Get To Know Me: TFG’s Interview With Infertility Out Loud
I recently had the honor of being interviewed by Liz Strong, author of the blog Infertility Out Loud . Her website is devoted to discussing the latest traditional and non-traditional treatments with top specialist in the field. She also dedicates much of her site to addressing ways of overcoming the stigma and isolation surrounding infertility.
Interview: Emily Nichols, The Fertility Guru
Licensed Mental Health Couselor
Certified Cognitive Therapist
Emily Nichols is The Fertility Guru. Through her website, Instagram and Facebook pages, she offers people well-researched and organized information about reproductive health. An acupuncturist, she blends Eastern and Western practices, giving readers a well-rounded look at how they can help themselves take charge of their reproductive health. And did I mention she’s funny? Well worth the read, click on the links below to learn more about The Fertility Guru:
Liz: I was drawn to your blog is because it is well-researched and well-written, and you present information in a humorous, relatable way. Fertility is clearly something you care about and want to educate others on-what motivated you to do so and to start your blog?
During my 3rd year internship at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, just by a scheduling coincidence, I was placed under the women’s health specialist at our clinic. The patients who came in for treatment on this particular shift tended to be women struggling with infertility. Treating these women came naturally to me, and, one after another, patients returned with positive pregnancy tests. Never had the rewards of treatment been so tangible.
Jump forward 7 years and most of the patients who come to my clinic have exhausted their western medical fertility options and are physically and emotionally fried. I’ve put in a lot of time studying the “typical” (and sometimes a-typical) western medical approach to infertility in order to understand the roller coaster ride these women go through before landing in my clinic. Besides treating the physical, I make sure to also treat the burnout I see with a side of humor and relatability.
My blog came about when I realized no one was talking about western and eastern approaches to fertility in the same space. They are constantly pit against each other, when in reality, both systems of medicine are describing the same body: western medicine sees the microscopic, while eastern medicine sees the broad interconnectedness of the body’s systems. I thought, these two are not mutually exclusive. Why not combine the two theories of medicine in one place, using a relatable, causal and relevant style of writing? My goal was to relay sourced information in an approachable way.
Liz: How much of your advice is East vs West? Or is it an even split?
I try to split my advice down the middle. I want my audience to see the benefits and shortcomings of both, and how, when combined, they connect all pieces of the puzzle together. Most women coming to my blog are not new to fertility challenges and have done a lot of research on the western approach: how their cycles work, the hormones involved, their lab numbers etc…. But eastern medicine is a completely foreign concept. I lay out eastern theory in its most simplified form in order to encourage an understanding of the fundamentals and how one might view the body through a slightly different lens.
Liz: You are an acupuncturist. Do you primarily treat women’s health issues? What kind of success have you found in treating fertility issues with acupuncture? Can you give a brief synopsis on what to expect when someone comes to see you to treat their fertility issues?
Yes I run a fertility-specific clinic here in San Diego, called Green Gardens Fertility Acupuncture, where I treat both women and men for reproductive issues. I mostly see fertility cases but I also treat pregnancy and postpartum, as well as menstrual and menopausal pathologies.
Treatment using eastern medicine is based on the individual and not designed to fit a certain western diagnosis, so each patient is treated differently. However, a 37 year old women diagnosed with unexplained infertility can expect to receive treatment every week for six menstrual cycles. A strict herbal regimen is recommended and compliance is a must. Herbs taste awful but are so powerful and such a key component of successful results. Treatment also includes diet and lifestyle recommendations, bodywork, stress reduction protocols, and other eastern modalities including cupping and moxibustion.
Liz: I find that there is a lot of shame surrounding fertility and all the issues that come with it when people struggle to build their family. I think your blog is an amazing space that normalizes the experience and helps people know what they can expect to encounter and what they can possibly to do to help themselves. With that in mind, what post would you first direct people to if they are feeling overwhelmed by it all and are searching for information?
Great question! I would point those feeling overwhelmed to read my post:
Come Together Right Now Over Me: Finding Your Support Group.
In it I write, “Dealing with infertility can be isolating. Emotions run high as frustration and grief intertwine. Discussing infertility is still bound up in social stigmas. And since it’s commonplace these days to look at the world through the rose colored glasses of social media, we often push our emotions down, put on a brave face and act as if everything is A-OK (insert the thumbs up emoji!) But emotional isolation can be hugely damaging. It is so important to find a community that listens to your story, understands your needs, and supports your efforts to build a family. Luckily there are so many great support groups and bloggers speaking up, talking about the realities of their fertility journey, and validating the emotional response to the crisis of infertility.”
I go on to list great support resources that I feel fit well with the goals and style of my blog. The communities are genuine, uplifting, funny and not afraid to talk about the emotional truths of infertility. Its important to feel like you are not alone in your suffering and to find strength together in a community.
Liz: What are your thoughts on the mind/body connection?
In eastern medicine the mind and the body are intimately connected. Think of the mind as a projector. Emotions are, synaptically speaking, created in the brain. But in eastern medical theory, the mind then projects a map of those emotions onto the systems of the body. A thousand years of medical observation has deduced, for example, that sadness projects onto the Lungs. That’s why we find that people with depression tend to have weak immune systems and are prone to cough and cold. Its also observed in Chinese medicine that stress projects onto the muscles and tendons. That’s why when you’ve had a hard day at work your neck and shoulders ache. Similarly, if you’ve just gone through a break up you feel heartbreak in the area of your actual Heart, even though western medicine describes the function of the heart as having nothing to do with processing emotions. The theory that the mind and its emotions are intertwined with the body’s physiology is at the root of eastern medicine and critical in treating the patient as a whole.
Which of your posts seemed to affect people the most?
Liz: The post that got the most attention was But Seriously, How Does Acupuncture Work? : Eastern Medical Theory 101 . I think people are really curious to understand how inserting needles has help so many people. The post breaks down the theoretical fundamentals behind eastern medical theory in terms that are easy to understand and relate to- nothing too heady or mystical. Check it out!
* My second best post was on coffee and how research has shown a reduction of caffeine can increase your chances of pregnancy. Boy was that a topic people had an opinion on!
What advice would you give to someone about to start the journey of fertility treatments, Eastern or Western or both?
My advice to someone struggling with fertility and looking for answers is be proactive in your pursuit. So often we feel helpless because we let the advice of doctors and specialists stagnate our self understanding. Navigating through the day with fertility on your mind can be overwhelming. Use the O.E.E method. O: Organize your thoughts daily (You can use TFG’s Fertility Planner as a checklist in order to organize your daily must-do’s.) E: Exercise to move stuck Qi and make your body feel physically good. E: Educate. Continue learning to become your own fertility guru. These tools will empower you and help navigate through your own successful fertility journey.
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