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Getting the balance right
By Zoe Christodoulides
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2009
With infertility rates growing around the world, there is a specialist in Cyprus who is helping women get pregnant through the use of acupuncture.
Tradition isn’t for everyone. And you really don’t need to be a genius to figure out that traditional science doesn’t always provide the right solutions. With thousands of women across the world struggling to conceive, many are forced to come to terms with the fact that they may never be able to have a child of their own.
Statistically speaking, things come across as rather daunting. Current figures show that one in six couples across the world are ‘infertile’, with problems stemming equally from both sexes. When it comes to the specific problems that women face, things seem to worsen with age, as fertility problems strike one in three women over the age of 35.
But somewhere along the line there’s a problem with the way fertility is treated in much of the western world, as if everything can be set in stone, with rigid medical terms dished out to patients in black and white. More often than not, if you’re a woman who has been deemed ‘infertile’, most doctors will point you in one very similar direction that goes by the name of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).
Standing as conventional medicine’s most prescribed remedy for infertility, the expensive treatment comes with its fair share of risks and complications. The process involves hormonally controlling the cycle, removing eggs from the woman’s ovaries and letting sperm fertilize them in a fluid medium. The fertilized egg is then transferred to the patient’s uterus with the intent of establishing a successful pregnancy.
While such treatment does of course work for some, the chance of actually conceiving in an IVF cycle is only around 20 per cent on average. With more and more women now turning to alternative therapies for help, it becomes clear that ‘infertility’ is not a problem that can be dealt with in a manner that treats all women in the same all-embracing way.
Not just about the very physical functioning of internal organs, the ability to conceive is also about so much that goes on beneath the surface. With deeper personal factors that need to be taken into account, this is one department where discrimination is a real virtue.
Far from mere mumbo jumbo as sceptics often like to argue, alternative treatments tend to focus on balancing things within the whole body that are more aligned with Eastern philosophy than Western medical science. For what most of us don’t often realise is that the female reproductive system is an extremely delicate structure that is easily affected by even the slightest change in our overall wellbeing. When it comes to getting pregnant, some believe that taking care of your mind and body holistically is the real key to success.
Charles Papapetrou is an Osteopath and Acupuncturist here on the island who has helped two local ladies conceive in the past year. A registered member of both the British Acupuncture Council and The General Osteopathic Council, he has previously worked in the UK helping women with gynaecological problems for 12 years. Now based at the Advanced Osteopathic Acupuncture Centre in Paphos, he also offers consultations at the Therapolis centre in Limassol.
Preferring to use the term ‘complementary’ rather than alternative when talking about his treatments, Papapetrou emphasises “there are no absolutes” when it comes to a patient’s medical condition. Although he doesn’t claim to offer a magic solution for infertility, he is keen on pointing out that most women can fall pregnant if individual conditions are approached in the right way. And because inability to conceive is a complex problem, there are a whole array of factors that need to be taken into account before any sort of treatment begins.
Aiming to identify and remove any ‘blocks’ to conception, it’s all about tuning the whole orchestra of the body so it begins to work in harmony. While many of us are aware that stress can cause infertility, there are also plenty more psycho-emotional reasons that can stop a woman from falling pregnant including depression, anxiety and repressed anger.
Papapetrou explains that “psycho emotional overlay” is a key factor that contributes to what is deemed by many doctors as plain ‘infertility’. “Emotions create something of an armour which acts as a barrier to the natural flow of the body. If this persists over time, it can have a serious effect on a woman’s cycle and physical state,” he says. Polycystic ovaries, amenorrhea (stops in the period cycle) and mid cycle bleeding are some of the more common problems that Charles works with in daily practice.
Following a full medical consultation, Charles will be able to point out the areas that need attention, dealing with each individual case accordingly. “I speak to my patients a lot about how they are feeling; the anxieties and worries that are encountered when a women is trying to conceive often overshadows physical wellbeing,” he says.
After just a few sessions with fine needles inserted at specific pressure points, hormone levels should normalise and blood should flow around the body more effectively, especially to the reproductive organs which can help improve the health and function of the ovaries and uterus.
Interestingly, acupuncture can also help with a whole range of gynaecological problems related to periods, from bad cramps to hirsutism (facial hair growth due to hormone imbalances). “It all comes down to the same thing – regulating hormones and making the cycle smoother,” says Papapetrou. Sessions can even help with the menopause, reducing the symptoms of hot flushes and headaches. But the treatment doesn’t end in the specialist’s surgery, as patients are asked to keep a diary which they fill in at home, where they note down changes to see how well they are doing. “We always look at changes in the monthly cycle and how the patient is feeling as a good indicator that things are getting better.”
When it comes to helping a woman fall pregnant, Papapetrou often combines acupuncture with osteopathy to improve the functioning of the spine. As odd as it may seem at first, this too has an effect on a woman’s ability to conceive. “When the spine is fully functional, we can affect the sympathetic nervous system in a positive way which in turn has a positive effect on the womb and the tone of the uterus,” says Papapetrou.
One of the ladies that the doctor has recently helped is Rena Moore, a 35-year-old Scottish beauty therapist who had been trying to conceive for five years to no avail. Married to her husband for the past eight years, the Scottish couple moved to Cyprus in search of a change of lifestyle and a good dose of sun. What they didn’t except was how hard it would be for Rena to fall pregnant.
