I am beyond delighted to be able to share this Q&A with Shannon Gyles, Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist at New Moon Wellness. Known as a go-to person to see during pregnancy in Madison, Shannon is one of the few alternative health care practitioners in the area that specialize in women's health. As her website states, "Shannon has found her true calling in working with fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum, helping facilitate healthy babies, healthy mamas, and healthy families. She personally understands the joy and difficulty with the changing demands on the body during pregnancy, postpartum, and caring for a newborn. In conjunction, she is honored to be able to work with women to prep the body and baby for labor and finds great joy in helping facilitate initiating labor when needed." Read on to learn more from Shannon about acupuncture during the childbearing year.
Angie: Would you mind telling me a little bit about your background and what led you to study acupuncture and Chinese Medicine?
Shannon: I always knew I wanted to help people, since being a small child I have had a knack for listening to people with a compassionate ear and knew that I wanted to help people in some way shape or form. As a teenager I naturally dove into reading about nutrition, meditation, metaphysical concepts, emotional wellbeing, and different forms of energy work. When I started college I intended to go into social work, I thought I “should” do something more tangible and or traditional. I took a theology course and decided to write a paper on Chinese Medicine, seeing as it was a form of medicine that I knew little about at the time. As I read up on Chinese Medicine, I fell in love with its holistic and ancient view on the body, mind and spirit. Being able to practice acupuncture and Chinese Medicine incorporated many of the things I was interested in: herbal medicine, listening and forming deep relationships with people, the connection between the mind and body, the ability to work with women’s health, nutrition, and of course working with energy to help shift the body/mind. I knew at that moment this is what I was here to do!
A: How does acupuncture work?
S: Acupuncture has been around for 4000-5000 years and at its core stems from witnessing nature and applying what was seen in our environment and relating this to the human body. The very basic idea is that there is energy that exists in all living things, that is highly concentrated in the body in the meridians. The meridians are like rivers of energy that run the body and connect with the internal organs. Acupuncture points are very specific areas along the meridians where the “Qi” or energy wells up and can be accessed. Each acupuncture point has therapeutic properties that have the ability to help the body heal or assist the body in coming into a better state of balance. Through the use of acupuncture points, we have the ability to affect the muscles, tissues, lymphatic system, reproductive system, neurological function, emotional states, endocrine system, and much more.
One of the other main principles of Chinese Medicine is the concept of yin and yang. They are opposite but interdependent components that work synergistically to keep the body balanced and in harmony. Yin is the calming, feminine, cooling, and fluid aspect of the body that can pertain to keeping us grounded, calm and receptive. Yang is the active, masculine, hot, and energetic aspect of the body that can pertain to feeling energetic and motivated. Through the use of acupuncture, herbs, and other Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) modalities, we are always trying to main homeostasis and balance between these two forces.
As acupuncturists, we look at the whole person in order to assess what needs to be shifted and or worked on to promote and maintain good health. We determine the root cause and contributing factors and that are related to the reason for being seen. We then choose a selection of therapeutic acupuncture points that work synergistically together to create better harmony in the body. Our bodies absorb the acupuncture treatment and innately know what to do with it, as the body knows how to heal itself.
A: I read that the World Health Organization states “the sheer weight of evidence demands that acupuncture must be taken seriously as a clinical procedure of considerable value.” What evidence is out there in support of acupuncture’s efficacy?
S: Thankfully we have SO much research out there now to prove the efficacy of Chinese Medicine! There has been good solid research ranging in conditions such as headaches, pain reduction, its ability to positively affect mental health, digestive function, post stroke recovery, reproductive function, and much more! All this research has catapulted the demand for acupuncture and therefore some insurance companies have started providing coverage. We still have a long way to go in terms of continuing to integrate Chinese Medicine into Western Medical hospitals and clinics. But we have come far, and continued research will help propel this further in the future.
A: How can acupuncture be beneficial in women’s health, specifically leading up to and during the childbearing year?
S: In my practice I do a ton of fertility work! It can be so supportive to address reproductive function before trying to get pregnant. I equate this to planting a garden. When planting a garden we would first till the soil, mix in some organic (ideally!) compost and pull any weeds before doing the planting. It is the same idea in the human body. It’s best to optimize and enhance reproductive functioning and encourage our bodies to do what it innately knows how to do.
Acupuncture has been shown through research to help to increase blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, help support good follicle development, promote ovulation mid-cycle, regulate the cycle (both follicular and luteal phases) and decrease stress and cortisol levels! Working on these things as a precursor can help to promote viability and term pregnancies. Acupuncture can help with conditions such as: PCOS, Diminished Ovarian reserve, low AMH, high FSH, endometriosis, and unexplained infertility.
Working with women’s health includes working with transition in life. While trying to get pregnant, maintaining healthy pregnancy, preparing or being supported during labor, being a new mom postpartum and or helping create a smooth transition through menopause there are significant changes and transition occurring. It’s such an honor to work with women at such a powerful time in their lives. Therefore, supporting the emotional wellbeing of women looking to start or grow their family is an important part of preparation as well.
A: What can patients expect during their first visit if they come to see you?
S: Depending on what people are being seen for, the first treatment can last from an hour to an hour and a half. For the first session we spend a good amount of time chatting about the patient’s concerns and medical history. Because Chinese Medicine has its own unique way of looking at the body, I like to explain what I see in Chinese Medicine (TCM diagnosis) and explain my approach in treatment. We also chat about other TCM therapies that could be helpful including: dietary changes, herbs, cupping, and other therapies.
After chatting and assessing the patient’s medical history, I have patients lie on the massage table and start the acupuncture treatment. Patients lie on the table for about 20-25 minutes with their needles in. Acupuncture is usually very relaxing and can create a meditation induced state of mind. Patients often times fall asleep or get into a deep state of relaxation. After the treatment we assess when to come back in for treatment and encourage patients to call me if they have any questions.
Thanks SO much to Shannon for taking the time to explain more about what she does at New Moon Wellness. You can find out more about the services she offers, as well as the other services available at New Moon Wellness on their website here, or follow them on Facebook here.
Written by Angie Traska of Align Doula Services, providing intuitive, attentive doula support that aligns with you. Looking for doula support, birth planning guidance or lactation counseling in the Madison area? Contact me here.