all day at work from so many experts in so many fields? Again, amazing. 

I love you, clients, because you help me remember that I can survive, even when it feels like my heart might explode from its wild beating in the midst of uncertainty and fear. I’ve looked right into your grief-filled eyes and seen grace and resilience there when there just as easily could have been the flat, dull opacity of bitterness instead. 

During a recent rough patch of anxiety, when I was committed to facing my fears head-on, eyes wide-open, without the aid of numbing or shutting down, it was you I recalled, dear clients, as if in prayer. I summoned the super-human strength I witness in you, amazing warrior-women: you who have lost babies too soon, you who have gestated such bright spirits that they might just be too beautiful for this world, you who have endured the passing of the beloved from your belly straight back to the stars. To see and touch and feel such strength is a blessing, an initiation, a reminder that I’m surrounded by a constellation of overwhelmingly beautiful brightness and grace and connection. Worthy of a love-letter at the very least. Amazing. 

Love, 
Jane 
 
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Wintertime Wisdom

Stay in Harmony with the Season of the Water Element

By Jane Gregorie - December 16, 2018

As twinkly and warm as the holidays can make us feel, it can also be a season tinged with grief and loss, especially for those who have lost a loved one or struggle to build their families. The turning of the year also becomes a milestone that carries significant weight for those waiting, and waiting, then waiting some more for their family to be complete. 


The holidays fall in mid-winter, the season of the Water element in the Five Element system, an integral part of Chinese Medicine. The Water element's key resonances include the color blue-black, the sound groaning, the emotion fear, and the odor putrid. It's associated with winter, storage, cold, ears/hearing, bones/marrow, teeth, and salt. 


Living in harmony with the seasons is a cornerstone of Chinese Medical wisdom. In winter this means living a more yin (quiescent, less active) lifestyle and taking time to surrender to the energy of Water: let yourself feel the downward pull of water and activate your power of storage to sustain you through the darker and colder days of winter without resistance to its energetic pull. Slowing down in winter is going with the flow of Water! 


Some emotional symptoms that point to a Water element out of balance are feelings of overwhelming fear, expecting the worst, taking unnecessary risks, being distrustful or blindly trusting, being overly driven or  having no motivation at all,  being chronically agitated, or being "frozen" into a state of paralysis. We can tonify our own Water element energies by examining our relationship to threats, relying on those we can trust, knowing what makes us feel safe, and seeking appropriate reassurance from others as needed. 


Take the time to let the wisdom of the Water element work its magic on you this holiday season and give in to the energetic pull to hibernate and shore up your reserves for the coming spring. Soon the days will be getting lighter again.... 
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The Unreasonable Burden of Control and Responsibility


I read a striking article in the Washington Post today that highlights how western reproductive medicine can fail at times, especially when it comes to egg-freezing, and how shocking and heartbreaking this can be for women who’ve felt that they’ve done everything right. It emphasizes that while egg-freezing (not embryo-freezing) can be effective (I've seen it work several times!) the odds aren't always presented realistically by IVF clinics. One provocative statement that struck me was what Dr. James Grifo, one of the pioneers of oocyte-preservation, of NYU commented mentioned in terms of women feeling that they are "in control" their fertility and the ways in which that becomes a burden:  

Your whole life it's beaten into your head that you're in control and if you can't have a baby, you blame yourself. There has to be more dialogue about what women can be responsible for and what they are not responsible for.

I agree that we need to be having this conversation more. Feeling responsible for our fertility, from anxiously preventing unwanted pregnancies to procreating when our careers and lives have come together or when we’ve finally met the right partner, is a significant burden we carry as women. It represents another set of conflicting and competing expectations ("don't be fertile" followed by "quick, be fertile before it's too late" message) that  Brene Brown  explains triggers a lot of our shame as women. 

