Monday, January 23, 2017

How to Stop Your Natural Fertility Treatments

Infertility is expensive.  No matter how you slice it, it's costs a lot to get all the tests, lab work, scans, blood draws and sometimes even surgeries for both the husband and wife.  IVF on average is $10,000.00-$25,000.00 per month depending on what the couple needs throughout their cycle.  IUI's are around $1,000.00 per month.    It often takes several IVF attempts to have a healthy baby born.  Even acupuncture, when used weekly to help build Kidney Yang and Jing to enhance fertility and balance hormones gets expensive over time.  Add in the vitamins that are critical to many infertility problems and then the thousand year old herbal medicine to enhance fertility with the additional consultations to make sure your herbal medicine is working, needing to change to different formulas or re-check labs: it all adds up.

We often encourage our patients to take a break, from it all, and many do.  It's just too hard to go on and on and on with negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test.  After a year of treatment for our patients under 35 and after only 6 months of treatments for our patients over 35 we tenderly and gently  bring up other options like mini or Japanese IVF or even adoption.  All of our patients of course have already considered these options on their own, before ever seeking our expertise.  But it's important to talk about options.  These are difficult conversations to have with our patients as they are hoping we have all the answers for every single patient: we don't. 

Many flat out refuse our suggestion of IVF initially and it's not something we obsessively bring up of course.  But with some education about mini IVF and our success in prepping patients prior to their treatment, they often do finally hear our suggestions.  Only a small percentage of our patients ever need IVF but when they do, we work closely with a center who tries to be the least invasive as possible and due to the lower number of prescription drugs they use, the cost is about 1/2 of traditional IVF. 

 It often takes several promptings on our part over several months to encourage them to at least do a consult.  It's a fine line between encouraging your patient to seek other options and not making them feel abandoned or that you have given up on them.  Let me be clear: we never give up on our patients.  We may refer them out for further testing or refer out for IVF or talk about pursuing adoption but we never give up.  Giving up on a patient is not our job.  Our job is to encourage, give hope and do all we can to support their fertility for as long as they want.

Often we hear their resistance: "but you helped me ovulate on my own, for the first time in my life, I'm not ready to give up".  Or "but I don't have the endometriosis pain anymore, after 10 years of it, doesn't that mean we are more fertile?  Maybe it will be next month?" or "my labs show my hormones are balanced for the first time, I can't stop now" or "my husband's semen analysis went from infertile to fertile for the first time ever, we can't take a break".
We understand.  It's impossible to know how long to seek treatment, any treatment, natural or not.
It's hard to know how many IVF's to do before you stop. Or how many IUI's with Clomid.  It's so hard to decide but your doctors will make suggestions and we will guide you.

We say it over and over to our patients, post it on our FB business page and post it on our health blogs: No one can tell when the tide will turn.  No one can promise you 100% success with their treatment, not even us, not even IVF.   You have to look within.  You and your spouse have to decide if you feel the treatments are helping you and you have to decide when to stop treatment.  You have to decide when to give up hope or to move on to another solution or simply change directions by adding in a different approach in addition to what you are already doing.  No one knows if it's working or not,  until it does and you have a positive pregnancy test.

It's a tough call and patients hate making that call. But we can't make it for them.

We often urge them to take a break and give them a big hug when they have the courage to do that: We are honest when we encourage them to stop all herbal medicine, stop their vitamins, and stop all acupuncture.  It takes courage.  We tell them, enjoy your life, enjoy your husband and the love you have together.  Go on vacation.  Go on dates. Talk with your therapist.  If they don't have a therapist, we often refer out to one.  Take a break, save some money, stop thinking about infertility every minute of every day.  It's hard.  We know, it creeps into your thoughts even when you don't want it to. We live it every day with our patients. We have to make difficult decisions every day.

We often encourage our patients to do a consult with the IVF doctors after they have been coming for a year.  Sometimes we recommend they do a consult with an IVF doctor after our first assessment and treatment.  We know it's another $250 just to talk to the doctor for  half an hour but it gives them power to know if this doctor thinks IVF could help them.  We understand their consult  includes no treatment, but their expert opinion is valuable.  Surprisingly,  not all of our patients will hear that they are a good candidate for mini IVF.  The doctor we refer out to will not always say yes to our patients. That is heartbreaking to hear, but they are honest about their expectations and that can empower our couples to find another clinic or to keep trying naturally or to stop all treatment and save money for adoption.

Often, if a patient chooses to go through IVF they will continue with their acupuncture.  They will come less frequently than before, but it helps reduce anxiety and helps them with their PMS symptoms or with their side-effects from drugs and for some it can help reduce their pain.  We never, ever suggest continuing on with herbal medicine once patients start taking fertility drugs.  Many studies have shown prepping with acupuncture and herbal medicine prior to IVF increases the success of the IVF by over 50%.  This is encouraging to the patient and they continue with our care. Together, we help couples get pregnant.

Within our practice we created packages for patients in our practice to help make things more affordable.  We have kept those prices for the packages the same cost for 9 years.  9 years without raising the price is something we are proud of and have done it intentionally. Even though the cost of running a practice goes up annually we wanted to kept that option intact for our patients.  Some of our practitioners handle the intensive, more in depth assessments and recommendations, pouring over cases for hours during their initial and on the re-evaluations.  Other practitioners continue to offer the packages for follow-ups to make chronic medical conditions, like infertility, more affordable.  This enables our patients to receive the best of both worlds: in-depth research, expertise and recommendations coupled with more affordable follow-ups.  Many of our patients see both practitioners Kristen and Tony Burris, L.Ac., M.S.T.O.M. to take advantage of these options, scheduling different appointments at different times throughout their fertility treatments.

One of the greatest compliments we ever received in our practice was when another Acupuncturist and Herbalist, who also treated infertility in her practice, came to us for help getting pregnant.  After her long, thorough, investigative initial evaluation and acupuncture treatment she was awe struck.  She said right then and there she couldn't believe she had told patients she treated infertility all of these years in her practice.  She said, I don't treat infertility after all and she referred every one of her infertility patients to us that day. What we do during our initial visit and during our re-evaluations for patients, spending hours and hours going through past labs, current labs, semen analysis and evaluating them from a Chinese Medicine perspective it different, it's exhausting and laborious and we love it. 

Another surprise was when a reproductive endocrinologist (the doctors who offer IVF) referred his wife to us for treatment.  It was a life altering moment in our practice that happened over 10 years ago and we will never forget it.  Their baby girl is a beauty!

We see miracles happen every week.  We witness what was once impossible become possible. It is never up to us to stop treatment: that would be unethical.  It is never our right to take that hope away from a patient; that would be cruel.   It is our job to instill hope, not take it away. 

Don't be a afraid to take a break for a week, a month, a season, or a year.  Look inside and you will find the answer.  Ask the experts and they will help you make the best decision you can.

Need a consult?  We offer free initial 30 minute consultations for our patients over the phone

1 comment:

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