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Acupuncture for Fertility

At Family Acupuncture Wellness Clinic, we're here to help you maximize your fertility potential. We work with women and couples who are having trouble conceiving, experiencing unexplained infertility or have been diagnosed with conditions impacting their reproductive health.

Our unique approach to fertility treatments starts with an in-depth evaluation to uncover any underlying factors that my be preventing you from conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy. Fertility acupuncture studies show that acupuncture can improve blood flow to the reproductive organs, balance hormones, optimize implantation and reduce miscarriage rates. 

 

We use fertility acupuncture, herbal therapy, stress reduction and diet suggestions to effectively treat a whole range of fertility issues including:

 

  • Endometriosis

  • PCOS

  • Poor Ovarian Reserve

  • Elevated FSH

  • Egg Quality

  • Male Factor Infertility

  • Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (miscarriage)

What does the research say?

There is plenty of research to say TCM is beneficial for fertility. Various studies from outside of the IVF setting have shown:

  • Patients presenting with unexplained infertility had a conception rate of 60.9% when treated with acupuncture and herbal medicine {1}

  • Acupuncture has been shown to improve the structure of the endometrial lining - an important part of successful implantation {2}

  • Animal studies show immune markers, important for implantation are improved after acupuncture treatments {3}

  • Women who undergo acupuncture have a statically significant increase in their fertility awareness {4}

  • Time to conceive has been found to drop drastically (up to half) in women undergoing fertility treatments {5}

Endometriosis

 

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is the growth of endometrial tissue in areas of a woman’s body outside the uterus. It can be a distressing and often painful condition that can interfere with fertility. Chinese medicine can help treat the root cause of endometriosis as well as alleviate symptoms such as:

 

  • Pain during menstruation

  • Pain with intercourse

  • Infertility

Treatment

As with many things, Western and Chinese medicine approach endometriosis differently. Western medicine can be very effective at treating the symptoms, such as removing scar tissue and repairing structural problems, while Chinese medicine focuses on the underlying causes for inflammation.

Mild or Moderate Endometriosis

 

If you have mild or moderate endometriosis, your MD may prescribe birth control drugs to suppress the female hormones that are affecting growth. This therapy may reduce the endometriosis but it also prevents conception. As well, the endometriosis frequently reappears once you stop using the medication.

 

Severe Endometriosis

 

If you have severe endometriosis — with significant pelvic anatomy — your doctor might recommend surgery to remove the endometriosis and repair the damage to the reproductive organs. The effectiveness of this depends on whether a somewhat normal anatomy can actually be restored.

How Chinese Medicine can Help

 

Chinese medicine can help reduce symptoms, regulate your menstrual period and balance your hormones. We encourage women who have abnormal bleeding, painful menstruation, or pain with intercourse to visit their gynaecologist for a complete medical assessment. If the endometriosis is mild, then Chinese medicine is a safe and effective approach on its own. If the endometriosis is severe, then a combination of Chinese and Western treatments will likely be the most beneficial.

 

Our acupuncturists may develop a personalized treatment program with you that will include:

 

  • Anti-inflammatory diet therapy

  • Chinese herbs and supplements

  • Acupuncture

 

Mild or Moderate Endometriosis

 

With mild or moderate endometriosis, Chinese medicine can provide an alternative to drug therapy. While this treatment approach takes longer than the Western treatment, it addresses the imbalance causing the endometriosis instead of simply treating the symptoms. After four months, you should experience a reduction in pelvic pain, improved menstrual regularity and flow.

 

Severe Endometriosis

 

Acupuncture, herbal therapy, and diet helps reduce inflammation, enhance post-surgical recovery, and improve your body's ability to absorb the endometrial tissue.

