New York-based Mike Berkley has been an acupuncturist for many years and has helped thousands of people to have children
He spoke to IVF babble about all things fertility and the huge amount of job satisfaction he has got in that time.
How did you become an acupuncturist?
Mike said: “I had been studying martial arts for years and my teacher was an acupuncturist. After ten years of training, my teacher says to me ‘I’ve spent ten years teaching you to hurt people, now I think you should learn how to help people’. That was a profound statement and an important idea.”
Mike went to take a class at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and left six years later with a acupuncture degree and certification in herbal medicine.
“It was one of the best life choices I’ve ever made. How good can it get? I get to help people for a living.”
How do you feel knowing you’ve helped someone realise their ultimate dream of becoming a parent?
“I have the best job ever. I have the opportunity on a daily basis to help couples start or grow their families. My patients have gone through multiple failed IUI and IVF cycles when they come to me. What I do is tremendously gratifying but sometimes tremendously heart-breaking as not every patient enjoys success.”
How can acupuncture help fertility?
“Acupuncture and the proper herbal medicine formulas improve blood flow to the ovaries, follicles, eggs or testes. Blood is a messenger: it carries oxygen, nutrients, hormones and electrolytes to the follicles (and testes), and helps to clear dead cells from the ovarian or testicular environment. As a result of this, we see improved egg quality, sperm quality and lining quality. Additionally, acupuncture and herbs are also effective in regulating the menses which is very important in patients with PCOS. Further, acupuncture and herbs can be used to remove free-radicals and inflammation which is very important in the endometriosis patient. There has been data which points to the relationship between stress and infertility. Acupuncture is very effective in reducing stress. The best news about acupuncture is that it can either help or not – but it won’t ever harm the patient.”
What should both men and women be doing before trying to conceive to help the process?
“It depends on a case by case basis. If a woman is obese, she must lose weight as obesity can contribute to infertility, or if she does get pregnant, she is susceptible to gestational hypertension or pre-eclampsia. Smoking cigarettes or hard drugs are a no go. Drinking coffee and alcohol are fine in moderation up until pregnancy is confirmed, then coffee and alcohol consumption should cease. Men should also know that obesity affects sperm quality. They should try to conceive naturally. If, after six months of trying with timed intercourse there is no success, then, the couple should be evaluated by a reproductive endocrinologist to rule out possible mitigating pathologies. Even though infertility is defined as an inability to conceive within 12 months of trying I recommend being evaluated after six months of failed attempts to conceive. If a patient is over 35 years old and she has not conceived within three months, I recommend seeing a reproductive endocrinologist for a work-up as age related factors might be in play – for example, low ovarian reserve and poor quality eggs. These two pathologies are more manifest in woman over 35 years of age.”
Any success stories to tell?
“My first fertility case was back in 1998. My patient was 42-years-old who’d had six failed IUI’s and three failed IVF’s. I treated her for three months with acupuncture and herbs and she conceived naturally, giving birth to a healthy and beautiful baby. This experience is what drove me to spend the rest of my professional life studying, teaching and treating reproductive disorders.”
Are there specific herbs that can help fertility, or is it only treatable on an individual basis?
“In traditional Chinese medicine, we don’t prescribe ‘single’ herbs but rather several herbs which constitutes what is known as an herbal formula. There is no one-formula-treats-all method of treatment. Each and every patient will receive a specific herbal formula based entirely and only on their presentation. Lets take a PCOS case: one patient is obese, one is thin, one is 38-years-old and one is 28-years-old. One menstruates three times per year and one menstruates nine times per year. Even though they both have PCOS, they require entirely different herbal formulas. Chinese medicine treats the whole person, not just the pathology.”
What do you tell your patients when they come to see you about acupuncture for fertility?
“I explain everything that I’ve written above and I let them know that it ‘takes a village’ and that an East meets West approach to care is the best way to go. Here’s why: acupuncturists can’t perform IUI’s or IVF’s but reproductive endocrinologists can’t improve sperm or egg or lining quality – acupuncture can. If we work as a team -patient, acupuncture and reproductive medicine, the chances of conception increase exponentially.”
What message would you give to anyone who maybe experiencing infertility and are not sure where to go for help?
“If someone is facing fertility challenges do not go to your gynaecologist, go to a reputable reproductive endocrinologist. Get a thorough evaluation, and proceed according to your doctors input. Also, include acupuncture and herbal medicine in the protocol.”
Do you feel that acupuncture helped you get pregnant? Let us know, email firstname.lastname@example.org