“I was worried when I saw that I just couldn’t conceive and went for medical checkups, but everything showed that I was just fine and healthy,” says Rena. “I was anxious and upset – the doctors at my local clinic suggested I try IVF.” Giving IVF a shot in January, Rena was disappointed by the negative results. “It involves a lot of medication and injections. I found it an uncomfortable process that was mentally and physically tiring. It didn’t help me in the slightest.”
It was at this point that she decided to take the holistic path as she went along to talk to Papapetrou about her case. “I decided to give acupuncture a try because it’s nothing harsh for the body to handle. IVF is very invasive whereas acupuncture is an ancient natural therapy so I felt at ease trying it out,” she says.
Following a full consultation, specialist and patient decided that treatment was definitely worth a shot. “After going through my medical history it became obvious once again that nothing was physically wrong as such. But my body and mind needed to get back into the right balance – once this happened it would increase my chances of falling pregnant. It was all explained so well that I wasn’t sceptical about giving it a go.”
Not making any promises, Papapetrou firmly believed that if Rena’s monthly cycle was regulated, she would be far more ready to conceive. Once treatment began, Rena explains how relaxed she began to feel, with the sessions proving to be energising rather than discomforting. Not put off by the needles, the rather different experience was one she was happy to embrace.
Things happened faster than anyone imaged they would and after five treatment sessions of approximately 45 minutes each, Rena fell pregnant. “I felt great; I was so surprised that I couldn’t really believe it. I just picked up the phone and belted out the news to my husband and then the rest of my family. We were all delighted,” she tells me. “Once pregnant, I no longer needed the treatments. I would have gone back if I suffered from bad morning sickness but I was very lucky. I’ll go back after the baby is born just to get the hormones into balance.”
Another woman who became pregnant soon after visiting Papapetrou is Despo Charalambous, a 31-year-old English teacher. “I married last December and since then we stopped using contraception,” she tells me. “Nothing was happening but I tried not to stress, I just thought things would take a turn in the right direction when they were meant to. I have to admit as time went by I did get a bit worried when I came across people around me who were finding it hard to conceive. But I knew I was healthy and that I would just have to be patient.”
At the time, Despo’s husband happened to be visiting Papapetrou for back problems. “I just thought I’d go along to try acupuncture because I was quite stressed with work and did suffer from quite bad PMS. I thought of it as something that could improve my overall wellbeing.
“I was so relaxed after the sessions I just wanted to sleep. I was a bit fearful about the initial contact with needles but I needn’t have been – it’s just that some areas feel slightly more sensitive than others once the needles are inserted,” she says. “I slowly noticed changes in my body and the dates I got my period became more accurate.”
With the acupuncture and osteopathy helping to prepare Despo’s body for conception, she fell pregnant after three months of once a week sessions. “I’ve had a great experience and I’d definitely suggest this as an option to women before they try out more harsh medical treatments that put the body through unnecessary stress,” she says.
“You do have to be open minded and ready to approach change. The mental approach is very important and scepticism won’t do you much good. And if you are struggling, you must be patient because you can’t expect results immediately.”
While Papapetrou certainly doesn’t claim to have a magic wand up his sleeve that brings forth a baby, he certainly knows the meaning of improving chances. And when it comes to the intricate workings of the female body, it’s these little chances that often lead to a whole new life.
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2009
Vets split on New Age treatments
Anthony Browne, Health Correspondent
The Observer, Sunday 30 January 2000
Britain’s veterinary clinics are being swept along in an unprecedented wave of alernative medicine, offering GM-free diets for dogs, laser acupuncture for cats, homeopathy for horses, chinese herbs for hamsters, and faith-healing for gerbils. Particular triumphs are said to include a rhino cured of eczma, and a parrot cured of depression.
The number of vets offering some form of complimentary medicine – at up to £100 an hour – has rocketed to more than 250 in the last year. There is one vet clinic solely for alternative medicine, but two more are to open in coming months. Courses on veterinary acupuncture and holistic medicine have proliferated in the last year.
However, the development is threatening to split the profession, with orthodox vets accusing their alternative peers of ‘veterinary voodoo’.
‘It’s been growing across the board,’ said Chrissie Nicholls of the British Veterinary Association. ‘As complementary medicine moved out of the ranks of the cranks, it was inevitable people want it for their pets.’
Charles Papapetrou, an acupuncturist, claims particular success with dogs, and has set up a weekly clinic at a veterinary surgery in affluent Hampstead in London, charging £50 for 45 minutes. He says he helped cure a golden retriever’s arthritis. ‘The treatment gave him an extra year of life,’ said Papapetrou. ‘The dog was in a lot of pain and couldn’t walk. But within a few days of treatment, he was out and about. It’s an injustice the longer this is kept from pets. Owners go to acupuncturists, but pets are still pumped full of drugs.’
Faith healing for pets is also on the rise, according to Roy Hutchison, of the National Federation of Spiritual Healers. ‘Animals react to spiritual healing. Animals are more susceptible than humans to the finer energies,’ he claimed.
According to Hutchison, horses and cats respond particularly well to faith healing but it works on all types of creature. ‘You can do it on any animal, insects or cells or even bacteria. We take negativity or poison out of bacteria,’ he said.
The Alternative Veterinary Medicine Centre in Oxfordshire – unique in Britain – has been frantically busy and now employs eight. Founder Chris Day said: ‘Demand outstrips supply by miles.’ He recently treated a rhino and panda, sending them homeopathic medicine in the post.
Day is chairman of the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons, which tried to become affiliated to the establishment British Veterinary Association, but was rebuffed by sceptics.