Acupuncture and fertility issues

Many women have problems with their hormones and their cycles, leading to symptoms which can be very distressing. Often we feel like our bodies have let us down, are resigned to our fate and frustrated by it. This is where acupuncture comes into its own, by bringing the hormones back in balance in a natural and effective way.

More and more men as well as women are experiencing fertility issues. In some cases there is a very definite Western diagnosis, and some of them as detailed below. Obstetrics is also one of the oldest specialisation in Chinese Medicine and is included in the list below.

However a lot of couples are given the distressing diagnosis of “unexplained fertility”. Stress can be a bit factor in this, as it disturbs the functioning of the hypothalamus, the gland in the brain that regulates the appetite, emotions, and the hormones required to release the eggs in a woman and produce testosterone in a man. People typically report feeling relaxed, calm or more positive after acupuncture, helping counteracting the effect of stress throughout your whole being.

Combined with acupuncture, good food, and a good work/life balance can go a long way in bringing your body back to health. Check out our Therapies page! If you need to undergo heavier treatment, acupuncture works very well alongside conventional medicine, a typical example of that being IVF treatment. Which ever route you choose, we can design an individual program to support you along the way.

PCOS
PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a benign gynaecological disorder characterised by multiple abnormal cysts in the ovaries. It may cause absent periods (amenorrhea) or irregular periods and infertility. Luteinising Hormone (LH) is often elevated higher than FSH in a woman with PCOS, and remains elevated throughout the cycle. PCOS is usually characterized by irregular periods, irregular ovulation or absent ovulation , weight gain, acne/oily skin, and excess body hair. Acupuncture is used to treat PCOS very successfully.

Absent Periods/Irregular Cycles
Absent periods indicates failure of hypothalamus-pituitary gland-ovaries axis as well as the cyclical changes in the womb lining to sex hormones, resulting in periods. Amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation either because it never began (primary amenorrhea) or later ceased (secondary amenorrhea).
Western medicine may treat absent periods/irregular cycles with ovulation inducing drugs such as Clomiphene,. Evidence suggests that the hypothalamic dysfunction is sensitive to emotional and physical stresses, diet, body composition, exercise, environmental factors etc. Acupuncture is used clinically for the treatment of amenorrhea.

Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a gynaecological condition in which patches of endometrial tissue, which normally found only in the uterine lining (endometrium) grow outside the uterus. The misplaced endometrial tissue can adhere to the ovaries, bowels, bladder, vagina, and appendix and in rare cases, endometrial tissue is found in the lungs. The endometrial tissue responds to hormonal changes, and may bleed during the menstrual period. Trapped blood can lead to inflamation, and the formation of adhesions and scar tissue or cysts. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this blood accumulation is called blood stasis. Endometriosis can be asymptomatic and can be associated with pelvic pain, pelvic mass, painful, heavy periods, painful intercourse.

In a study published in the December 2002 issue of The Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine researchers selected 67 women diagnosed with dysmenorrhea (painful periods) due to endometriosis. It was reported that 81% of these women had less painful periods after receiving the acupuncture treatments. Research shows that acupuncture promotes blood circulation and regulates the endocrine system. Acupuncture can significantly reduce endometriosis symptoms and support fertility where the endometriosis is not impairing the physical anatomy of the womb.

Menopause
Menopause occurs naturally at an average age of 50 and involves the natural cessation of menstruation. Menopausal women may feel warm or hot and may perspire, sometimes profusely and experience hot flushes.
Symptoms including fatigue, irritability, insomnia, inability to concentrate, depression, memory loss, headache, anxiety, and nervousness, sleep disruption, fatigue and irritability. Intermittent dizziness, palpitations may occur. Nausea, constipation, diarrhea, arthralgia, myalgia, cold hands and feet, and weight gain are also common. The large reduction in oestrogen leads to changes in the lower genital tract. Women tend to lose pelvic muscle tone and to develop urinary incontinence, cystitis, vaginitis, and loss of libido.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicince, as women age, the energetics of the kidneys decline in line with their fertililty and the function of the ovaries. Response to pituitary hormones (follicle-stimulating hormone [FSH] and luteinizing hormone [LH]) decreases, initially resulting shorter menstrual cycles, fewer ovulations, decreased progesterone production, and more irregularity in cycles. Eventually, menstruation stops altogether.

From 1997 to 1999, in one of the first studies in the US to explore the effectiveness of acupuncture in alleviating hot flashes, insomnia and nervousness, conducted by Dr. Susan Cohen, D.S.N., APRN, it was found that during the course of acupuncture treatments, hot flashes decreased by 35% and insomnia decreased by 50%. A follow-up study revealed hot flashes significantly decreased in those receiving acupuncture, compared to those receiving routine care. A 2002 pilot study in England found that acupuncture reduced the frequency and severity of hot flashes in women being treated with tamoxifen for breast cancer.

Acupuncture for Natural Fertility
3-6 Month Preconception Care

Couples wishing to conceive naturally are recommended to have acupuncture for a 3-6 month period. If both partners adopt a preconceptual healthcare programme including fertility acupuncture and nutrition for at least 3-4 months prior to conception, it is possible to have an impact on the health of both the egg and sperm and reproductive outcomes.

