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Healing Quest

Season One Transcripts, Episode 11

Acupuncture for Fertility

It’s a simple enough desire. Connie Wilder Willis and her husband Erik want to become mother and father. They have spent thousands of dollars for the most advanced treatment available.

“It’s been discouraging. And in a way we stopped believing that it could happen also.”

In fact, 37-year-old Connie was close to giving up her dream of a baby. Then, advice from a friend brought her and her husband to this small suite of offices in San Francisco. This is Dr. Angela Wu’s Healing Center. It’s a place where for many people the dream of a child has come true. The wall in Dr. Wu’s office sports a proud display of her accomplishments – her “Acu-babies.” She says they now number so many she’s lost count.

“Meeting Dr. Wu has just been a phenomenal, phenomenal experience. She didn’t make any promises to us that she could get us pregnant. She really, really spoke that it’s up to God and, you know, they would do everything they could to get our – my body in balance and my husband’s body in balance as well.”

Angela Wu is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and a Healing Tao instructor. She’s also one of a handful of acupuncturists in the United States who specialize in infertility. Her own healing quest began when she was a young actress in China.

“I had one miscarriage, and then my first child died after 42 days. And then my son was late for a month ’til he was born, and then when I had my daughter I had a near-death experience … I had to use everything I knew of Chinese medicine to work on myself. The acupuncture, the herbs, the breathing exercises, and so on and so forth. And that was the only thing that helped me.”

Across two continents and cultures, Angela Wu’s training and experience made her determined to become a giver of life. With an exotic blend of herbal therapies, diet, organ massage, acupuncture, and counseling, Dr. Wu is often succeeding where western methods are not.

“Regarding pregnancy, the doctor said that my chances of conceiving were almost none. That my eggs were probably too old.”

More than three years after receiving that prognosis, 38-year-old Jody Friedman is due to give birth any day.

“Hi, Jody. I’ll be giving you a massage today.”

Jody first came to the Healing Clinic hoping simply to preserve what fertility she might have left. Today, she’s here for a different reason: a massage for her internal organs… acupuncture… and an unusual therapy called “moxabustion.” Each is part of Dr. Wu’s prescription for avoiding miscarriage and easing labor.

“I’m a rather skeptical person by nature, and I wouldn’t have necessarily assumed that something like this was going to work…now that I’ve gone through it, I feel like it’s something I would recommend to other people to try before they start spending millions of dollars on western treatments that may not be successful.”

Four days after we spoke with Jody, she delivered a healthy 10-pound, 11-ounce baby boy. Success stories like that aren’t lost on Connie Wilder Willis. Like many women in her predicament, she was told her level of “follicle stimulating hormone,” or FSH, was too high for her to easily conceive a child.

“…mine was problematic at 10.8. Well, in arriving here at the wall there was a woman who has an FSH level of 118. I met another woman in the lobby who was 8 months pregnant and had an FSH of 62. So just on the very first appointment, I said this is so – it was so positive just in learning that these women had conceived with a much higher FSH than what I have…”

So Connie began once-a-week visits to Angela Wu. First – the organ massage, aimed at relaxing and balancing the energy levels in Connie’s spleen, liver, and kidneys.

“Breathe in the left kidney, breathe in blue light…”

Massage therapist Kim Frausto manipulates the organs that traditional Chinese medicine associates directly with the health of the reproductive system. The very act of breathing takes on new significance.

“With the kidneys, we’re typically visualizing blue and breathing in calmness and creativity, and exhaling anxiety and fear. And it’s a very soothing process.”

Then – detoxification in the form of cupping.

“The cups draw the stress up to the surface…”

A “meridian” massage will help open blocked energy pathways in her body… and therapist Hieu Ha rubs her back with ginger in preparation for something called a “moxa” treatment. Angela Wu says the treatment strengthens bone marrow to activate Connie’s blood in a way that helps nourish her reproductive system.

“How are you doing?”

“I feel great.”

Finally, it’s Dr. Wu’s turn.

“Breathe in, breathe out…”

With the delicate insertion of tiny needles into key locations, Dr. Wu is applying the ages-old healing power of acupuncture to balance Connie’s energy – and help transfer the will to conceive from her mind to her body.

“For women, I want to say that we have been very lucky to be in this body. Because every month we have to go through this menstruation so we are much more in tune with our body. So to be the best partner of your own body, really listen to your body and trust in the feedback of your body. The signals inside is very, very important.”

One signal in Connie’s body gave Dr. Wu an important piece of information – before Connie herself ever mentioned it: a dozen years earlier she had been in a serious auto accident.

“She really uncovered that I had been through this traumatic experience through my pulse. Through feeling and testing my pulse, she made this diagnosis and then recommended some additional treatments that day to help eliminate that from my body…”

In the view of Oriental medicine, old traumas live on in the body’s energy tissues. Connie believes Dr. Wu’s treatment of the trauma – as well as massage and acupuncture for Erik – may finally open the door to a successful pregnancy.

“The process alone has really, you know, given us some peace and given us some calmness, and really opened us up to the possibility of having our own biological child…”

Angela Wu has been helping women like Connie for more than two decades. One of her biggest fans is opera singer Lisa Delan. At age 25 Lisa showed all the symptoms of fertility-ending menopause. The National Institute of Health even asked her to donate her ovaries for study.

“I started acupuncture treatments, and within a year I was pregnant with Gabriel. And it was so unbelievable, when I called my gynecologist she was really thinking that probably my LH was so elevated I had a false positive pregnancy test … nine months later I gave birth to a nine pound two ounce gorgeous little boy. And several years later when we really hoped to have another child, I went back and saw Angela and started treatments again. And I’d say the big difference this time is I actually believed it could happen. So I really followed her protocol as religiously as I could …and within months I was pregnant with Isabella.”

Herbs. Massage. Acupuncture. Once the mind believes a child can happen, Dr. Wu says the tools she wields can help teach the body to follow along. To couples, she offers a piece of advice grounded in Chinese philosophy: heed the spirit of the child yet to be.

“The most important part is for two of you to make sure you are number one. That you act as a unit. And this should come before that you invite the babies to come, because the babies choose their parents.”

Devin Wu
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.

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.


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