A client and I recently chatted about the idea of "circle of influence" which she explained was based on  Stephen Covey 's self-help work. I gathered that the idea was to make choices to change or improve what is within our circle of influence (that which we can change) and to stop worrying about what is outside of it (those things we cannot change). Reminds me of the serenity prayer, which must be popular for a reason…. I tend to perseverate about things that have already happened when it's completely useless and a waste of brain bandwidth. I'm now planning to read  The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People  (which yes, I've purchased already, but never read) since this makes sense to me. The circle of influence idea totally applies to the fertility journey-- we can certainly make choices that will improve our fertility, ensure that we are getting safe and high quality medical care, and optimize our health and lifestyles, but we cannot turn back time.  (Nor should we want to! Who wants to be a freshmen in high school again? Or a freshmen in college? Or even for some of us, back in our early thirties? Not me, that’s for sure).

It seems to me that even if we experience grief for what we imagine might have been, we can also gracefully move forward, even in times of deep fear and uncertainty, with faith in our own wisdom, intuition, and the support of others to get us through whatever comes. I like to think of it as informed Taoism: recognizing that you can be accountable for your choices and make the wisest choices in the moment without thinking you are driving the ship, or in charge of the universe, or powerful enough to control your own body or nature. I know, easier said than done, but that’s why it’s called practice.

 It's an honor to be part of others’ journeys that bring up so many existential questions. One of my personal and professional goals is to empower women to release the burden of being overly responsible for so much in this life.  Let's promise to help each other remember what we are responsible for and let go of the rest! We have so much to share with the world that goes beyond our biology and will change life for the women of the future. I think we can all feel a cultural shift in this direction right now: women are claiming their voices and rights in revolutionary ways. Let's hold each other up and support each other in forgiving ourselves for things that were never our fault in the first place. Fist in the air, sisters! We got this. 

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My Miscarriage Story: In Honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Month


It seems that the heart is bigger than the womb, by my reckoning. The womb starts out smaller than the heart at least, flat and triangular when it’s empty. I believe most people think of it as a large hollow thing, like a chamber, which will surround a baby like a bubble or a balloon. But the womb is dark and sticky and its contractions on itself are what staunch our bleeding. It’s more diminuitive than a pear or a lemon even and has much less volume. The heart is larger than the womb and more complicated.  

In Chinese medicine, the Bao Mai is the channel running between heart and womb in women. The highway between desire and manifestation, the vertical axis from grief to letting go, the internal marriage of fire and water. For women, there are the everyday losses, a waxing and waning moon, a filled and emptied out heart, an unfertilized egg exiting us like a small unimagined future. The fertilized ones also leave us barely past implantation, so that we don’t even know that a blastocyst was there, with cells gone awry at day 5 or 6 or 7 of embryonic development. The bigger losses rip our insides out and the tentacles of these reach up the bao mai to entwine themselves around our hearts, the threads of motherhood already weaving their way into our subconscious, the barely perceptible heartbeats the stuff of our dreams.

We may only have a ghostly gray-white image from an ultrasound, printed on shiny photo paper, our name and date on it the only evidence of motherhood.  These were hard for me to see once, when my happy patients brought them in for me over and over, sometimes in envelopes and once proudly displayed in a frame. I came across my ultrasound picture just the other day. December 21, 2005. 9 weeks and 5 days gestation, measuring 2.3 centimeters. Measuring off by a couple of weeks at least. Heartbeat detected but no doubt too slow, indicating a doomed attempt at circulation, indicating a likely chromosomal misalignment, maybe trisomy 16, which is most common, maybe 21. Even though the nurse neglected to tell me that the baby was too small for my dates and likely had a sluggish heart rate, she didn’t.

But my heart knew what my womb didn’t. The fetal demise probably happened around the end of the 9th week, but I would carry that baby until 12 weeks. But I dreamed of pushing a baby carriage into a driveway a few nights before the bleeding started. I dreamed that I gave a baby to two women who pushed it onward without me, I dreamed of knowing the baby was going to be safe. My dog, Milo was with me and acting up on his leash as usual. We left the baby with the women and we walked on.

