IMO chats to Acupuncture practitioner Anna Dennis

When I was trying to get pregnant with Olivia, things didn’t happen quite as quickly as I hoped. Because of this, I found myself feeling very negative each month when things obviously didn’t work. After a fair amount of ‘woe is me’, I realised that I needed to do something about the situation. I couldn’t control whether the biological act itself worked, however I could start doing things that were positive to get me out of my negative rut. One of the things that I decided to try was acupuncture. Despite my reservations as I HATE needles, the last time I had a blood sample taken I got serious top lip sweat and woke up crumpled on the floor, despite this, I thought I could at least give it a try. I found Anna on the British Acupuncture Council website, made my first appointment and found I had nothing to worry about. Anna was lovely and completely put my mind at ease. And despite the odd situation of having needles sticking out of me, I hardly noticed them and oddly felt incredibly relaxed! Since seeing Anna, I’ve only ever heard good things about acupuncture and the many ailments it can help with, I got in touch to find out more about this ancient art.

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Hi Anna! Tell me a bit about yourself and what lead you to become an Acupuncturist?

I’ve been an acupuncturist since 2004 and I currently live and work in Thames Ditton. I often get asked why I became one, and I think the main reason was my exposure to the great effects of acupuncture during childhood. My older brother was born very premature and as a result had very weak lungs and developed childhood asthma. After a number of years on increasing levels of medication my mum decided to try something different. I can remember going to the acupuncturist with my brother and wondering how it all worked. I watched him transform as his lungs got gradually stronger, he reduced his medication and he stopped suffering the terrible bouts of breathlessness.

At the age of 24 I was working in advertising and although my job was fun I didn’t feel quite fulfilled and decided to research other avenues. I knew I wanted to do something medical and I started looking into alternatives. Acupuncture kept popping into my mind and after a lot of investigation and careful consideration I decided to take the plunge and I left my job in advertising and enrolled at Westminster University to study a BSc in Acupuncture.

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What exactly is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a therapy which originated in China where it is has been researched and practiced for over 2000 years. It is a treatment that involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body. These points are located along channels through which ‘qi’ flows. Qi is your body’s vital energy. Pain and illness are believed to occur when the natural flow of qi has been disrupted or depleted in some way. This could be due to a number of factors such as injury, viral infection, stress, over work or poor diet.

What ailments can acupuncture help with, and how?

Acupuncture treatment can benefit many conditions. Treatment is aimed at restoring the flow of qi to promote the body’s own healing process and restore both physical and emotional health. Acupuncture probably gets the most press for benefitting lower back pain and migraines but I see a wide variety of common problems in my clinic including anxiety, arthritis, chronic fatigue, circulatory problems, depression, high blood pressure, indigestion, Irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, infertility, menopausal symptoms, menstrual problems, morning sickness, neurological disorders, sciatica and sinusitis. The list is endless!

What about acupuncture and pregnancy, how can it help here?

I see many women in my clinic who are trying for a baby both naturally and with assisted conception methods. I believe acupuncture to be a great support both physically and emotionally during what can be a very stressful time. Research has shown that acupuncture can benefit fertility by regulating fertility hormones and improving blood flow to the reproductive organs. Acupuncture treatment can also be very helpful during pregnancy for symptoms such as morning sickness, fatigue and back pain. I am a great believer in the benefits of pre-birth acupuncture and advise all my pregnant patients to return for weekly treatment from 37 weeks to prepare them for labour. Post labour can also be a very physically and emotionally challenging time and I do encourage mothers to come in once their baby arrives if they are suffering from any problems postpartum.

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You worked at the Hammersmith Hospital in the IVF unit, how did they incorporate acupuncture into the treatment of women having IVF?

We offered a series of treatments that supported women going through an IVF cycle. We would see patients four times during a cycle at specific times, one of which would be on the day of embryo transfer. We were also there to support women on the lead up to an IVF cycle and in early pregnancy.

Have you seen positive results from women using acupuncture, who were trying to get pregnant?

I have seen very positive results in women trying to conceive naturally as well as through IVF. I have also seen a lot of patients who have managed to conceive naturally whilst waiting for a referral for IVF. I consider a positive result to be a baby in a mother’s arms so I like to be there for my patients through to birth. I will usually see mothers to support their pregnancy up to their twelve week scan then as long as they feel fit and well ask them to come back in once at 4 months, once at 6 months and then at 37 weeks for pre-birth acupuncture.

If someone wanted to get pregnant or was having IVF, and wanted to try acupuncture, at what point should they see you?

In an ideal world I would see both partners for two to three months before an IVF cycle but often people will contact me just before they are starting a cycle and that is fine. When it comes to natural conception I always feel a timeline is important and therefore if a patient is not pregnant within 3 months I like to review things. In those three months I will start by seeing the patient weekly but then reduce this to one treatment in the week leading up to ovulation and one treatment post ovulation.

What can people expect during a session & how long does a session last?

The initial session lasts about one hour or a little longer if necessary. During this time I take a full medical history including information on diet and lifestyle. I have a look at the patients tongue and take their pulse, which may seem strange but helps me to get a better picture of their health. According to individual needs I needle specific points on the body and the needles are left in for 20 minutes while they relax. A lot of people worry that acupuncture will hurt but the needles are very fine and at most you can feel a slight ache or tingling sensation. All the needles I use are single use, sterile, disposable needles. Each follow up appointment lasts approximately 45 minutes.

What if someone is scared of needles?

I often have patients come saying they are scared of needles but I’ve never had a patient not return because of it. I think once patients see how tiny the needles are and experience the treatment their fear goes away.

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I saw Anna to help with fertility and pregnancy, however there are many other ailments and issues that acupuncture can help with as she has mentioned. If you happen to be in the South West London/Surrey area and are thinking of acupuncture then please do get in touch with Anna. If you are elsewhere then have a look at the British Acupuncture website to find your nearest practitioner.


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