Supporting Fertility by Honoring Our Bodies
Hello! I’m Haley West, LAc. I am so honored to join Portland Acupuncture Studio and the integrative team at Synergy Women’s Health Care. It is with excitement and gratitude that I practice my calling in Chinese medicine and women’s reproductive health. As you might have read in my bio, this work is deeply personal for me, and I want my patients to know that the care they receive from me will come not only from a place of expert knowledge but also from a place of empathy. I know how trying this journey can be, but I also know that there are spaces and opportunities for healing and hope, however this manifests for you. I hope that our treatment rooms at Synergy can become your sanctuary of healing. That here you can hang your bag on the door and leave your to-do lists and your worries outside, so that we can focus on the greater task – YOU!
How Does Acupuncture Work to Treat Fertility and Women’s Health Conditions?
Like so many people, you might be asking, “How can acupuncture work to treat infertility, or painful periods or raging PMS symptoms?” And, rightly so, these are great questions to become informed about before coming to see us. The answer is simple really: Just like Western medicine can treat a broken bone or a severe respiratory infection due to its systematic approach to assessment, diagnosis and treatment, Chinese medicine is also a whole system of medicine with its own clear methodology. We have clear methods that lead us to develop a comprehensive treatment plan for your unique situation. We just use a different lens to see you through, and different tools to treat you with. Let me tell you more.
In all of our treatments, we draw from an ancient understanding of the human physiology, anatomy and structure that make each of us unique microcosms, reflecting the rhythms and patterns we see in our natural world. One of my teachers used to say, “If you truly want to understand Chinese medicine, go into nature and observe, there you will find your answers.” For a great example of the reflective nature of our medicine, look no further than the humble placenta. The ancients described this organ as the ‘tree of life’ because not only does it physically nourish a blossoming fetus, it also clearly resembles a tree with the root coming from the umbilicus of the fetus spreading its branches, providing vital nutrients from the mother. And so, we can see in our very own anatomy that we are not separate from our environment, but a part of it. This is one of the foundational premises of Chinese medicine. With acupuncture point names like “pool at the crook”, “grasping the wind” and “cloud gate”, Chinese medicine sees each individual as a self-contained ecosystem. As an acupuncturist, my job is to help bring you back to balance within that system, to intervene in just the right places to restore the river’s flow or nourish the roots that bind essential minerals into the soil.
The Secret to Good Health and Fertility: Our Essential Connection to Nature
If you haven’t guessed, I am an avid gardener, and many times I do see the similarities between what happens in my garden and what happens with my patients. Right now, all of my plants are going to seed, as they are putting all their hope and faith into those tiny, compact seeds. With luck, no bird or squirrel will eat them and they can burrow into the warm soil to lay dormant until the spring sun returns. Likewise, we are raking the leaves, bringing in our plants, and making our homes cozy for the winter and putting all our hope and faith into those humble seeds that we want to flourish in the spring.
Like my garden, at this time of year, our own energy is being drawn away from the flashy leaves and flowers and into our roots, hibernating and relishing in family, friends and community. This is the lens in which I choose to focus my practice of Chinese medicine. I believe that seeing each of us as a part of nature, instead of being removed from it, engenders hope when faced with daunting health issues or chronic disappointment. For me, going to Forest Park and sitting in the trees or climbing to the top of Mt. Hood and realizing that all of that wondrous natural beauty is inside each of us – that is empowering. Once we realize this, it easy to love our faults and cherish our blemishes; as we begin to honor ourselves more in this natural process of life, we inevitably learn to listen.
Listening is a practice; it takes time, repetition and patience to truly learn how to cultivate this vital skill. Too many times we neglect or ignore the signals our bodies are sending us, especially in these dark winter months when our bodies crave stillness and rest in lieu of vigorous movement and stimulation. As the seasons change, we are better served by changing our routines to more closely align with the natural cycles of the winter season. Resting more, keeping warm and eating nourishing cooked food is a great start to winter time self-care. Listening to what our bodies need is so important, especially if you are trying to increase your fertility or taking care of a growing belly. Practicing kindness towards ourselves is often a forgotten practice in this culture. In our society it is frowned upon to take sick days much less personal time for self care and these collective behaviors leave us worn and ragged.
Self-care for Fertility and Pregnancy
Remember the plants in my garden that engender so much care and love into those little seeds? Try to envision yourself as one of those seeds; a magnificent creation that holds the promise of a glorious spring blossom. Come from a place of love and gentleness when it comes to yourself and honor what your body needs in order to thrive this spring!
In this spirit of self-kindness, I offer a simple weekly practice that can be as luxurious or as basic as you choose to make it- the modest foot bath. Foot baths serve a dual purpose for women in every stage of life, they offer relaxation as well as medicinal benefits. If you are trying to support fertility, foot baths aid in enhancing blood flow to the ovaries and uterus and they help keep your feet nice and warm, which is a key treatment strategy in improving fertility with Chinese medicine. For the pregnant mama, foot baths can help ease swelling and soreness that accumulates in late pregnancy. In general, foot baths can ease painful periods, improve overall blood circulation and even enhance our sleep cycles! Why are we all not doing these?! Adding a foot bath routine to your life might just be the nicest thing you’ve done for yourself in a long time. All you need is small basin or large bowl that you can fit your feet into comfortably up to your ankles. Here are two easy recipes that you can enjoy 2-3 times weekly or whenever it feels right for you.
Fertility Foot Soak
In a large bowl or basin, pour enough warm to hot water to cover your feet and ankles. Add a cup or two of fresh ginger tea, a handful of lavender and chrysanthemum flowers and a small cotton muslin bag filled with dried rolled oats. Stay with your feet in the basin anywhere from 10 to 15 up to 45 minutes. Your feet will feel smooth, warm and and pampered, and so will you!
Mama-to-be Foot Soak
In a large bowl or basin, pour enough warm to hot water to cover your feet and ankles. Add 1 cup of Epsom salts, 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar and any combination of 2 drops of rose, rosemary, wintergreen or lavender essential oils. Soak anywhere from 10-30 minutes but be careful not to raise your body temp up to the point of overall body sweating, this is easily managed by keeping the water just a little above body temp, in the range of 100 to 110 degrees. This will dramatically reduce the achy tension in your feet, and you will love every minute of it! Throw some rose petals or dried calendula flowers in there for bonus points in practicing self-kindness.
It’s been my pleasure sharing these acts of self-love with you, I hope you enjoy, and please post your experience as well as favorite foot bath recipes. I’d love to hear from you!