#NIAW: Certified Herbalist Deb Ross on Acupuncture for Infertility & Dismantling Thought Traps

We’re diving deep with Deb Ross, MS, LAc, certified herbalist and acupuncturist, co-founder of The Well Center in Armonk, NY, and mother of 2 girls. She supports many women going through the throes of infertility as both a space-holder and a healer. She shares the power of acupuncture and herbs in strengthening the mind-body connection, how she works closely with fertility doctors, and the practice of breaking “thought traps.” Find her @thewellcenterny and at The Well Center. 

What was your training like to become an acupuncturist?

I went to Touro College in NYC. It was an intense graduate program because you are getting a few masters degrees simultaniously. You receive you masters in science, your masters in Oriental Medicine (OM), which covers both acupuncture and herbs. (some choose just acupuncture). It’s a three year program that's on trimesters – so you went through the summer and basically it is five years of schooling in three years.

Can you define acupuncture as you practice it?

I would say over the 15 years I have been in private practice the way I practice the medicine has changed, as I have changed through the years. Once I went though my own pregnancies, deliveries, postpartum (each one so different) and now in this wild terrain of motherhood with my 2 girls – I feel that I can deeply understand and relate to my patients with compassion, truth and humor.

I feel that my practice is not just acupuncture and herbs, but there is a real spiritual/emotional component to it. I want to empower my patients to understand themselves and give them tools for success. I want to be a resource for them – from herbs, to supplements and dietary recommendations to offering mantras, meditations and crystals. The yin and yang of it all.

How does acupuncture support fertility and fertility treatments, such as ART?

When someone is going through fertility treatments we are tracking their days just like the reproductive endocrinologist is – so we know where our focus should be for the acupuncture and herbs. Prepping the body for the different stages, from tonifying and engendering blood during the first week, to creating a specific environment for successful ovulation, we are a supportive tool on the journey.

What is a first session with you like for those coming with fertility concerns?

When someone comes to see me we have a long initial consult so that I understand the person’s constitution from their history to the present. I think all the information matters – so that I get as a clear a picture of what is going on currently. From their overall health, to all the details in their fertility journey, I want to know it all. I am also a purist in the first session – I just do acupuncture, so I can see how someone just responds to the needles. And then as we move along, we can add herbs, moxa and other lifestyle modifications and suggestions to achieve our goal. I want the patient to be feel like they have time to tell me their story and I want the patient to feel really comfortable with me, so that as we move along in the process we have a foundation of mutual trust, respect and positive intention.

How many sessions does it typically take to experience results — and what are “results” when looking at acupuncture for fertility?

This is a tricky question, I think. Every person is so unique. Their story and their health histories so different that there is no one size fits all “results” with the medicine. Often people feel amazing after a session, super calm and balanced and that alone is crucial to their well being. Anything with fertility, wherever you are in the journey, can be intense, and layered with many emotions and energies. The mind and body are one thing for us in Chinese Medicine. There is no separation between the two – so a balanced body is a balanced mind. For example, take someone who is super rigid and their mind is attached to statistics, numbers and they use that information as a way to control the fertility situation because the entirety of it all can feel overwhelming. I view that attachment a stressor and it can create stagnation and constriction in the body, making energy, qi and blood less able to flow naturally and harmoniously. In my experience, acupuncture can really shift this person to have an experience of being more open, fluid and able to receive. Receive information. Receive acupuncture. Receive and be in the flow of what is.

I do not ever want to give anyone false expectations of what will happen and say in six months you will be pregnant. Does that happen, yes. Does it not happen, yes. I have seen everything from getting pregnant within a month of seeing me, to working years through miscarriages and other unknowns that are just part of a woman’s experience when dealing with fertility.

Do you just use needles or are herbs and nutritional counseling part of therapy?

Way more than needles when you come see me. I am also a certified herbalist so herbs in many cases are helpful. I do respect if someone is doing IVF that their medication is being monitored very closely, so I want to support my patients with some supplement ideas, nutritional advice, as well as mindfulness techniques to help round out the experience. I want to be a place of refuge for my patients, a place where they can let it all go, be as a real, raw and honest as they want.

A place to be seen, heard and understood on all levels. Not just another statistic or FSH score. My intention and hope is that they feel supported and changed by the medicine, and supported compassionately by me.

What should someone who is looking for fertility support from an acupuncturist ask to see if they are a good fit?

You would want to ask the practitioner their expertise treating fertility and overall experience with patients and cases. I think it is important to feel connected to your practitioner – that you feel like you can be yourself, and that there is great communication and trust.

What do you say to those who are on the fence about acupuncture and may be hesitant because they’ve “tried all the things” and nothing seems to work?

The beauty of acupuncture is the reward is much bigger than then the risk. I would ask the person to give it a few tries to see how they feel during and after their sessions. It’s a translated medicine for the west – so you have to let yourself adapt to this experience that you have not had before. There are new sensations, feelings happening on the table. A new relationship you get to discover about your body – which I think is fascinating and important. Understanding your body/mind as one and as energy. It allows a moment to break the “thought traps” and allows you space to just be and receive. If someone is “done talking”, that is cool by me, we can make it simple, easy and get them on the table to just have a shift in perspective by moving qi and blood. And recognizing the subtleties afterwards… less pain, less reactive, better sleep, mood more balanced, receiving information differently. And of course the hope is a positive pregnancy test.

What’s a rewarding day at the office look like?

I love what I do. I can not imagine doing anything else. People getting relief or feeling understood, or having a breakthrough or any success is such a gift to witness. I love connecting with people and helping them discover the healing power they all have within themselves. It is such an honor to be entrusted with someone’s health and well being — it is something I take very seriously and give my all to each patient.

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