How to Chose an Acupuncturist for Fertility Issues
Should I look for an acupuncturist who specializes in infertility?
We have been receiving numerous inquiries requesting referrals to local acupuncturists. Below are some tips on how to find the right acupuncturist.
- Practitioner referral or directories may be available through national and regional acupuncture organizations
Here are some important criteria to follow when you are making an initial attempt to choose an acupuncturist for infertility issues.
- Qualifications: In the US, about 40 states have established training standards for acupuncture certification. There is no acupuncture regulation in most provinces in Canada (except in British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec). If you reside in areas where acupuncture is regulated, you should make sure that the acupuncturist is licensed and registered with the regulatory body. Although proper credentials do not ensure highest competency, they do indicate that the practitioner has met minimum standards to treat patients using acupuncture.
- Education: In some provinces such as Ontario*, where acupuncture is not regulated, each acupuncturist’s training varies greatly. While some acupuncturists have completed more than 3-4 years of study in a full time program, others may be providing acupuncture after only taking a few weekend courses.
- Clean Needle Technique: It is also very important to confirm that the acupuncturist practices Clean Needle Technique and uses disposable needles. This issue is particularly important in the regions where acupuncture is not regulated.
- Experience: Ask the acupuncturist about the number of years of clinical experience. It is impossible to develop mastery and fluency in acupuncture only by classroom training. There are many elements in acupuncture which can only be earned through years of clinical practice.
- Continuing Education: Health care knowledge is advancing at a rapid pace. It is important that your practitioner is up-to-date in the field. Surprisingly, there are some practitioners who practically never open any textbook after graduation.
- Acupuncture Styles: It is also useful to ask which technique the acupuncturist uses. Even among qualified acupuncturists, the techniques used vary greatly according to each one’s background (Read Acupuncture Styles to learn more). For example, some acupuncturists hook up a few needles to an electro-stimulator for several minutes, while others utilize more traditional procedures involving more systemic needling during an hour long appointment. Both procedures are still referred to as “acupuncture”, and this is important to keep in mind when making inquiries.It should also be noted that in North America, acupuncture was initially introduced as an analgesic method and it is still most commonly used as a pain management modality. Many acupuncture programs offered in North America today, especially the ones offered for physiotherapists or chiropractors, focus on analgesic acupuncture techniques (which may not necessarily be most suitable for fertility issues).
- Cost: Since many health conditions require a series of acupuncture sessions, the treatment cost is a great consideration for many people. As for acupuncture techniques, treatment fees also vary greatly (for example in the US, while a single acupuncture session can be as low as twenty USD, some acupuncturists in fact charge three to five hundred USD per session). The treatment fee is determined by both subjective and objective factors such as practitioner’s confidence or motivation, clinic location, qualifications, experience, quality of disposable needles and other equipment used, acupuncture procedure, and duration of each session, etc. It is important to consider these variables instead of simply comparing prices only.
- Insurance: Many insurance companies in the US and Canada now cover all or some of the cost for acupuncture. It is important to note that many insurance companies, especially in the states or provinces where there are no acupuncture laws, have very specific requirements in regard to acupuncturist’s qualifications and designations. These must be met according to their policy in order to qualify for the coverage. Check with your insurance provider for details.
- Success Rate?: We do not know any responsible acupuncturists who provide the rate of their success for infertility. As explained in the Infertility FAQ page, there are no standards exist to produce meaningful success rate statistics. The best alternative is to ask how many of their patients became pregnant in the past. It may not give you a good sense of your actual chance of success but at least it will give you an idea about the practitioners experience and track record in infertility cases.
- Should I look for an acupuncturist who specializes in infertility?: It is important to note that when an acupuncturist uses terms such as ‘specialize’ or ‘specialization’, these should not be confused with medical specialization in terms of the requirements and standard of training. While some “specialist” acupuncturists may indeed have great understanding and experience, virtually any acupuncturist can indicate their specialization of interest without any additional training or experience in treating that condition.Acupuncture should not be considered a specific fertility treatment. Rather, acupuncture should be considered as a modality to help promote and optimize overall health, thus leading to enhancement in fertility and helping optimize the chance of carrying to term. Potential pitfalls due to micro specialization among allopathic medicine have been frequently discussed elsewhere. A common tenet of acupuncture and many other modalities of natural medicine is “treating the whole”. While it can be helpful if an acupuncturist has a good understanding of the various aspects affecting infertility and has experience in treating the condition, focusing too much on one aspect can lead to missing the larger picture (somewhat like overlooking the forest for the trees).
- Who is the Best?: The ‘best acupuncturist’ for one person may not be the best for another. Sometimes it is necessary to try out different acupuncturists or styles. Generally, we recommend choosing an acupuncturist primarily based on overall ability and experience, who will focus on a holistic treatment approach helping you obtain better health.
* Special Note to Consumers in Ontario
Since the Traditional Chinese Medicine Act was passed in 2006, the Transitional Council has been working hard to develop standards and a registration process for acupuncturists in Ontario. It is, however, expected to be another year approximately, before the registration of acupuncturists in Ontario begins.
This means that currently virtually anyone can identify him- or herself as an acupuncturist and perform acupuncture in Ontario. More and more health care professionals, such as chiropractors, physiotherapists, naturopaths, and massage therapists, are including acupuncture in their treatment modalities. This trend has a positive side: it provides patients with more options and increased convenience. But it is important for consumers to be aware of the wide variety of training backgrounds possessed and treatment methods used by those offering acupuncture at this time in Ontario.