When mild cramps started at 12 weeks, I thought they were normal at first. I felt them all day at the office and asked my doula client if they were normal. They built as I sat through my friend’s mom’s reading at the Tattered Cover bookstore that night. I was looking at a Mary Ellen Mark photography book when they became too intense to ignore, when the pain started to steal my breath bit by bit. I told Greg we needed to go. I remember being on Josephine street, driving by the Botanic Gardens, my feet up on the dashboard as Greg drove us home. I remember calling my old friend Diane in San Francisco when we got home. She had had a miscarriage and said she also didn’t bleed right away either. Maybe I was just cramping and it would be OK.  I remember calling my sister Becky, the OBGYN, to see what I should do. I drank water, like they always say, and took a bath.

At some point around 11 PM I walked through the threshold that lies between worry and resignation and knew I was losing this baby. In moments like this, I fold inward. I could barely look at Greg by then and could only repeat “why is this happening to me” over and over, as if there was an explanation. As if understanding it would make it better. I later integrated this gradual loss of control in my body as a valuable practicing for death. Something was happening inside my body that was beyond my control. Something precious was slipping away and I couldn’t stop it. To stop this small death in life would be like stopping a tidal wave with a teaspoon.

             In immediate need of animal comfort, I knelt on my old zabuton-turned-dog bed and rested my forehead on Milo’s forehead, girl to dog, like when I was a lonely kid in a big house where there was always at least one equally lonely dog to soothe me. My crazy, poorly trained bird and possible pitbull mix, the one who had accompanied me to six houses in seven years, who had a feral streak that blossomed in the marshes of Georgia where he took down raccoons and rabbits and even what we believe was either a small gator or a badger once. Who fought to the death with whatever that loud hissing animal was until his throat was riddled with puncture wounds and filled with a grapefruit sized pool of blood. Milo, who slept in my bed and under the covers, until Greg came on the scene and kicked him out. Shiny, black short-haired Milo, long-legged beauty with the spotted belly of a dalmation. One of a kind and impossible to walk. Leash aggressive and happiest in the mountains, a dog who almost drowned himself chasing a pelican out to sea. A dog who stayed upright on all fours in a canoe in the surf of little tybee island when Greg and I both went overboard. A dog who was my first baby really, when I should have been old enough to be a good parent, but made crazy choices for the both of us.

As I lay down against Milo’s body, something deep inside me popped like a soggy cork and I knew my water had broken. When I stood up, the blood and fluid that gushed out of me drained my face of its color. Greg fell to his knees, grabbed my ankles, and let out a guttural howl I had never heard from him before. I was frozen in that spot and didn’t dare move my head, saying, “I don’t want to see it, I don’t want to see it.” He wiped up the floor and gave me a thick black dishtowel to soak up the blood that was coming in waves with each contraction.

When I called my OBGYB sister, she said we’d have to go to the ER since I was so far along. We drove the few blocks to St. Joe’s hospital and passed the sign for the L&D entrance, circling around to the emergency room parking lot. As we got to the back of the hospital, I had the dreaded thought that maybe I had bad eggs, even though I was barely 36. In my fertility acupuncture practice, I’d seen other women younger than me with fertility issues and recurrent losses. I didn’t want to be one of them. I had conceived on my first try. I had even put an exclamation point in the relevant section on my pregnancy intake form a few weeks before. I believe it was the part that asked, “how many pregnancies have you had?” and I wrote, “one- pregnant on my first try!” like I was somehow above average even in this regard.

It was dark and empty in the ER lobby. There were lots of potted plants and empty tables and just a couple of other people there since it was past midnight. We waited in silence until the admin brought me to the ante-room where she took my blood pressure and remarked how calm I seemed for what was going on. It’s times like these that my mother’s main admonition to me growing up, which was “be stable, be stable” and my protestant stoicism served me, at least on the outside.

