It’s hard to imagine someone being stuck with needles without wincing, but if you’ve ever tried acupuncture you know it can actually be deeply relaxing. The ancient art of acupuncture can be traced back to 200 BCE in China, where it is still widely used today. It gained popularity in the West in 1972, when New York Times reporter James Reston received acupuncture after an emergency appendectomy in China. He was so impressed with the results that he extolled the virtues of his experience to his readers. In 1997, the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) formally recognized acupuncture as a medical healing option that is safe and effective for treating a range of health conditions.
Acupuncture is often complemented by use of herbs, tonics, and other Eastern medicinal practices. It is an effective form of stress and/or pain relief because unlike pharmaceutical drugs, it has little to no adverse side-effects. It can be a wonderful tool during pregnancy and early motherhood because there are limited pharmaceutical options available to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Acupuncture allows oneself the time to slow one’s mind and experience true relaxation.
LA based Licensed acupuncturist and herbalist Katya Mosely specializes in supporting women through all stages of life and is a well of knowledge when it comes to periods, postpartum and everything in between.
C & The Moon: How can acupuncture work to support fertility in both men and women?
Katya Mosely: Acupuncture helps the body function optimally. It resets the nervous system, re-establishes a uniform flow of Qi and Blood, and directs energy to the energetic centers that need balancing. So, whether you are working to improve fertility or general health, acupuncture can make a huge difference. I always say that to be fertile is to be healthy.
C: What are some of the benefits of acupuncture in pregnancy?
K: Acupuncture promotes a sense of wellness during the incredible transition from maidenhood to motherhood. Maidenhood is governed by our Yang energies. For many women, it's a time of independence, seeking, striving, doing. Pregnancy requires mothers to turn toward their Yin energies, perhaps for the very first time. Acupuncture helps people slow down, connect to their bodies, re-establish priorities, and create a nourishing container for their baby. When a mother is balanced in her Yin and Yang energies, symptoms of nausea, anxiety, emotional highs and lows are at a minimum.
C: Many pregnant people turn to acupuncture to get labor going at full term. Do you find that acupuncture is an effective way to encourage labor to start?
K: I do! For the majority of pregnancy, through 37 weeks, my treatment principle is to Uplift. I do this by selecting points that increase energy, boost endorphins and mood, prevent prolapse, and lift any sinking energy that may cause swollen ankles or depression. When the baby is fully formed at 37 weeks, my treatment principle shifts to one of Descent. I select points on the mother that promote a downward-bearing action to help the baby drop, and to help the mama's energy move from her head into her heart and her womb. Going into labor is not an overnight process, so to get best results, I always recommend working with an acupuncturist throughout the third trimester.
C: Another way Chinese medicine is used to benefit pregnancy is by helping to motivate a breech baby to flip head down. What is moxibustion and how is it used to support this process?
K: Moxibustion, or moxa, is a deeply nourishing practice that encourages breech babies to turn. Mugwort is the herb, and it comes in many forms - from loose and fluffy mounds to rolled, smokeless charcoal sticks - that can be burned near specific points on the toes to warm and stimulate the uterus. When the uterus is relaxed and the mama's nervous system is at ease, the baby has the greatest chances of turning head-down. It might sound crazy, but it really works!
C: You know I love cupping! Can you tell us a bit about what cupping is and how it works?
K: love cupping too! It can be so useful to eliminate tension, stagnation, or pain by increasing circulation of healthy Qi, blood and oxygen. I use different-sized glass “cups” that create a vacuum seal around the skin and pull it up and away from the muscle layer. When space is created between the skin and muscles, it becomes a beautiful invitation for circulation. Often, toxins or emotional build up are lodged in those layers. The cupping action draws toxins to the surface of the skin where the immune system is better able to eliminate them.
C: In other cultures, acupuncture is a very common part of the healthcare system and even offered in hospitals right? Do you think that will ever be the case in our healthcare system?
K: When I worked in Chengdu, China, they had specific hospitals where Traditional Chinese Medicine and modern allopathic medicine co-existed side by side. Herbal medicine was administered through IV bags and acupuncturists did rounds to offer support to patients. It's a beautiful example of Complementary Medicine at its best. Here in Los Angeles, I did a fellowship at the Children's Hospital LA, which was one of the first hospitals to launch an experimental program in 2008 offering acupuncture to the palliative care department. It was reserved for out-patients and I saw firsthand how many rheumatoid arthritis and cancer patients benefited from the combination of both eastern and western modalities. The future of medicine is in integration.
C: During COVID how has your practice changed? What are some new ways you are supporting your clients and implementing these practices in such unusual times?
K: At its core, my practice has remained the same. I'm continuing to emphasize the basic principles of wellness - sleep, movement and nutrition - and providing resources for patients to drop in and connect with their highest selves. I've never had a TeleHealth practice before, but once the quarantine started, I started offering my regular patients a chance to do our standard check-ins followed by a dreamy acupressure visualization on Zoom. It was so much fun! I actually started getting new patients from around the country that wanted to work together and it showed me how much potential we still have to connect, especially when we all need it so badly right now. From there I started offering other TeleHealth services, like custom Ear Seeding and Moxa Activations, fertility coaching, herbal and nutritional consults. One of the best parts of COVID has been seeing how creative people have gotten to stay connected to their purpose and their community. I've loved watching businesses and entrepreneurs pivot to adapt to these wacky times. Recently I started seeing a limited number of patients in person again, but my TeleHealth calls are still going strong and I think I'll keep them even when I'm back to my full-time practice.