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Being a planner can be an amazing quality. You know what is going to happen when, and there is no getting around it. Except sometimes life just doesn’t pan out the way you intend. Especially when it comes to bringing a new little one into it. There are factors like the health of your reproductive system, stress levels and age that are barriers you thought would never be an issue.

We’ve heard countless stories from beautiful friends and peers whose roads to being a mom were long and hard, so the issue of fertility is one that we hope to tackle more as time goes on.

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After hearing many success stories from friends who introduced acupuncture into their fertility regimen--particularly combining acupuncture with IVF treatments--we decided to sit down with Dr. John Zhang, founder and director of New Hope Fertility Center, and Christina Burns, founder of Geneseed Acupuncture, to discuss why the two can often have more success when combined.

Here’s what they had to say:

For people that are hesitant about trying acupuncture during pregnancy, what might convince them?

Most of the data available suggests that acupuncture is safe in pregnancy. We do however encourage the person to do their research and be comfortable with their acupuncturist. Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years on pregnant women and can be very helpful in maintaining the pregnancy as well as relieving many types of discomfort that arise during pregnancy (i.e. nausea, reflux, sciatica, fatigue, headaches, insomnia etc.). There are many doctors of Chinese medicine that specialize in gynecology and obstetrics and are therefore well-versed in how to treat a pregnant woman. With these practitioners, you can expect maximum benefit.

How much more successful is IVF when paired with acupuncture?

Acupuncture has been shown in numerous studies to double the success rates when used in conjunction with IVF.

How does acupuncture help in conjunction with IVF treatments?

Acupuncture helps reproductive health and fertility by circulating vital energy and blood to the organs. It can help improve the response to medication, or mitigate the side effects of certain medications, and it can reduce stress associated with IVF (which may have a negative impact on fertility). Acupuncture can also relax the walls of the uterus and increase receptor sites for the embryo, enhance the thickness of the uterine lining, etc.

By using acupuncture, fertility should increase as fresh blood circulates in the pelvic area and ovaries, and helps strengthen the body holistically. So acupuncture promotes natural fertility and helps IVF as well.

How can acupuncture help with fertility on its own?

Acupuncture for fertility often focuses on regulating the menstrual cycle and balancing the reproductive system to create a fertile environment and enhance fertility chances. It balances hormones, helps resolve issues relating to ovulation or anovulation, and enhances the uterine lining.

Acupuncture can also help reduce autoimmune issues related to infertility or recurrent miscarriage, lower stress levels (as cortisol may interfere with hormonal balance), and adjust the length of the menstrual cycle, for better development of follicles in the follicular phase and ensuring adequate progesterone levels in the luteal phase. Finally, it can lessen the inflammation associated with endometriosis and treat insulin resistance (which may affect ovulation and/or general fertility).

How soon into the IVF process should you begin acupuncture?

As soon as possible! Preparation beforehand is preferred. Ideally one would start 3-6 months prior, however, you can still get great benefits from starting during the cycle.

How often should treatments be done?

Treatment protocols vary depending on the individual. Your acupuncturist will create a treatment plan for you. But typically, patients see their acupuncturist 1-2 times per week, with special considerations given to the timing during an IVF cycle.

Are there any dangers in getting acupuncture done during pregnancy?

Like all procedures, there are always potential risks, but it is very unlikely that acupuncture would cause any harm during pregnancy. Acupuncture stimulates your body's ability to heal and balance and does not force it to do anything it would not do naturally.

The most important thing is ensuring that the acupuncturist is qualified, experienced and knowledgeable in treating pregnant patients. It’s preferable to have one who is specialized in women’s health and definitely someone who is licensed by the state where you live. Always ask for proof of licensure and references from patients when selecting a practitioner. Also ask them about their experience in treating pregnant women. If it seems limited, then it is advisable to find someone else.

Is there a certain kind of diet that would create a trifecta with acupuncture and IVF?

Diet is case-specific depending on the individual. But in general, it is best to avoid foods which tend to aggravate hormonal balance such as fried foods, sugar, gluten, alcohol, non-organic foods, farmed fish, low-fat dairy and caffeine. Further considerations are made according to the patients individual case, so it’s best to consult a qualified practitioner.

You are rocking this new-baby learning curve, mama! Even if you never changed a diaper pre-parenthood, you can probably now do that with one hand, in the dark and still half asleep.

While these early days can feel like you're just going through the motions of feedings and diaper changes, take heart, mama: You and baby are developing a strong, special bond—as those early smiles go to show. (Did you have to pick your heart up off the floor when your baby cracked a grin for the first time?)

As your baby continues to adjust to life outside the womb, you might start feeling more confident with this new chapter in life, too. Making the transition to "mama" for the first time is full of sweet moments, and you really should take heart that you are doing an incredible job.

As you continue to adapt to parenthood, here are some of the items we swear by (for you and baby) for the 2-month mark:

To introduce nursery naptime: Infant Optics video baby monitor

baby monitor

You know that nursery you designed and decorated during pregnancy? It's probably been sitting unused while baby is bunked up in your bedroom per the AAP's recommendation. If you're now ready to put them down for naps in their nursery crib, a good video monitor can help ease your mind.

$165.99

To free up your hands: Infantino 4-in-1 carrier

baby carrier

As you and your little buddy get into a comfortable rhythm, a carrier that is also comfortable for you both is priceless. We love carriers that allow babies to face inward for snuggling and snoozing while you take care of things around the house, or outward as they get older and want to observe.

$29.99

To take on tummy time sessions: Fisher Price play dome

Fisher price on the go dome

Now that your baby is awake for longer stretches of time, a colorful and comfortable play space is a must-have. Make it even more fun by getting down on baby's level to serve as a cheerleader during tummy time sessions!

$59.99

To look and learn: High-Contrast Books Cluck and Moo

baby books

During the first three months of life, infants have an easier time focusing on shades of black or white and can only see a few inches beyond their faces. That makes a high-contrast book that you can read with them a perfect source of visual stimulation.

To soothe with lullabies: Hatch Rest sound machine

Hatch Rest

It's no coincidence your little one drifts off to sleep better when there is some soothing background noise. After all, they spent months and months listening to ambient noise in the womb!

$59.99

To keep it comfy + stylish: Ingrid + Isabel postpartum leggings

postpartum leggings

Simply put, high-waisted leggings are a gift to postpartum mamas during that limbo period when maternity clothes are too loose and pre-pregnancy clothes aren't quite right. We are so grateful to live in an era when leggings are considered stylish, no matter how long you choose to wear them.

$34.99

To help the nursing mama’s wardrobe: Ingrid + Isabel nursing tanks

nursing tanks

For breastfeeding mamas, feeding baby requires some easy access to the milk supply. Our pro tip is to stock up on nursing-friendly tanks and tops so you can feed your baby without halfway undressing.

$24.99

To get a sharable diaper bag: Eddie Bauer backpack

backpack

Where baby goes, so too should supplies—even if it's just a neighborhood stroll. We're partial to backpacks that are roomy and comfortable to carry.

$64.99

To give yourself a little TLC: Honest Mama soaking salts

honest mama

Put an at-home spa session on your schedule, mama. Draw a bath, add some aromatic soaking salts and an eye mask—and enjoy this important moment of self-care.

$14.99

To put a little pep in your step: A New Day sneakers

new day sneakers

When life means constantly balancing all the things, slide-on sneakers are both practical and super cute. We'll take a pair in each color!

$24.99

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


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