Dr. Mike Berkley is founder and director of the Fertility Spa in New York City and is licensed and board certified in acupuncture in the states of New York and Connecticut and licensed as a doctor of acupuncture in the state of Rhode Island. Dr. Berkley is also board certified in clinical herbal medicine by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Dr. Berkley graduated from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in New York in 1996, and he has been treating reproductive disorders since then. Dr. Berkley is the first acupuncturist/herbalist in the United States to work exclusively in the field of reproductive medicine. He has developed unique acupuncture protocols and herbal formulae which have been shown to increase success rates by 35 to 40 percent. He works exclusively in the area of reproductive medicine and enjoys working in conjunction with some of New York’s most prestigious reproductive endocrinologists.
What exactly is a fertility spa?
When couples are faced with infertility, they’re either treated by a gynecologist or a reproductive endocrinologist. It’s a very hard, cold, difficult, and emotionally painful process. At the Fertility Spa, we created a beautiful spalike environment whereby we offer services provided by experts in infertility that can help patients get pregnant. We work in conjunction with in vitro fertilization clinics to help improve egg quality in women and sperm quality in men. We also reduce stress in our peaceful, tranquil, and nurturing setting. The Fertility Spa is the only clinic in the country that exclusively treats fertility issues!
What kinds of treatments do you offer and how effective are the treatments? Do you see consistent results?
We offer acupuncture, herbal medicine, psychological counseling, and nutritional counseling. We never see consistent results. It would be impossible to see consistency, since the patients are inconsistent. Sometimes we get patients who are 20 years old; sometimes we get patients who are 52 years old. And you have patients with blocked tubes and different medical disorders that interfere with their getting pregnant. You’re never going to have consistent results. However, what I can say with certainty is that when possible, the work that we do definitely increases the desired outcome of a take-home baby. What that means in English, if in-vitro fertilization is 25 to 30 percent successful, when they do in-vitro fertilization in conjunction with our program, we see a 35 to 40 percent increase in outcomes. This is an average, and sometimes we see patients with 50 percent success rates, and sometimes we see only 30 percent.
What is the most popular treatment?
Our most popular treatments are definitely acupuncture and herbal medicine. Some people opt for just one or the other, some patients involve themselves in every modality we offer. Why acupuncture and herbal medicine? They have the greatest direct clinical effect on the outcome. It’s good to optimize one’s nutritional balance, but if push comes to shove, most people can live without the nutritional counseling. The massage is great for stress reduction, but if push comes to shove, you can live without that, too. Counseling is great, but not everybody needs it. Acupuncture and herbs have the most definite effect on egg quality and is thus the first choice of most patients.
Why would you suggest that someone go to a fertility spa rather than use medicines or see a specialist?
There’s a definite answer to this question. What a couple gets in in vitro fertilization is the development and the retrieval of eggs from the ovaries. These eggs are fertilized and turned into embryos, and the embryos are transplanted back into the uterus. The outcome of this in vitro fertilization is really dependent on the quality of the eggs and the sperm. There’s nothing that those doctors can do to improve those eggs or sperm. What our fertility spa does is improve egg and sperm quality. We add something to the mix that does not exist without our intervention. We don’t see ourselves as a replacement for in vitro, we see ourselves as a complement, as an addition, to in vitro fertilization.
What challenges, if any, do you see the fertility spa industry facing in the future?
First of all, there aren’t that many fertility spas. I don’t even know if “they” exist. “I” exist (laughs). The immediate challenge is definitely the economy. However, I think we face many more upside potential aspects than downside. More and more people are starting to include complementary medicine in their journeys to conceive.
Tell us how you embarked on this career.
I was an acupuncturist 12 years ago. Eleven years ago, I had a patient who couldn’t get pregnant. I treated her, and she subsequently became pregnant. My wife and I also had problems, but once she saw an acupuncturist, she was able to get pregnant. Ever since then, I’ve devoted my life to learning about infertility, both the Western and Chinese medical perspectives.
Do you have any advice?
The major piece of advice that I would give to anyone is that women should all get pregnant before they are 33 or 34 years old. No matter how strong they think they are, older women will have problems afterwards. That’s a fact. For those trying to start a fertility spa, they have to surround themselves with staff who are experts in their field. That’s critical. They have to be able to have a relationship with reproductive endocrinologists and gynecologists so it can be a team-wide approach. Patients shouldn’t use only complementary medicine; they need to establish relationships so it can be a joint effort. In addition, if you have the room to do it, offering multiple modalities is a great idea. Yoga and tai chi can be really great tools.