Are you preparing to conceive, actively trying to conceive or embarking on IVF? Chinese medicine has a lot to offer you. Below we list a number of factors which address the needs of couples facing the challenges of modern life while trying to maximise health and fertility.
A Healthy Diet
There is much information and misinformation about what constitutes a good preconception diet. From a Chinese medicine point of view the middle road is usually the healthiest where moderation of some foods is recommended and a good balance of healthy and fresh fruits and vegetables with adequate protein is encouraged.
At Wellpoint Acupucture we have a nutritionist who will give you tailor-made advice taking into account your constitution, overall health and lifestyle.
For nutrients to be absorbed and utilised well by our body we need a well functioning digestive system. If you experience digestive issues such as bloating, bowel disorders, reflux, cravings or low appetite, these can be treated effectively with acupuncture.
The environment that eggs occupy during their lengthy maturation process in the ovary has an impact on what shape they are in before meeting a sperm (with or without an IVF embryologist in attendance). They need a good blood supply, the right nutrients, the right hormone signals and the capacity to supply enough energy to the embryo.
This has important implications, particularly for eggs that are coming from slightly older ovaries (and possibly for eggs coming from women with PCOS or Endometriosis). While no treatment can turn back the clock, or change the DNA, acupuncture and herbs can be used to rejuvenate some oocyte characteristics by improving delivery of nutrition to the developing egg and enhancing its capacity to make energy thus increasing its chance of making a viable embryo.
It takes two to tango, so sperm quality is also important. Acupuncture has been demonstrated to benefit sperm quality, particularly where there is low motility or high numbers of abnormal forms. Acupuncture increases blood flow through the small blood vessels of the testes, improving delivery of nutrients to developing sperm and promoting optimal sperm vitality.
A regular menstrual cycle
You may hear us acupuncturists talk about regulating your cycle. What does this mean? A regular cycle is around 28 days – give or take a few days – every cycle. A regular ovulation occurs around the mid point of that cycle. See also our previous blog on irregular periods. Regulating the length of the cycle, so that each cycle is the same, is one of the first things we will do, as a regular menstrual cycle is an indication of good ovary function and good hormone balance.
If you suffer from PCOS, especially if this comes with irregular or infrequent periods, this brings its own particular challenges when it comes to conceiving. We don’t yet fully understand the causes of PCOS however we do know that certain acupuncture protocols can reduce some of the factors that operate to prevent polycystic ovaries working properly. For example acupuncture reduces testosterone and LH (luteinising hormone) levels which promotes the conditions for more frequent ovulation and better quality eggs.
Endometriosis may reduce fertility by damaging ovary function (AMH is reduced) and negatively impacting the immune milieu (inflammatory cytokines are raised) and affecting the lining of the uterus and its implantation sites. Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective treatment for reducing the symptoms of endometriosis as well as improving response to IVF drugs and pregnancy rates in endometriosis patients.
Fibroids, Polyps, Cysts
Obstructions to implantation, such as polyps or fibroids, are often removed surgically. In the case that surgery is not desired, and fibroids are not large, then Chinese medicine can be used to shrink them. Ovarian cysts are also amenable to treatment with Chinese medicine and any pain or cycle irregularity they cause can be treated with acupuncture.
Stress, for most of us living and working in modern cities, is part of life. However it can get a lot worse when you are not conceiving as easily as you thought you would. And in a cruel vicious cycle, stress can have a negative impact on fertility. Women who are more stressed have reduced fertility and during IVF procedures have lower embryo implantation rates. Stress has also been shown to affect semen quality. This is why we do specific acupuncture treatments at particular times of the IVF cycle.
Acupuncture is well known as an excellent stress reduction therapy. Its ability to raise endorphin levels and reduce adrenalin and cortisol levels allows the body and mind to relax immediately and learn a different way of being. Our patients frequently comment on how relaxed they feel after their treatments and that they don’t know how they would cope without that support.
Preparing to conceive together
It takes two to conceive and this stressful journey is traveled more easily when the two of you do it together, supporting each other. Whether it is unexplained infertility, male factor or ovarian issues, focusing on improving general health and the health of the gametes on both sides often provides the solution when nothing else is working. Many of the couples we have treated have voiced an appreciation of the emotional and psychological benefits they experience when they come for treatments together.
Embarking on IVF
Acupuncture to prepare for frozen embryo transfer
Many IVF clinics like to transfer embryos into a natural environment. Embryos that have been frozen and successfully thawed are transferred back into a uterus in its natural state at exactly the right time for implantation. Using stimulation on acupuncture points on the abdomen in the 2 or 3 menstrual cycles before the transfer has been shown to improve the structure of the uterine lining, the implantation rate and the pregnancy rate.
Acupuncture before and during the medication phase of IVF
This treatment schedule is based on protocols used in clinical trials which demonstrate increased blood supply to uterus and ovaries and a beneficial regulation of hormones which may be important to follicle development and implantation. A significant increase in pregnancy rates was reported in these trials also.
Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer (including frozen embryo transfer)
These treatments are based on protocols used in clinical trials which showed that an increase in pregnancy rates in some groups of women.
We recommend you have one treatment before and after transfer, as near as possible to procedures.
Acupuncture at any phase of the IVF cycle
Acupuncture can be used to manage any side effects you might experience and reduce anxiety. These treatment protocols are based on the clinical experience of many acupuncturists and their patients. Reduced fatigue, moodiness, abdomen swelling and discomfort and other side effects are reported by many women using acupuncture during their IVF cycle. In addition women report greater relaxation and control of anxiety. The acupuncture treatment will be different for each patient and depends on your symptoms.
Acupuncture after egg collection
IVF patients are recommended to have an acupuncture treatment after egg collection, to reduce any local tissue trauma or bleeding, and help prepare a calm environment for the arrival of an embryo.
We recommend you have 1 treatment just after the procedure itself or within the following 2 days.
Acupuncture on the day of sperm donation
Sometimes the pressure to produce a sperm sample on the day of egg collection can be significant enough to cause a problem. Acupuncture reduces anxiety and can increase blood flow to the genital area.
We recommend you have 1 treatment before sperm donation.
Acupuncture before the pregnancy test
Many IVF patients find the “two week wait” the hardest part (even when its only 10 days!). Acupuncture is used during this time to keep the mind calm and the stress hormones low.
We recommend you have 1 or 2 treatments between the time of embryo transfer and the pregnancy test.
Fertility Treatments At Wellpoint Acupuncture
We are aware of the expense involved in fertility treatments.
We aim to make acupuncture affordable and accessible to all.
We therefore introduce the following fees for fertility treatments:
First consultation and acupuncture treatment £35 (allow 60 minutes)
First consultation and treatment for both partners £60
Subsequent acupuncture treatments £25 per session (allow 45 – 60 mins)
Subsequent acupuncture treatments for both partners £45