 

Diet

 

  • Eat plenty of high fiber foods, which increase transit time in the intestines and promote an optimal balance of probiotics in the intestines

  • Increase liver friendly foods such as kale, Brussels sprouts and broccoli

  • Use more anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric (which protects against environmental carcinogens and decreases inflammation), ginger, dandelion leaves and ground flaxseeds

  • Avoid sugar, caffeine and alcohol

  • Avoid or minimize dairy and gluten as they can contribute to inflammation

  • Avoid red meat because it contains large amount of arachidonic acid, which promotes inflammatory prostaglandins, inflammation and pain

IVF Assistance with Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been used to optimize women's fertility for over 2000 years. Recent meta-analysis of clinical trials shows that acupuncture significantly improves the rate of conception for women undergoing IVF. Medical research shows the effectiveness of acupuncture for:

  • Reducing stress to increase overall well-being

  • Improving pregnancy rates in conjunction with IVF

  • Improves blood flow to the reproductive organs

  • Balancing reproductive hormones

  • Regulates immune function required for implantation

  • Regulating menstrual cycle and ovulation

  • Improving sperm count, motility and morphology

  • Reducing painful conditions and inflammation

  • Increasing sexual function

The following treatment plans are recommended for acupuncture support before, during and after your IVF cycle:

Stimulation phase: This phase is rife with rife effects, many of which can be addressed gently and naturally with acupuncture. Reducing stress to minimize the physical stress response is a large part of the focus here.

A few days following egg retrieval: Post egg retrieval, your body will need somewhere between 4 and 14 days to recover. Treatment focuses on treating local trauma to aid in recovery, minimizing symptoms to make you comfortable and reducing stress and anxiety to create a calm environment for the arrival of an embryo

It's been found that adding pre and post embryo acupuncture treatments can increase implantation rates.

We use points specific to your needs, as well as a protocol of points used in clinical trials whcih aim to decrease uterine contrations and support the regulation of stress responses. We like to see patients o the morning before their transfter and immediatly after thier transfer too.

Some women and men find the TWW the hardest part. Acupuncture can help calm the body and mind.

We also support a healthy and viable pregnancy during first trimester to reduce the likelihood of a miscarriage (information below)

Our acupuncture treatment plans are based on evidence-based protocols and range from preconception programs of 1-2 treatments on the day of embryo transfer to a course of treatments (one to two treatments per week for six weeks leading up to the egg retrieval to optimize your results). Along with traditional acupuncture, we use the most up-to-date electro-acupuncture stimulation, both of which have been shown to increase overall pregnancy rates.

Male Factor Infertility

 

What is Male Factor Infertility?

 

Almost one in six couples experience fertility problems. Studies show that while 40% of the time infertility is the result of the result of female factors, 40% of the time it's the result of male factors and 20% of the time the result of a combination of both women and men. If you are experiencing difficulties getting pregnant, it is important that the male partner get his sperm checked.

 

Sperm problems may involve the quantity and/or quality of the sperm. A simple semen analysis can assess basic fertility. This simply involves asking your family doctor for a test requisition and taking a sperm sample to a local lab for testing. Often men feel embarrassed or stressed about providing the sample, but there is no need to as the sample can be collected at home and discretely dropped off at a laboratory near you.

 

The semen analysis looks at the sperm in three different ways:

1. Sperm Count: This is the most important part of the test. The more sperm there is, the better!

2. Sperm Motility: This measures the percentage of sperm that is moving in a forward direction -- sperm needs to be able to travel from the vagina to the fallopian tubes where they meet the egg)

3. Sperm Morphology: This measures the shape of the sperm. It is quite common for men to have lot of abnormally-shaped sperm. Don’t feel too worried if you get this result as no one really knows how much impact this has on your overall fertility

 

How Chinese Medicine can Help

 

Recent studies have shown that acupuncture can effectively:

  • Increase sperm production

  • Increase the percentage of healthy sperm

  • Improve sperm movement (motility)

  • Improve the levels of hormones responsible for fertility

 

*Acupuncture needles are never inserted into the genitals. The needles are instead painlessly inserted into acupuncture points in various other parts of the body.

 

Things to Avoid

 

High Temperatures

The human body is 37 degrees Celsius while sperm functions best at 32 degrees Celsius. This means anything that elevates the scrotum’s temperature over a period of time can adversely affect sperm. Long distance driving, extended sitting, hot baths, saunas, hot tubs, tight-fitting underwear, and athletic support straps all can raise the temperature of the scrotum, thus “cooking” the sperm.

