Acupuncture has recently been a more common tool to support women during pregnancy. From fertility to delivery, it is a valuable pathway towards healthy motherhood.
Acupuncture specifically for fertility can help regulate hormones and optimize the body’s normal function to increase fertile potential and help conception.
Two of our Acupuncturists, Dr. Lamya Kamel, DAOM and Dr. Kate Phillippi, DACM, FABORM, shared their fertility and pregnancy journey with us. Dr. Kamel and Dr. Phillippi will be welcoming a baby boy very soon!
Q & A with Dr. Kamel and Dr. Phillippi
1.) What inspired you to become an acupuncturist?
Dr. Kamel: Like many of my patients, I was dealing with a medical issue that wouldn’t resolve through traditional medicine. I sought treatment through acupuncture as a last resort and it helped manage my problem, making it so that I wouldn’t have to rely on medication for the rest of my life. Within a month, I was enrolled in acupuncture school. I quickly realized this is where I was supposed to be. With this medicine people are treated as individuals, they aren’t looked at as a disease or a symptom– they are looked at as a human and that is what I feel is often missing in healthcare.
Dr. Phillippi: While I was in my 20s, I began experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalances that resulted in me not having a regular menstrual cycle. My mother had been seeing an acupuncturist for a while and she suggested that I try it. After 3 months of care I was having regular periods and have been ever since.
2.) What is your favorite aspect of patient care?
Dr. Kamel: A lot of time patients start care with us after years of things having not gone right, so being able to see a large delta of change is lovely. When people recognize that they are being cared for and they have all the things that they need in their body to take care of themselves, it’s a beautiful and transformational thing.
Dr. Phillippi: In treating a lot of fertility patients, being one of the first to find out that they are pregnant is an indescribable feeling!
3.) How did you find your niche in fertility?
Dr. Kamel: Initially I would send all the women trying to conceive to Kate as she had advanced training, and I would end up treating the men. Men tend to respond faster to fertility treatments based on their physiology and I left the complicated cases to the expert. While pursing my doctorate I was able to study with one of the top fertility specialists in the country. Soon afterwards the patients starting flowing in. Before that training I thought it would be irresponsible to not have a strong background in fertility-specific Chinese Medicine. After further study, I began seeing more complicated cases knowing I had adequate training to do so.
Dr. Phillippi: Since I came to acupuncture personally through dealing with women’s health issues, I’ve always had a proclivity towards treating patients experiencing some of the same things I went through. While in school, they offered an elective course on infertility and I became fascinated about how acupuncture can harmonize the body physically, mentally and emotionally. As I progressed in practice, I delved further into reproductive medicine education to become a Fellow of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine where I studied fertility extensively from both an Eastern and Western perspective.
4.) Is there a different set of skills or tools being used to treat infertility?
Dr. Kamel: I think it’s knowing and understanding what they are going through especially with Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). Every medication or hormone given is very intentional. You have to know the goal of the therapy and make sure you aren’t giving a treatment that could be combating what the reproductive endocrinologist is doing. Having gone through it personally gives us another level of understanding. We are able to fully appreciate the magnitude of the treatment. Treating fertility teaches humility too. Some of the healthiest people on paper with blood work that looks pristine can still face challenges conceiving.
Dr. Phillippi: It takes building trust with your patients and understanding what they are going through. Knowing that some symptoms they are experiencing are common side effects of the medication and explaining that to them while helping to harmonize the body and the hormones, instead of combating the treatment provided by their reproductive endocrinologist helps instill trust and confidence with the patient.
We spend a lot of time with our patients and we get a lot of questions that were meant for the nurses and reproductive endocrinologist. Being able to explain and answer some of their concerns can ease the mental stress of going through ART. Sometimes we are face to face for 90+ minutes a week, which creates a relationship that can pull down barriers and gain trust to mentally and emotionally support our patients.
5.) Outside of treating patients at Aligned Modern Health, how else are you working with fertility patients?
Dr. Phillippi: We have built a relationship with Vios Fertility institute where we provide pre and post embryo transfer acupuncture for patients that are interested in receiving care. We work closely with the doctors there to create individualized treatments for each patient that we see at Vios. We get a full health history of the patient we are working with so we can truly understand their specific needs and create personalized treatments.
Dr. Kamel: We also work closely with a few of the other doctors in the Chicagoland area because a lot of patients are asking for information on how acupuncture can be helpful during their treatment. They are very supportive of the work we are doing and seeing the results in their patients. Our role is truly complimentary to the work they are already doing to enhance the treatment outcomes.
6.) How has working in fertility become more relevant in your lives?
Dr. Kamel: It has come full circle in our lives as we both have undergone different aspects of Assisted Reproductive Technology.
We chose to work with Vios because it was the best fit for us. I underwent two ovarian stimulation cycles and egg retrievals. My first retrieval didn’t go as planned. I admittedly didn’t have the best compliance and it didn’t result in a successful retrieval. I underwent another cycle and was treated the way we treat our patients. I took supplements, herbs, had regularly scheduled acupuncture appointments and did my best to keep my stress levels low. I had acupuncture twice a week during ovarian stimulation. Additionally, Dr. Angie Beltsos, our Reproductive Endocrinologist, adjusted her treatment protocol based on the previous results. With all of these modifications, the second retrieval was far more successful.
Dr. Phillippi: We did what is called a reciprocal IVF cycle, using Lamya’s eggs and donor sperm and me as a gestational carrier. We had a successful embryo transfer in April. In preparation for the embryo transfer, I had weekly acupuncture treatments and have continued with treatments throughout my pregnancy.
7.) Has being personally involved with IVF and/or retrieval changed your approach to patient care?
Dr. Phillippi: I have a better understanding of what they are going through. I know ART pretty deeply on an intellectual level, but there were many eye-opening moments when I experienced it first-hand. The time, mental, emotional and physical energy spent and the sheer occupation of your life was very intense. It was all encompassing.
Dr. Kamel: We already had high compassion for patients, but it takes it to another level now that we have fully experienced it. It gives you a deeper appreciation for the process.
8.) How do you help your patients choose a Reproductive Endocrinologist?
Dr. Phillippi: It’s a very personal decision and a lot of factors influence it. Many patients come in with their own research and we ask a few questions to help clarify their priorities. We often advise that they meet with a few doctors before making a final decision. Sometimes insurance is a big factor and sometimes personality or ability to connect to the doctor matters.
Dr. Kamel: One great help is that all reproductive endocrinology clinics must report their clinical success rates so that can help direct you to the best fit for the patient. Personal preference plays a big role as well. We’re lucky in Illinois to have some of the best Reproductive Endocrinologists in the country practice here, so patients are at a great advantage.
9.) One piece of advice for patients or potential patients?
Dr. Phillippi: It really doesn’t always work on the first time, but it doesn’t mean it’s not going to work. You can learn a lot about the body after going through one cycle, so often times, sequential cycles are more successful.
Dr. Kamel: Don’t be discouraged, healing is never linear.
Acupuncture can offer women many benefits before and during pregnancy. Acupuncture can also help women regulate menstrual cycles, treat endometriosis, and ease symptoms during menopause. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, visit us here.