Over the next few posts we will be providing an overview of how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can help support your fertility and help you achieve your goal of becoming pregnant.
In my practice, I have worked with thousands of men and women on their journey towards parenthood. Infertility is defined as the biological inability of a man or a woman to contribute to conception, but very few men or women are truly infertile. Most who have been given a diagnosis of “infertility” are merely out of balance.
Fertility challenges may be due to a female factor in one-third of the cases, male factor in another one-third, and in the remaining one-third of cases the cause may be due to both partners or fall under unexplained infertility. TCM can aid natural fertility in women and men, as well as provide complementary support to assisted reproductive cycles.
At Blue Ova we combine the proven effects of acupuncture and other TCM modalities with the strengths of western style medicine. We do this to enhance natural fertility in women and men, and treat fertility related issues such as endometriosis, irregular cycles, PCOS, amenorrhea, luteal phase defect and unexplained infertility. We also optimize and support women as they go through IVF, IUI and other assisted reproductive techniques (ART).
To harness the true power of both eastern and western medicine, it is important to know how to apply them so they support and enhance each other, rather than hinder progress. This is why we work closely with other modalities, including nutrition, mind-body coaching, massage therapy, and yoga, while also working closely with reproductive endocrinologists and ART centers.
How does acupuncture enhance fertility? Acupuncture enhances fertility in a number of ways, all of which I will delve deeper into in subsequent blogs.
In women, acupuncture and TCM can:
- Regulates hormones, which helps with more regular menstrual cycles and regular ovulation, improving the follicular development and the uterine lining
- Improves the blood supply to the reproductive organs including the ovaries, the testes and uterine lining
- Improves the uterine lining, helping with receptivity and embryo implantation
- Calms the stress response. Chronically elevated stress hormones negatively impact fertility
- Reduces menstrual or pelvic pain
- Reduces uterine contractions
- Improves IVF/IUI pregnancy rates (studies show IVF with acupuncture doubles pregnancy success rate, and increase success of live birth rates from 73%) to 87%.
- Prevents some types of miscarriages
For men, acupuncture and TCM can:
- Improves sperm quantity and quality
- Improve libido
- Resolve small varicoceles
So when should you start your treatment? There is both a short and a long answer to this question. The short answer is that there is no wrong time to start acupuncture when you are trying to conceive. Our acupuncture treatments are customized to best enhance each individual’s chance of conception. We always meet our patients wherever they you at in your fertility journey, whether we have months to work together before trying to conceive, or if you are in the middle of an ART protocol.
The longer answer to this question is that ideally I like to see most patients three to six months in advance of when they are going to start trying to conceive, to begin natural pregnancy preparation and bring patients towards peak fertility fitness. This will make conceiving, as well as pregnancy, easier. For IUI/IVF optimization, starting acupuncture earlier in a cycle or when you are on a break is optimal. For most patients we again want to begin treatment three to six months before the planned IUI/IVF cycle.
These time frames may seem like a long investment you if you are wanting to conceive now, but they will be well worthwhile. The goal of TCM is to improve the "raw materials" of fertility, including the uterine environment, eggs and sperm. Eggs take about 120 days to go through their maturation process and sperm roughly 90. Starting acupuncture treatment early on will increase result success in the quality and quantity of these two very important factors in the fertility process.
Regardless of the cause of infertility, the science of TCM would recommend that the male partner be treated as well. Males with no known pathology should be treated on a weekly basis until you conceive or sperm is collected for use, preferably beginning at least three months prior to the planned IUI/IVF cycle. For males with known issues, we suggest they start acupuncture treatment as early as possible.
What does a fertility treatment plan look like? In our next blog in this series we will discuss “typical” acupuncture fertility treatment plans.