Meet Allie Machen, LAc, FABORM, and Doula of Vela Wellness located in Portland, OR! Allie provides passionate care in acupuncture in fertility, pregnancy and postpartum to people in Portland, Oregon. Get to know the benefits of acupuncture, how she can help those that are scared of acupuncture and how it all works in our interview below.
Why do you focus on acupuncture for fertility and pregnancy?
Supporting families through fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, and the rigors of parenting have remained my passion for the last decade. I believe that Chinese Medicine can be a steadfast partner through this chapter of life. Through acupuncture, herbs, and bodywork we can find pause amidst the intense sensations and emotions that accompany the childbearing years. Even more so, these modalities build upon the mind-body relationship that will lead us to trust our bodies throughout pregnancy, birth, lactation, and beyond.
How can acupuncture help pregnant people throughout the journey of fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum?
Acupuncture and East Asian medicine (herbs, bodywork, moxibustion, dietary, and lifestyle recommendations) can be valuable allies throughout fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum. Acupuncture and herbs can help to regulate menstrual cycles and enhance fertility. For folks going through IUI and IVF, acupuncture can help increase the likelihood of pregnancy while also decreasing stress.
In pregnancy, acupuncture offers a safe option for most aches and pains including heartburn and insomnia. Towards the end of pregnancy, acupuncture can help prepare the body for timely and efficient labor as well as encourage optimal fetal position. Postpartum acupuncture and other modalities can help with recovery, breastmilk production, pelvic pain, and the emotional ups and downs of new parenthood.
What is the most common reason pregnant people want acupuncture?
One of the most common reasons pregnant people reach out for acupuncture is pain. More specifically, pelvic pain, low back pain, and carpal tunnel symptoms are the most common ailments that come along in pregnancy that acupuncture can help relieve. Other common reasons acupuncture in pregnancy is helpful is for labor preparation, to shorten and assist in a smooth labor, and even turning breech presentations.
Is acupuncture something people should turn to when they are having a pressing issue or is it more valuable to receive regular care? When do you suggest getting acupuncture?
Ideally, I would like folks to know that acupuncture is an option before they get to a place where they have a “pressing” issue. The reality is that many people don’t know all the ways that East Asian medicine can help support them. Establishing a rapport with a practitioner competent in the childbearing years early in pregnancy is ideal. Then when things come up, you have your team in place to help you feel as comfortable and supported as possible. Acupuncture is an amazing thing to add to each pregnancy for acute and preventative care.
How do you support clients who are needle-phobic when they come in for acupuncture visits?
There are a variety of non-needle modalities that we use such as bodywork, acupressure, herbal medicine, and a heat therapy called moxibustion. Most needle-phobic patients will eventually warm up to a few tiny needles once they realize how relaxed they feel in the office and after treatment. It is very common for people to be nervous about acupuncture and I want to make sure they feel calm and know we will take it slowly so they feel comfortable.
Can acupuncture really help induce labor?
I prefer to call it “labor preparation” rather than “induction” as that is a much more invasive medical intervention. Ideally we start labor prep treatments at 35 weeks and do weekly treatments until the birth. There are instances that increasing to two appointments per week in the 38th or 39th week is appropriate. Acupuncture helps to soothe the nervous system, prepare the cervix, and again, optimize fetal position. These labor prep sessions also offer time to address aches and pains and a quiet moment to connect with your baby. If someone is 40 weeks and has an induction scheduled, acupuncture is still worth a try even if they haven’t had it before.
Can acupuncture turn a breech baby? If so, when is the best time to get treatment?
For breech babies, acupuncture and moxibustion – a form of heat therapy – are used. I teach my patients how to use moxa at home for ten days and recommend they come to see me for acupuncture three times during those ten days. In addition to moxa, I recommend breech positions such as those on Spinning Babies. Research supports acupuncture, moxa, and positions used together has a high likelihood of a breech baby turning. Ideally, a person starts treatment between 34-36 weeks though it is still worth pursuing after 36 weeks. Babies typically move a lot during the moxa sessions so it can be a fun way to connect with your baby, especially if a partner is able to help.
Are there any common misconceptions about acupuncture that you want to clear up?
People often say “I want to try acupuncture, but I don’t have anything wrong.” You don’t have to have a chief complaint to benefit from acupuncture. Give acupuncture a try and see how great you feel!
Walk me through a typical visit with you. What can a new client expect for their first acupuncture session?
The first visit is 90 minutes and includes a thorough health history, orthopedic tests if there’s a pain complaint and an examination of the tongue and pulse. In East Asian medicine, we use the tongue and pulse to help us determine the imbalance in the body that is creating the symptoms. After all that, we will get you on the treatment table for an acupuncture session. I’ll make sure you are comfortable and warm and then leave you with a bell so you can let me know if you need me while you are resting for about 30 minutes. At the end of the first session we will go over your treatment plan, i.e. how often you should come back in, what you can be doing at home to help things improve, and any other recommendations I may have.
What other modalities complement acupuncture? How can women combine them during their pregnancy for optimal wellness?
Massage and chiropractic can be great compliments to acupuncture. There are a few chiropractors I really enjoy working with and get great results with our shared patients. When I see a patient that would benefit from another modality, I will always recommend that in my treatment plan.
Acupuncture is an ancient healing tradition but are you seeing any new discoveries or technologies in your profession?
Acupuncture is really starting to step into the mainstream! On February 14th, 2017 the American College of Physicians included acupuncture in their first-line recommendation for back pain. It is very exciting to see folks in the mainstream medical community recognizing the role acupuncture can play. We are also seeing research into the science of how acupuncture works which is very cool.
What is your favorite part doing acupuncture?
I love using acupuncture as a tool to empower folks. Before getting into acupuncture, I was a full time doula for several years in the Portland, Oregon area. I absolutely love the role of being a doula and providing support, education, and empowerment in birth. I look at acupuncture as a vehicle to do similar work as a doula, and it’s pretty awesome to be able to help someone get rid of their back pain at the same time!
If you are interested in acupuncture with Allie at Vela Wellness, you can schedule an appointment through their website!
Allie Machen, LAc, FABORM, Doula