I don’t think I said much back to the intake lady and waited several more minutes, the dish towel getting heavier and heavier as I continued to bleed. Finally, after at least 45 minutes, they decided to bring me back and made me sit in a wheelchair to take me down the hallway to the examination rooms. We were left in a room and I curled into child’s pose on my knees as the contractions overwhelmed me on the white cot. When a nurse came in, Greg said, “she was 12 weeks pregnant.” The nurse replied, without even a hint of empathy, “well, is she 12 weeks pregnant or was she 12 weeks pregnant.” I go into a black hole of forgetting here and know I was curled up and not looking at her but I think I said, I’m having a miscarriage. I was still a serious Vajrayana Buddhist practitioner at the time and the teachings kicked in, for better or worse, as I prayed that the karma of all sentient beings ripen upon me through this suffering. The logic of it goes something like this: since I’m enduring such intense suffering right now, I may as well bear the burden of all sentient beings’ bad karma while I’m at it, so at least I’ll come out of this with some merit.

When the ER doctor finally came in, he opened with, “are you doing Lamaze classes? My wife I did the Lamaze classes.” I was taken so off guard by this that I started to say, “ I was thinking of doing the Bradley method classes” but just trailed off.  I really had to pee at one point and went down the hall to the bathroom around the corner. Plum-sized clots were dropping out of me into the toilet by now. It didn’t feel right to potentially flush a fetus down the toilet, so I let the nurses at the counter know as I went back into my exam room. A few minutes later, I heard them joking about who on that shift would have to fish out the contents of the toilet bowl.

Wheeled to another room where there was a transvaginal ultrasound machine, we were able to confirm that the pregnancy was no longer viable. The ER doctor actually drew a uterus and cervix on the sheet of the cot by way of explanation, letting me know that when the cervix opens too early and the fetus comes out, that the baby can’t live. I thought to myself, “No shit, Sherlock,” and “FYI, I know my female anatomy, douche bag.” I’m pretty sure the poor guy suffered from Asberger’s.

When Dr. Warner, the Kaiser OBGYN, finally came in, she was the first person who seemed to realize what was happening. She looked me in the eyes and took my hand. I finally had permission to cry. Just before she examined me, I had the feeling that people describe as part of labor: the overwhelming need to defecate. I went to the bathroom, this time with a yellow colander-like basket to catch any tissue, and pushed. When I came back, she examined me and said that indeed the tissue was coming out and she used a hemostat to extract it the rest of the way.  It felt like she had sharp things way up inside my uterus at one point and I wondered if I was having an unmedicated D&C, which is how it felt. I was too spent to argue about having the tissue karyotyped knew Kaiser wouldn’t want to pay for any testing since this was my first miscarriage. A robotic nurse, whose kids’ photos were added to the ID badge on her lanyard gave me some handouts on choices about where the fetal tissue would go if we didn’t wish to have it buried. I think we signed off that it should go into a group cremation. I’m not really sure. She also gave me some handouts on loss and told me to take Advil when I got home.  I was still being racked by intense contractions and I said I didn’t even have Advil, so they gave me a few Vicodin, two of which barely took the edge off.

I don’t remember the car ride home. I don’t remember showering. I don’t remember much besides feeling emptied out, hollow, like a shell of the hopeful person I had been the day before.  Like I had been sucker punched from the inside out. Like I didn’t want to face waking up again that empty. Like it had maybe all been a dream. I sometimes wish I had made Greg look at that baby, just to know it was real. I do have the ultrasound photos, but I wish one of us could have witnessed this being in all its dimensions. I was afraid I’d be haunted by its tiny hands, or skull, or eye sockets. I’ve had clients who have thoroughly examined their fetal tissue during miscarriages and others who have held stillborn babies for hours, photographing them and documenting their existence. Naming them and giving their grief a shape to latch onto. I, however, rapidly began a process of shutting down, of a letting go just this side of total denial. I didn’t speak of him or her as a baby ever again. I spoke of a pregnancy, but no fetus. Just like the mild opiates could numb my physical pain, I would use semantics to wrap up this loss in layers of wordy deception. There was never a baby, just a pregnancy. What I didn’t see couldn’t haunt me.

