To get pregnant is not as easy as many peolpe think. There are many factors that influence one's chance of a successful pregnancy - such as stress, menstrual irregularities, egg quality, sperm quality and fertile days for example. Pre-pregnancy health is further of great importance and can influence the above mentioned factors.
The good thing is that almost every woman can have a baby but sometimes it does depend on how far she will go in terms of the help available. Whether the woman/couple will try for natural conception, IUI/IVF or egg donation, acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can be of fantastic support and help in the process. Over the last 18 years, I have supported hundreds of women through this emotional journey. I am as happy to work alongside IVF protocols as I am with natural cycles/conception.
How can Acupuncture/Chinese Medicine help with fertility
There are many reasons for why couples struggle to conceive. Sometimes there will be a diagnosis such as Endometriosis, Polycystic ovaries or issues with hormone levels.
However, many times there will be no obvious reasons and the term 'unexplained infertility' may be used.
There are many women/couples who come for acupuncture just to optimise general and reproductive health as a preparation for conception.
Many gynaecological problems are symptoms of inner hormonal and energetic imbalances. The first step in treating women is to closely address the menstrual cycle. If the cycle is too long, there is a risk the egg is too old by the time it is released. If the cycle is too short, the egg may not have reached full maturity by the time it is released. Both these scenarios can make conception less likely.
To increase a woman's fertility, it is important to stimulate a healthy blood flow to her reproductive organs and to decrease risk of blockages and reduce stress. Stress hormones can have a detrimental effect on fertility. It is the old 'fight & flight' response that kicks in. This means the stress hormones are getting you ready to fight and flee the enemy. The blood and energy in the body will be diverted from your reproductive organs and to muscular tissue, heart and lungs. The body is sending out signals that this is not a good time to be pregnant. Chronic, long term stress can therefore have a serious impact on fertility.
Research (see research section) has shown that acupuncture can help with regulating hormones and stress levels, increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, counteract the negative effects of Poly Cystic ovarian syndrome amongst other things.
Acupuncture can further support male fertility where there are issues with low sperm count, poor morphology and slow motility.
If pregnancy has not been achieved, the acupuncture would have served as 'prep-for-IVF', since the treatments to increase natural fertility and to prepare for IVF are the same.
IVF preparation and support
'Acupuncture can increase the chances of getting pregnant for women undergoing fertility treatment by 65%' according the The Guardian's news pages.
The NHS website further confirms a positive effect of pregnancy rates when acupuncture is given alongside IVF. Acupuncture is hence the most common adjunct therapy recommended to IVF patients.
For maximum benefit, it is recommended to start acupuncture treatments about three months or three menstrual cycles prior to the IVF medication. This is so we can prepare the body and the reproductive system, and regulate the hormones to make the woman as 'tip top' as possible. It helps to set the scene or rather prepare the soil.
Around the actual Embryo Transfer (E.T), a few acupuncture sessions close together is often recommended to aid receptivity of the womb and support implantation. Personally, I also recommend acupuncture in the two-week-wait to further support the body and implantation and to settle anxiety/worry.
Many women worry about the side effects of the IVF drugs, and yes, they can be unpleasant and take their toll on the body. The good news is that having acupuncture alongside greatly reduces the severity of these unwanted side effects. The acupuncture is further a fantastic way to reduce stress levels and support the body/mind during this both emotionally and physically stressful time.
Acupunture to increase natural fertility is practically the same as the acupuncture preparation in the three months leading up to IVF. It is not unusual for a couple to conceive naturally during this preparation time.
During pregnancy, women are particularly motivated to find drug-free alternatives to their problems.
Pregnancy involves many changes to your body, physically as well as mentally. It is of great importance to address any issues when they arise, before they turn into a problem. Acupuncture is also useful when you don’t have any problems since it will limit the risks of getting them at a later stage.
Pregnancy should not be seen as a state of illness but at this precious time it is particularly important to look after your health.
What can acupuncture help with?
Acupuncture treatments can start at any stage of the pregnancy. Often the first encounter with the pregnant woman is around week 6 –7 when extreme tiredness and nausea can set in. From then on she either comes on regular basis or she returns whenever a problem or dysfunction arises.
Magdalena has 15 years experience of supporting women through their pregnancies. She has attended several post-graduate courses in Obstetric acupuncture. Magdalena is also the founder of Shoreditch Spa's multibed Acupuncture-in-Pregnancy clinic where she worked in close cooperation with the local midwives. Magdalena finds being a woman herself and having had children really helps in her work with both fertility and pregnancy.
See www.acupuncture.rhizome.net.nz for some fabulous info and hand-outs for Pregnancy Care