ACH Blog

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs in Supporting Fertility & IVF

Isobel Cosgrove - Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have a long and successful history in reproductive medicine. They can be used to help boost fertility, to help improve the chances of IVF success and to prepare the body for conception and pregnancy generally. Chinese Medicine (CM) is a treatment in its own right for infertility and gynaecological problems. So as well as IVF, CM can be used as a more natural treatment for:

  • Period problems (menstrual irregularities including: early periods, late periods, irregular periods, heavy periods, light periods, painful periods, no periods, PMT)
  • Infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, hormone imbalances, unexplained infertility
  • During pregnancy certain conditions can be treated eg. threatened miscarriage, skin problems, constipation, nausea (morning sickness), high blood pressure
  • Breach presentation can also be treated with acupuncture.
  • Post natal problems including depression, anxiety and low energy

Sometimes there maybe a clearly identifiable reason within CM for gynaecological or fertility problems which can be treated successfully with herbs and acupuncture. The menstrual cycle in CM can be divided into four phases, each coinciding with one week. Initially it is best to treat each phase of the cycle in order to rebalance the body and restore order to the cycle. Depending on the type of problem and the severity it can take a few cycles to get a sustained.

Improvement: Treatment will normally always be with acupuncture and sometimes a combination of acupuncture and herbs depending on the problem and the preferences of the patient. Initial consultation is usually one and half hours where we take a detailed description of the problem and also asses the overall health of the person. As well as treating a particular problem we are also looking to re-balance the overall health of the person.

Many people come to our clinic for help with infertility problems. This has partly been fuelled by recent publicity and research widely available on the internet that has linked acupuncture in particular to an increased success rate with with IVF. Acupuncture can help with IVF in the following ways:

  • Increase implantation rates
  • Increase blood flow to the ovaries to boost follicular development
  • Increase blood flow to the endometrium
  • Relieve side effects of drugs
  • Relax and reduce anxiety levels

(ref p136 West, Z. Paulus and Westergaard)

Both Tim and Isobel have both been practicing for over 20 years and in our clinic we have treated many women who are undergoing IVF. We work alongside conventional medicine. We generally recommend that women come in for treatment as soon as they know they want to try IVF. As with all acupuncture appointments the first visit is a diagnosis where we take a full case history. Treatment is then usually weekly to help the body optimise the IVF. It is important to try and synchronise acupuncture treatments before and after implantation as re- search has shown that this helps.

Sometimes the practitioner will make suggestions about lifestyle and diet which will support the treatment and make it more successful. It goes with out saying that treatment works best when there is co-operation between the patient and client. This has always been central to Chinese Medicine.

To give some idea of the kind of situations where CM can be effective here are testimonials from two different patients treated at our South Wales clinic:

“I had irregular periods after the birth of my first child which showed no signs of settling. I was very keen to have another child, which was proving difficult. I had a course of acupuncture with Tim; my periods came back into a regular 29 day cycle and I was able to conceive a second child. During my second pregnancy I suffered from Hyperemesis (extreme morning sickness). The doctors wanted to put me on a course of steroids which I was anxious would harm the baby. I had one session of acupuncture with Tim and the sickness subsided to such an extent that I was able to eat normally and did not need the steroid treatment. I strongly recommend acupuncture to anyone trying to conceive.”

“After 6 failed IUIs, 2 failed IVFs, 4 miscarriages and 7 years trying to conceive, we decided to give acupuncture a go as we had heard that it could double your IVF chances. Not only did acupuncture help me physically – regulating my periods, warming up the uterus and helping me sleep, but it helped emotionally to open up about our problems and deal with them. This in turn helped me to relax and be able to talk about the future without getting upset and also to make a plan if IVF failed. Two years later and after our third and final IVF attempt, I am finally and very happily seven months pregnant and believe acupuncture made the difference.”

Men’s health is also an important factor in treating infertility, which we will cover in more detail in an upcoming article. It is impossible to cover every aspect of Fertility and Gynaecology here but we hope to have given some idea of the scope of CM to treat some of these problems. Please contact us and arrange a free chat if you have any questions.

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