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Low Ovarian Reserve: Fertility Success Story


Jane and her team at Acupuncture Denver are AMAZING.  In November 2013, I was diagnosed with Low Ovarian Reserve.  I had two Reproductive Endocrinologists tell me there was little hope for conceiving another child without donor eggs.  My husband and I were devastated, stressed and did not know in which direction to turn.  I met with another woman who had struggled with infertility, and she recommended for me to read  The Infertility Cure .  I was so moved by the book and its' contents that I sought out Jane Gregorie, since she practiced the methods I read about in the book.  

In February 2014, after meeting with Jane just once, I knew I needed to start my journey at Acupuncture Denver.  She was so positive about our situation and had a very calming and reassuring demeanor that made me feel comfortable and human again.  Jane helped me to feel like I wasn't alone and that there was hope left for me AND my eggs :).  I followed Jane's diet and supplement protocols, I also began taking DHEA under the supervision of Dr. Albrect, I saw Jane 1x per week for Acupuncture.  The Acupuncture sessions were very relaxing and allowed me a safe and accepting place to vent candidly my feelings with the ups and downs of infertility; this is something that I valued greatly.  After about 6 months, I became pregnant...naturally.  I now have another beautiful baby boy, born April 7th, 2015.  

I feel truly blessed to have found Jane, and not only because she helped me to conceive, but because she made an impossible situation seem possible, she helped me to understand and accept that it was OK if we had to look at other alternatives for conception, but most of all, because she became my friend during a time when I felt so alone.  I would recommend Jane's clinic to anyone struggling with infertility...I am a true believer in the power of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.
 

-T.H. 

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Mally Shaw, New ABORM Fellow!


Mally Shaw, who has been an associate acupuncturist at Acupuncture Denver since November 2013, recently sat for the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine exam in Vancouver and passed with flying colors! I am so proud of her and thrilled that now all of us at Acupuncture Denver are Fellows of the ABORM.


This distinction really sets us apart from other clinics and practitioners in the area. I was ABORM certified in 2008, the first year the testing was offered and Merry was certified in 2010. We are really thrilled that Mally has now joined the ranks of the ABORM group! The ABORM certification is a rigorous process that requires many hours of advanced training in reproductive medicine and infertility before a candidate can sit for the exam. All fellows are required to be in practice for a certain number of years, complete approved advanced coursework in both Western and Eastern reproductive medicine, and to sit for a very difficult examination.  By choosing a practitioner who is ABORM certified, you can rest assured that we have an in-depth working knowledge of biomedical reproductive endocrinology, Traditional Chinese Medicine and infertility, as well as being up-to-date on best practices in terms of acupuncture, herbs, dietary therapy and other adjunct treatments we use in holistic fertility enhancement.


Mally and I were both very fortunate to also attend the first annual Integrative Fertility Symposium in Vancouver shortly after she sat for the exam. Along with connecting to many of my long-time colleagues in the field, I was able to attend a rich array of classes with leaders in the field of integrative fertility. There was a lot of focus on autoimmune issues, PCOS, recurrent pregnancy loss and integrating TCM with IVF and other Western medical treatments. The dialogue between reproductive endocrinologists, urologists and TCM practitioners was invaluable and shows how far we have come in the past decade or so in terms of integrating our care (Western Reproductive Medicine with TCM) in order to provide our patients with the best of both worlds.  I’m so grateful to be part of the cutting-edge in terms of integrated care and also very proud that all of us at Acupuncture Denver hold ourselves to such high standards for advanced training, certification and clinical excellence. Congratulations, Mally! I’m so proud of you! 
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