ACUPUNCTURE TO ENHANCE NATURAL FERTILITY

The Process

  • Assess your fertility (both partners)
  • Assess your lifestyle
  • Assess your dietary factors
  • Evaluate your emotions

Treatment plan:

  • BBT charting
  • Weekly acupuncture
  • Dietary guidance
  • Lifestyle advice

Treatment aims to:

  • optimise ovarian function, egg and sperm vitality
  • regulate menstruation
  • regulate hormonal imbalances
  • reduce stress
  • regulate immune factors
  • promote weight loss
  • improve digestion
  • improve sleep quality

Chinese Medicine is particularly good at understanding why you may not yet have conceived when conventional medicine has diagnosed ‘unexplained’ infertility.  This is because, while infertility may present as the core problem, it is actually a symptom of a deeper underlying imbalance in your organ system.  Traditional Chinese Medicine has a very comprehensive diagnostic system for understanding and treating imbalances in the body as a whole.

As part of your treatment, I will teach you how to chart your menstrual cycle (if this is appropriate for you). This is an invaluable tool which enables me to analyse the ebb and flow of your hormones.  It allows you to track your progress through your menstrual cycle, and through your course of acupuncture treatment.  I find that it usually takes about three to four cycles (supported by weekly acupuncture treatments) for your chart to be nearing what we would expect to see in a ‘normal’ cycle.  (download your chart here).

Also, should you need a thermometer, I recommend you buy a Centigrade Digital Basal Thermometer that reads to 2 decimal places.  An example can be found here

ACUPUNCTURE AND IVF SUPPORT

Ideally, acupuncture treatment should be started as soon as possible in the months running up to the IVF/ ICSI/ IUI/ FET. This is so that we can work on correcting any underlying imbalances which may be affecting your chances of success.

If we have a few months to work with, then charting your cycle is a very useful way to assess the functioning of your uterine environment which is reflected through the nature of your menstrual flow. Ideally you should have a bright red, free flowing bleed without pain or clotting.

IVF units increasingly use FSH levels as an acceptance criteria for patients looking to start IVF. Acupuncture can be useful in lowering this level if it is too high to allow treatment to start.

IVF: Long Protocol/Short Protocol

Once your IVF treatment starts, you may be given medication that puts your menstrual cycle on pause.  This is called down regulation.  Your period may be light or delayed, or not come at all.  At this point acupuncture treatment is focused on ensuring an efficient elimination of the womb lining. Producing a full clear-out of the old endometrium allows the best opportunity to develop a fresh, healthy and thick lining with good blood flow.

Treatment may also be used at this stage to reduce the potential side effects of down-regulation such as headaches or hot flushes. 

If you are on the short protocol (and are not taking down-regulation medication), the principle is exactly the same – to try to achieve the best possible clear out of the old lining to make way for the new. 

Stimulation

Once you start your injections, the ovaries are targeted to produce multiple mature follicles and the womb lining starts to build up again.  LH is suppressed so that you don’t ovulate, and you are given something to help the ova in these multiple follicles to develop to maturity. Acupuncture treatment here is aimed at optimising the quality and oxygenation of the womb lining, helping it both thicken and have a good blood supply. Treatment post egg retrieval is also very useful in helping with any lingering abdominal pain or discomfort, and helping the body to settle back down prior to transfer.

Embryo Transfer

Much of the research into how acupuncture supports IVF is focussed on treatment at this time.  A commonly used protocol (The Paulus Protocol) is based on research where acupuncture is performed both before and after the embryo transfer to increase your chances of success by 20%. In some IVF clinics, particularly overseas, the treatment is performed on site. The research strongly suggests that these treatments are time-dependent (within 25 minutes of your procedure). It is interesting to note however, that at the time of this research, the transfers were taking place on Day 2 or 3 embryos, whereas now transfers of Day 5 blastocysts or even hatching blastocysts are more common.  These developed embryos actually favour a less oxygenated environment, meaning that protocols created to increase blood flow to the uterus are not particularly helpful.  This means that it is more beneficial to have had acupuncture in the run up to your treatment than on the day of transfer. I suggest you come a few days later or half way through your two week wait.

The Two Week Wait

Although there appears to be little evidence that having acupuncture during the “two week wait” increases implantation rates, most of my patients choose to come half way through.  Anxiety levels are often high, and acupuncture may be used to help you relax during this exciting time.

The BFP (Big Fat Positive)

Ideally, once a positive result has been achieved, I recommend treatment every week until week 12 of the pregnancy to ensure the pregnancy progresses smoothly.  The acupuncture may also be used to ease the discomfort often regarded as just a ‘normal’ part of early pregnancy.

“After two failed attempts at IVF my husband and I decided to try the alternative route.  I could hardly believe the difference when the scan results came back – I had twice the viable embryos, and all were a better grade than during the previous attempts.  I’m now 13 weeks pregnant, and only just starting to believe it’s real.” Jean, York

RECOMMENDED READING

There are three text books that I regularly like to recommend.  I have a few copies of each, which I may be able to lend to you, but if not, here is where you can find them:

Making Babies: A Proven 3 Month program for Maximum Fertility by David & Blakeway

I like this book because it uses the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine and puts them into plain language.  After a general introduction, there are chapters which help you to decide on your ‘fertility type’, and then some good advice (diet/exercise/supplements) which is aimed at your type specifically.

 

 

Taking Charge Of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy… by Toni Weschler

This is quite an intense book that has in depth instructions on how to chart your cycle. 

 

 

 

Sex Again: Recharging Your Libido by Jill Blakeway

The clue is in the title with this one.  I think it’s a brilliant book, and reminds us that it’s not all about tracking ovulation!

Also, should you need a thermometer, I recommend you buy a Centigrade Digital Basal Thermometer that reads to 2 decimal places.  An example can be found here: