As women, we don’t talk about fertility nearly enough. Whether from shame, embarrassment or even ignorance, it often becomes a topic reserved for hushed voices or spoken about behind closed doors. And yet, there are so many more women than you realize struggling to conceive, and exploring the many different paths you can take to make a baby. The lucky women among them get to travel those paths with Angela Le.
As founder of Fifth Avenue Fertility Wellness in NYC, Angela has helped thousands of women and men struggling to conceive. Her practice is integrative in every way: a licensed and board certified acupuncturist, Angela works in collaboration with physicians--including renowned holistic physicians Dr. Frank Lipman at Eleven Eleven Wellness Center and Dr. Sami David--to incorporate Eastern approaches to traditional Chinese medicine with Western biomedical research. She’s also a firm believer of treating patients physically, emotionally and spiritually.
The results are not only beautiful, healthy babies--and there are many, many of those--but also beautiful, healthy mommies. “I want my patients to leave with not only improved fertility and general health,” she says, “but also a new set of skills that they will have for a lifetime and can use as a mother.”
Below, Angela opens up about fertility, conception and conversation.
What was the first birth you ever attended?
I was 15 years old when I attended the birth of my godson. I was my sister’s doula, unofficially! My godson’s birth was such a special moment for me and it felt like such a privilege to be able to attend, let alone assist. Any fears around the birth process took an immediate backseat to the awe and magic of that experience.
Tell us about your journey--literally across the world--to find your path.
Honestly, my path found me. I’ve always been a seeker--in adventure, travel and spirituality. A series of coincidences led me to meet an amazing woman in Nepal, an acupuncturist. After meeting her, I realized Traditional Chinese Medicine could be a career that embodies all of my passions and gifts, allowing me to integrate mind-body-spirit in a powerful way.
Why did you decide to focus on fertility?
I specialize in fertility because there is an opportunity to educate, empower and transform during the time a woman is trying to conceive. I saw my first fertility patient in 1998, and she was so deeply committed to the process of getting healthy for both herself and her future children that it created opening of sorts. She was open to being an active, instead of passive, participant in her healthcare, and that allowed for me to help her with deep healing--physically, emotionally and spiritually.
What’s the goal of your practice?
The goal of my practice is to help women achieve their dream of becoming a mother. I also want to teach women how to nurture themselves. I teach life skills and often get back to the basics with patients–how to nourish yourself properly and how to exercise, sleep, meditate and interact with self-love are all very powerful techniques. It’s important that these skills are sustainable–I want my patients to leave with not only improved fertility and general health, but also a new set of skills that they will have for a lifetime and can use as a mother.
What are the most common reasons your patients visit?
My practice supports patients through the entire fertility journey, so patients will typically see us for preconception work or support through fertility challenges, such as diminished ovarian reserve, advanced maternal age, recurrent miscarriages, PCOS, endometriosis, high FSH, fibroids, male factor concerns, and support through IUI/IVF procedures, including donor cycles. They continue treatment throughout their pregnancy and postpartum care.
When should women start exploring their fertility?
I believe women should start exploring their own fertility as early as possible. Body literacy is an important first step that is often ignored today. I think we can empower young women about their reproductive health through education and start the conversations earlier, from a place of curiosity instead of fear. The book Taking Charge of Your Fertility is a great place to start.
When trying to get pregnant, how does a woman know it’s time to see a fertility expert?
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine says that women under 35 should try naturally for one year before seeing a fertility expert, while women over 35 should see one after six months. I believe that it is never too soon to start preparing yourself for pregnancy through preconception work. Ideally, the work I do at Fifth Avenue Fertility Wellness would start about three months before a woman wants to start trying to conceive.
Why is integrative fertility work so crucial? How do Eastern and Western philosophies work together in this field?
Eastern and Western integration is crucial for fertility work because they focus on two different aspects of the process. Western medicine is working on the physical level, while Eastern medicine treats the whole person, including emotional and energetic aspects of whatever the issue is. When Eastern and Western medicine work together, the body is both treated and restored simultaneously. One of the reasons I work in an integrative practice is because every couple needs something different and we want to provide them with as many choices and options as possible under one roof.
Why do you think women are often reluctant to talk about fertility with other women, or in public? What’s with the shame?
I think there is a deep sense of self-worth tied up in the basic instinct to bear children. Women particularly are programmed this way from childhood. When conception does not come easily, they feel like their bodies have betrayed them and that there is something ‘wrong’ with them. As a result, many women feel shame and embarrassment, and are reluctant to share their story.
How do you judge your success with a patient? Is a baby always the final outcome?
On one hand, success is defined by pregnancies and healthy live births. The public will certainly judge me by those numbers. On the other hand, there is another, almost deeper, level of success. If I’m able to return a woman back to herself, and no matter what the outcome is she is stronger, happier, and more in tune with her own desires and her authentic self, than I feel like I’ve succeeded. For me, the happiest moments are when I’m able to help a woman birth both herself and a baby.