  • How Acupuncture can Enhance Fertility?
  • Regulates menstrual cycles
  • Regulate hormones – High FSH, Low AMH
  • Reduces miscarriages
  • Lessens uterine contractions after embryo transfer
  • Improves blood flow to ovaries and uterus
  • Improves ovarian function; encourages production of follicles; enhances their quality
  • Improves thickness of uterine wall lining
  • Aids relaxation
  • Lessens side effects of fertility medication
  • Enhances immune system
  • Improves sperm parameters

High FSH and Acupuncture
High FSH levels according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) indicate a deficiency in kidney yin energy, which is normally needed to make good, fertile eggs. As in Western medicine, fertility declines with age, in Chinese Medicine, the kidney yin and energetics of the kidneys decline as we get older. Acupuncture nourishes and supports the kidney yin energy, and can reduce high FSH levels. However, high FSH levels could also be related to factors such as the movement of blood in the uterus, or the emotional state of a person and in these circumstances acupuncture can stabilise FSH levels in the body.
Acupuncture Treatment and Low AMH

Like high FSH levels, low AMH levels according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) indicate a deficiency in kidney yin energy, which is normally needed to make good, fertile eggs. 

As in Western medicine, fertility declines with age, in Chinese Medicine, the kidney yin and energetics of the kidneys decline as we get older. A fertility acupuncturist would aim to nourish kidney yin to optimise fertility, and promote energy and blood flow to the uterus.

During IVF or Fertility Treatment
Depending on whether you are undertaking the short or long protocol, 2–3 acupuncture sessions are recommended during the IVF treatment. Where there is no male factor infertility, we recommend a single fertility acupuncture treatment for the male prior to egg collection to relieve anxiety. Where there is male factor infertility, a fertility acupuncture programme is recommended for the male to optimise sperm quality, motility and count.

Embryo Transfer
An acupuncture treatment is highly recommended before and after embryo transfer to improve pregnancy rates. Ideally, this should be within 24 hours of the transfer.
Research trials shows that fertility acupuncture before and after embryo transfer may improve pregnancy rates by up to 65%.

The Weeks After Embryo Transfer
We recommend two fertility acupuncture treatments during the two week wait period before you take a pregnancy test. The first treatment is to support implantation, the second treatment is to support you emotionally, to ease anxiety and promote relaxation.

If you have a positive pregnancy test.
I recommend a weekly acupuncture treatment during the first trimester, up to week 12/13 as there is a higher risk of miscarriage in IVF induced pregnancies. The treatments are gentle and supportive and help promote a healthy pregnancy.

Post- Pregnancy Acupuncture
Acupuncture can also help after giving birth. The recovery period after pregnancy and delivery is a very important time to receive treatment. In the East it is considered necessary to regain energy and replenish the blood that has been exhausted, and many instances of post natal depression can be easily avoided by nourishing the body properly after delivery.
Conditions That Can Benefit From Pregnancy Acupuncture:

  • Morning Sickness
  • Heartburn
  • Depression or Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Back pain
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue and Exhaustion
  • Breech Presentation
  • Symphysis Pubic Pain
  • Muscular-skeletal Conditions
  • Oedema | Swollen Ankles
  • Hypertension | HBP
  • Labour Induction
  • Pain Relief During Childbirth

Acupuncture and Breech Presentation
The turning of breech babies using moxibustion from week 33 onwards is a successful and natural method to avoid medical intervention.

The success rates are as high as 81% in turning a breech baby. Even women with a very late diagnosis of breech presentation have found that their babies have turned with the use of moxibustion and/or acupuncture.

Moxibustion involves burning a fragrant herb in the form of a moxa stick over one acupuncture point on the feet to relax the muscles in the uterus allowing the baby to turn.

It is extremely safe and relaxing and the great benefit of this treatment is that you can continue the treatment with your partner or friend in the comfort of your own home once we have taught you the technique and frequency of treatment

Acupuncture and Labour Induction
Acupuncture and Labour Induction – how does it work?
Acupuncture for labour induction is used successfully to promote labour naturally when a women is past her due date. It is recommended that a pregnant women has acupuncture for labour induction at least three days past her due date.
The benefits of acupuncture for labour induction are:
Influences cervical dilation and ripening
Naturally stimulates uterine contractions
Reduces time from due date to delivery
Reduces likelyhood of medical induction
Reduces the rate of epidural anaesthesia
Provides relaxation in cases of emotional distress

Acupuncture and Labour Induction — how does it work?
Acupuncture for labour induction is used successfully to promote labour naturally when a women is past her due date. It is recommended that a pregnant women has acupuncture for labour induction at least three days past her due date.
The benefits of acupuncture for labour induction are:

  • Influences cervical dilation and ripening
  • Naturally stimulates uterine contractions
  • Reduces time from due date to delivery
  • Reduces likelyhood of medical induction
  • Reduces the rate of epidural anaesthesia
  • Provides relaxation in cases of emotional distress

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