Thursday, November 13, 2008

Acupuncture poster child, Part I

I've gotten a several questions lately about my acupuncture treatment, so I thought I'd post them in case other folks are looking for information. I'm kind of an acupuncture poster child, and I don't mean to imply, in that way that anecdotal evidence does, that acupuncture will work for everyone else just as well. But what happened was absolutely true for me and my body, albeit in an n=1 sort of way.

I started tracking my menstrual cycles in Jan 07 in anticipation of starting to try as early as August 07. It quickly became apparent my cycles were not as they should be. This shouldn't have come as a surprise. I already knew that I bled inconsistently and, when I was younger, sometimes so heavily that I had to stay home from work or school. I had excruciatingly painful periods, the kind of pain that ibuprofen couldn't touch and that sometimes made work impossible. In the past I had been on prescription drugs known to cause PCOS and hormonal/menstrual problems (not that I was told of these risks when they were prescribed, and not that my doctors ever inquired about how these drugs were impacting my cycles). But the drugs had been out of my system for a while, and I was much healthier than in the past, so I still felt surprised my cycles weren't behaving. I had been in some measure of denial about what a long road it might be to get this particular body pregnant, and seeing my crappy cycles, laid out in black and white, on Gail's homemade spreadsheet, was crushing.

My temps were so low we had to make a new custom chart, often in the mid-96's, and only rarely out of the low 97's, even when I got that coveted biphasic ovulation chart. My cycles ran between about 19 and 40 days, and luteal phases, when they happened, could be as short as 8 days. I could identify biphasic patterns suggestive of ovulation in about a third of my cycles, if that, and even on those cycles, OPKs did not seem to predict ovulation. I had no meaningful quantity of cervical mucus, and my uterus was positioned such that feeling my cervix, either for mucus or position/softness was impossible. Absolutely nothing was lining up and I started to ask around about REs, bitter that I was probably going to have to start the process at the doctors office with lots of drugs, instead of on our own, as we had conceived Leigh.

But I decided that since we weren't yet actively ready to try, and since I felt so seriously about only seeing an RE if I really needed the help, I would first give acupuncture a solid go. Acupuncture had helped to regulate my cycles in the past, had fixed Gail's short luteal phase in only 2-3 cycles, and started Gail's labor when she went 10 days overdue. I started in Spring of 07 with the practitioner who had fixed Gail's cycle, and though I think her work helped to regulate me a bit, she didn't seem to understand my problems. She kept giving me herbs to take pre- and post-ovulation when it wasn't at all clear or predictable when I ovulated, and never seemed to take meaningful diagnostic information (either asking questions, or doing those usual chinese medicine things like taking my pulse or looking at my tongue). I felt like I couldn't get any information out of her. After a few cycles with her, I switched to the practitioner, named Li, who had started Gail's labor and I had heard from a friend would tell me exactly what she thought, for good or ill.

When I walked into my first appointment with Li, she exclaimed over how horribly red my face was (I had just biked to the appointment...sheesh!). She asked me if I was quick to anger (umm....kind of) and seemed concerned with the color of my hair ("too red!"). She had lots of concerns over how much water seemed to be retained in my (relatively slim) abdomen and kept putting my finger on my belly after she had placed the needles, saying, "See? Feel that? It is so wet." I couldn't feel a thing. She looked at my charts, and muttered things about needing to "clean me out" and made me swear that I wouldn't try for at least three cycles. She peppered the conversation with barely intelligible tales of women with horrible problems she had fixed. All of this was made even more surreal by the fact that the appointment took place in her office that had recently suffered a fire started in the restaurant next door, and thus had no electricity, no plumbing and no heat. But I heard she was a miracle worker. And I needed a miracle...

To be continued in Part II


amy said...

totally intrigued! and to find out you're a red head and VERY analytical and a convert and carrying the 2nd child for your family, like my wife, seriously the # of parallels just seem to be growing... CRAZY!!

insertmetaphor said...

We must be on the same wave length because I just wrote about acupuncture too! I'm really amazed by what acupuncturists can glean from looking at our bodies. Our acupuncturist recently told Fern that her heart is stealing a lot of heat from her body which is why she's been getting sick over and over and an indicator was that the tip of Fern's tongue was red. The tongue redness cleared as she got better - amazing!

I'm looking forward to part 2.