Alex O'Connor's Journey: Becoming a Fertility Expert
When I decided to specialise in fertility acupuncture, I knew that I couldn’t take this decision lightly. I have struggled with unexplained infertility, faced endometriosis, PCOS and amenorrhea; I have been through IUI and IVF and felt the dread and fear that so often accompanies a pregnancy after a long episode of infertility. If I was to work in this space, I had to go in fully tooled up – I needed to be totally confident in my own knowledge, and I needed to find a network of intelligent, experienced and like-minded souls to associate with that I could call for support for a particularly complex or difficult case.
As a member of the British Acupuncture Council, I am required to complete a certain amount of continuing professional development each year. For a few years I bounced around from one course to another, soaking in all the knowledge I could, finding myself increasingly frustrated.
For me, something was lacking. I didn’t want a course that simply regurgitated the same information, I didn’t want to buy into a franchised brand, I wanted knowledge, technical, scientific and detailed knowledge.
I wanted to understand stuff from both a Western and Chinese medicine perspective. There is so much information out there about the Western medical understanding of fertility, and so much information out there about the Chinese medicine approach to fertility, but the two worlds are usually so far apart.
This is when I stumbled across Naava Carman’s Advanced Level Diploma in Fertility Acupuncture. In contrast to all the other courses I had taken, this was the only one that had a clear prior knowledge requirement, and the questions tested the limits of my Western medical knowledge, so I knew I had stumbled across something different. I hoped this would mean that the course would go beyond the basics, dive deeper than any of the courses I had already taken; I was not disappointed.
Naava’s Diploma was long, complex and fascinating. While rooted in Chinese medicine, the course is incredibly technical from a Western medicine perspective – far beyond the level of detail that most general acupuncturists would want to go to, but absolutely what I hoped for.
Throughout the course there were numerous lightbulb moments, and so much information that has totally revolutionised the way that I work in clinic.
My knowledge and understanding of the mechanisms behind many of the hidden causes of infertility has grown exponentially. I used to be able to competently treat a basic cycle to improve fertility – that was a fine way to work and helped many ladies to conceive, but my approach now is so much more advanced. I have confidence in my knowledge, I know what I know and I know how to find out what I don’t know. I thrive on the tricky cases, the ‘unexplained infertility’ cases. I am able to work with my clients to extract vital clues from their cycle, from their blood tests and scan reports – all while working on soothing angst and emotional pain, and gently supporting the cycle with acupuncture and lifestyle advice.
The feedback I get is incredible, my clients feel empowered – I teach them how to know their cycle, how to read their hormonal indicators, to understand how to support their cycle to move towards a healthier state.
I know what blood tests I need to deepen my understanding of someone’s cycle; I know how to interpret the results and how to use that information to guide treatment. I know when to push my clients to insist on further testing, and why it is so important that they do so. Blood tests and scan reports are also invaluable tools for monitoring the impact of treatment.
Knowledge really is power, for both me and for my clients. I am able to explain the intricacies of FSH and LH levels to someone, to talk about the mechanisms that drive PCOS or help someone else to understand how subclinical hypothyroidism can impact their fertility.
But one of the most valuable aspects of training with Naava has come in the form of our ongoing support network– fondly referred to as the ‘hive mind’!
When stuck with an unusual set of blood results, or trying to work out the meaning of an unusual symptom, I have a network of some of the most amazing fertility practitioners to call on. We are an active, mutually supportive group, an incredible pool of knowledge and experience.
If you are an acupuncturist considering specialising in this amazing space, I can’t recommend the Advanced Level Diploma in Fertility Acupuncture enough – it really is a game-changer. And if you want an acupuncturist who understands the whole picture, who can work closely with you to work out how to improve your fertility, search your area for a Fertility Support Trained practitioner and dive a little deeper.