 

Drugs

Many prescription drugs affect fertility: common antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline can wipe out a sperm harvest. Phenytoin, glucocorticoids, sulfasalazine, and nitrofurantoin are other drugs that can affect sperm motility. Furthermore, many nonprescription drugs can have a toxic effect on sperm. For example, the chemical ingredient in marijuana is very closely related to testosterone, which causes the body to produce less of its own. Marijuana also builds-up in the testes, lowering libido, causing impotence, and sometimes even causing sexual anxiety. Fortunately, as with cigarettes, if you stop smoking them, you will probably see an improvement in sperm quality within a few months. The effects of cocaine on fertility are similar to those of marijuana.

 

Environmental Estrogens

Environmental estrogens can damage the sertoli cells. Sertoli cells are responsible for the production of sperm. Estrogens are now found in drinking water and food such as meat. Plastics also give off estrogens. Don’t microwave plastic and try to avoid drinking from it. Try to use glass containers instead. If you are drinking water from a plastic bottle, try to limit its exposure to the sun or heat. Balance your intake of water between bottled water and filtered tap water (or tap water that has been let sit on the counter for a few hours).

Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (Miscarriage)

What is Recurrent Pregnancy Loss?

Recurrent miscarriage or recurrent pregnancy loss is defined as three or more consecutive pregnancy losses. Miscarriages in the first trimester are thought to be as high as 50% with many women not even realizing that they are pregnant before miscarrying. After having one miscarriage, most women go on to have a healthy pregnancy and even for women who have had six or more pregnancy losses, the overwhelming majority of them go on to have a baby. If you have had two miscarriages in a row, it is recommended to see a medical practitioner for a basic testing to check for miscarriage causes such as uterine shape problems, blood clotting disorders, and possible hormonal imbalances. Women who have had recurrent pregnancy losses have higher than average odds of developing anxiety and depression for obvious reasons. Recent studies show that women who have regular supportive care during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy dramatically reduce the number of unexplained miscarriages.

How Chinese Medicine can Help

Acupuncture administered once a week throughout the first trimester:

  • Increases the blood flow to the ovaries to nourish the developing follicles and create better egg quality and embryos

  • Increases blood flow to the testicles for improved sperm quality to optimize the male’s contribution to embryo quality

  • Increases the amount of blood (nutrients and oxygen) that reaches the developing fetus, creating an optimal environment for the baby to thrive

  • Nourishing the developing fetus by improving the blood flow to the placenta and preventing uterine contractions

  • Regulating the body’s natural hormonal production, which in turn improves ovarian function, egg quality, and proper progesterone levels

  • Relaxing the body and reducing stress levels to prevent early uterine contractions

Combined with Chinese herbs, acupuncture can help modulate autoimmune reactions during early stages of pregnancy that often result in miscarriage. Blood clotting that manifests because of these conditions is also reduced, helping ensure the growing embryo has adequate blood supply.

Acupuncture can also help reduce nausea and high stress levels that are often associated with advanced maternal age or with women who have has a history of miscarriages. When the mother-to-be's stress is managed, then blood flow to the baby is optimized.

References

1. Park JJ, Kang M, Shin S, Choi E, Kwon S, Wee H, Nam B, Kaptchuk TJ (2010). "Unexplained infertility treated with acupuncture and herbal medicine in Korea". J Altern Complement Med. 16(2): 193-8

2. Shuai Z, Lian F, Li P, Yang W (2015). "Effect of transcutaneous electrical acupuncture point stimulation on endometrial receptivity in women undergoing frozen-thawed embryo transfer: a single-blind prospective randomized controlled trial". Acupuncture in Medicine, 33(1), 9-15. https//doi.org/10.1136/acupmed-2014-010572​

3. Gui J, Xiong F, Yang W, Li J, Huang G (2012). "Effects of acupuncture on LIF and IL- 12 in rats of implantation failure". Am J Reprod Immunol 67: 383-390

4. Cochrane S, Smith CA, Possamai-Inesedy A, Bensoussan A. (2018). "Prior to conception: the role of an acupuncture protocol in improving women's reproductive functioning assessed by a pilot pragmatic randomized controlled trial"{published correction appears in Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018 May 2;2018:2343604}. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. Doi: 2016;2016:3587569. doi:10.1155/2016/3587569