Acupuncture and Fertility
Correcting the menstrual cycle
Many factors in our life will affect the regularity and correct functioning of our menstrual cycle, and subsequently, our fertility. Stress, overwork, diet, insufficient or too much exercise, emotional upheaval, travel and sickness all can have far reaching consequences on fertility. Use of the contraceptive pill and other hormonal contraceptives can also greatly alter our hormonal balance and subsequently make it more difficult to conceive once we finally decide we want to.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine may assist in getting your body ready for attempting conception. According to Chinese Medicine this is done through rebalancing the Qi and Blood and regulating the proper flow of the menstrual cycle. From a Western perspective, acupuncture and herbal medicine can correct the over production of stress hormones that disrupt the regulation of the hormones associated with menstruation and fertility. Acupuncture can also assist in improving blood flow to the ovaries and uterus to enhance follicle stimulation and growth.
Acupuncture and IVF
The theory and aims of acupuncture for IVF from a Chinese Medicine standpoint are very complex and involve a lot of language and terms that are specific to Traditional Chinese Medicine, they also differ according to the patient’s condition, but in general we aim to bring the body into balance, remove stagnation from the channels, nourish the organs and strengthen the uterus.
From a Western perspective the treatments are aimed at supporting the blood flow to the ovaries to help the follicles develop and increasing the blood supply to the womb, thickening the endometrial lining and making the uterus more receptive to implantation.
How many treatments do I need?
There is no standard number of treatments that are needed. Treatment schedules should be developed between the therapist and the patient. Typically Acupuncture is initially done once a week and then spaced out but each woman is treated according to her individual needs and circumstances. In support of IVF treatment patients generally come once a week throughout the IVF cycle. If this is not possible then treatments will usually be performed close to important dates of the cycle i.e. egg collection and egg transplant.
Most research that has been done, has been regarding acupuncture treatments that are performed on the day of egg transplant, and it is suggested that if you cannot attend regular treatments then to try and attend at least one treatment as close to the egg transplant time as possible.
What should I expect from a treatment?
Most acupuncture treatments take approximately an hour. The therapist will ask you to fill in a form and will take a case history before beginning treatment. Treatment involves the insertion of very fine needles at various points of the body and may be performed on the back or front or both sides of the patient.
You may feel a sting upon insertion of the needle although the discomfort is usually minimal. After insertion the acupuncturist may manipulate the needles to obtain De Qi (to get the Qi or energy to come to the needle). This feeling is most often described as a tingling, numbness or heavy, achy feeling at the site of insertion. Occasionally the feeling may move along the channels or you may feel something elsewhere on the body. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal but let your acupuncturist know what you are feeling and they will adjust the treatment if you are experiencing any discomfort.
The needles are retained for anywhere between 15 to 45 minutes and may be manipulated again throughout the treatment. Some therapists may also use massage or electro-acupuncture during the treatment. At the end of the treatment the needles are removed and disposed of. At some sites of insertion you may feel a lingering dull achy feeling after removal of the needles but this will disappear shortly.
Are there any side effects?
Acupuncture is considered to be a very safe and side effects are rare. All needles used are sterile and are unwrapped prior to treatment and disposed of immediately after treatment. Sometimes a patient may experience bruising at the insertion site. You can expect to feel quite energised after the treatment, particularly on the following day and as the points that are used are tailored to the patient you can expect to get an overall benefit in your general health and well-being.