Fertility clinic combines best of Western, Eastern medicine
by George McConnell
The current trend of couples postponing marriage and trying to conceive children later in life has some suggesting there is an “infertility epidemic”, according to Dr. Angela Wu, a San Francisco fertility specialist.
She thinks one of the problems in trying to resolve this dilemma is the fact that Western medicine often fails to recognize the connection between the mind, body and spirit. Wu has been practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture for more than 30 years, and her integration of Eastern and Western medical therapies has been successful in helping many couples previously diagnosed as infertile become parents.
“Traditional Chinese medicine looks at internal weather, not chronological age. By balancing and harmonizing, we create an environment conducive to conception, regardless of age,” Wu said.
The many photographs of her “miracle babies,” as she calls them, that line the wall of her clinic on Clement Street are proof of some of her successes.
“These are babies born with support from Western reproductive technologies, acupuncture and other traditional Eastern therapies, often against tremendous odds,” Wu said.
Her work has garnered the attention of local and national media, and she has even been dubbed a “fertility goddess.” But medicine was not Wu’s first calling. Her medical career came about circuitously and most inauspiciously.
In Taiwan, where she was born and raised, Wu was known as Wu Chii Feng. From the late ’60s to the mid-’70s, she was a celebrated actress, working in radio, television, motion pictures and on stage. She had trained as a singer, and her acting career began when she found work as an on-air hostess for a radio station. Her “good camera face” soon got her roles for television, she said.
“To those who know me, it comes as no surprise that my specialties were soap opera ingenue, prone to romantic entanglements,” said Wu.
But she vividly recalls that day long ago when she was taking a break while on location filming for a soap opera and decided to climb a tree and jump, just to show she could.
“As I made my leaping descent from the tree and rolled down a hill, I began to bleed. Without even realizing I was pregnant, I was having a miscarriage,” she said. A few months later, Wu found she was pregnant again, but although she carried to term, her daughter lived only 42 days.
One year after her third child, a son, was born, she gave birth to her daughter. But that birth took its toll, resulting in Wu having a physical relapse requiring a long period of recuperation and rehabilitation. It was during this time, she said, that she was inspired by the healing power of her own Qi – the life force that inhabits each of us – and committed herself to studying the traditional Chinese medicine that had nurtured her as a child.
She received her degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine in China and subsequently worked at various medical clinics there before coming to the United States in 1976. She started her clinic on Clement Street in 1979, and in 1981 began to specialize in fertility issues. She has served on numerous state and federal committees.
In her book, “Fertility Wisdom,” released in 2006, Wu writes that in 2005 alone, her clinic helped 79 women with fertility problems become pregnant, 39 with support from Western reproductive technologies and 40 naturally.
“Many of these women wondered if they would ever conceive at all,” she said.
Wu asserts that clients who adhere to her concepts – which include a mix of acupuncture, acupressure, herbs, and meditation – increase their chances of full-term pregnancy.
“If we tend our bodies, minds and spirits with an awareness of the laws of nature, we improve our chances of welcoming the gifts of Quan Yin, the fertility goddess,” she said.
Her regimen starts with practicing acupressure and acupuncture on both the prospective mother and father in the preconception stage and requires that they adhere to a strict diet of specific foods and herbal remedies. Once the woman becomes pregnant, she continues the treatments during the first trimester. After the baby is delivered, a combination of herbs and acupressure is prescribed to help speed recovery, prevent post-partum depression and strengthen the body.
“They have more energy, vitality and suffer fewer mood swings, and their babies are calmer, have more regular sleep patterns and fewer health problems,” she said.
In a bow to the skeptics, Dr. Victor Fujimoto, a reproductive specialist, conceded in the preface of Wu’s book that it can be challenging to merge Western and Eastern mindsets.
“There are things that Western science simply cannot explain,” Fujimoto said.
During a session at Wu’s Healing Center, Devin Wu, L.Ac., P.T., asks Kim Phan, 40, about her hip pain. Phan is pregnant with her first child, conceived after she joined the clinic’s “Welcome Babies” fertility treatment. Wu, the son of the clinic’s founder, Angela Wu, uses a fusion of western and eastern methods in his practice.