Chinese Medicine has long been used to treat both male and female infertility. In recent years there have been a number of clinical studies showing a positive outcome of acupuncture treatment with a range of fertility issues. Along with those studies have been various news reports related to the research and often including first hand accounts of individuals that have been helped with Chinese Medicine. Certainly within the vast majority of acupuncture clinics, mine included, there are many, many success stories.
Acupuncture can be used at any stage of fertility issues for women. Many come after all western interventions have failed, many come during IVF treatments as recent research shows it increases the effectiveness, and some (more in recent years) come before they go down the arguably more invasive western medical route.
Personally I have patients who have become pregnant and carried to term that had previously repeated miscarriages, who have had up to 4 rounds of failed IVF treatments, who have tried everything before IVF (clomid, etc.), who have “unexplained infertility”, and who have come in before they had any particular issues. I’ve even had patients who were not coming for fertility – some where they were told for various reasons they could never get pregnant – and get pregnant anyway.
When people first contact me I ask a few questions. One of the most important is – “has your husband been checked”? It still surprises how many cases, particularly those where the female tests have all shown no significant issues, that few doctors look at the male. This is important, at the very least to know what you are working with. For men, we may use acupuncture as stress, anxiety, and circulatory issues will play a role in fertility. We may also use an herbal formula that has been shown in clinical studies to effect sperm volume (in cases tripling it within 3 months) as well as effecting morphology and other abnormalities.
About Forming A Diagnosis:
In contrast to western medicine we utilize more criteria in forming a Chinese medical diagnosis and treatment plan. Some of the criteria has nothing obvious to do with fertility – we look at your whole health history and eventually a majority of your symptoms will lead us into a pattern which we use to treat you. (You can see some technical discussions of the patterns in my Acupuncture for Fertility article and within the TCM Female Infertility section). Of particular relevance is various aspects of the menstrual cycle. A womans menstrual cycle gives us very valuable information about their overall health.
Many women do not pay close attention to their menstrual cycle. But we will look at any premenstrual symptoms, the quality and quantity of the blood and how it changes throughout the period. The goal with treatment is to alleviate strong premenstrual signs, regulate the period both in time (the overall cycle) and in quantity (not too heavy, nor too light), etc. For the most part within 3 months we have accomplished a healthy menstrual cycle with no or minimal premenstrual issues. We also use temperature charting and other indicators of ovulation as a guideline for treatment.
How Many Treatments Will I Need?
This is different for each case, but in general most menstrual and related fertility issues will be resolved within 3 cycles after starting treatment. Some women will get pregnant within the first month of treatment, some during the 3 months, and other not until after the menstrual cycle is fully regulated and other issues are resolved. In my clinic, the vast majority of women are pregnant within 2-5 months. I generally treat weekly for the first 4 treatments and then either continue weekly or go to bi-weekly depending on the initial response and overall health of the patient. Generally patients that have been on birth control for long periods of time and/or have had other hormonal treatments will take a little longer. Personally I use very little herbs for fertility but in some cases they can be quite helpful and we will use appropriate formulas to help your body balance as efficiently as possible.
Now That I’m Pregnant What Can You Help With?
For some patients once they are pregnant our job is done. Due to the balancing that happens during ferility treatments patients may experience relatively “easy” pregnancies. If you start your pregnancy in a very healthy state you are less likely to have strong issues during the course. If you do, however, there is quite a bit acupuncture offers both during pregnancy, for labor, and afterwards that patients should be aware of. Some of the common conditions treated are below:
- Working with morning sickness in the first trimester (or later).
- In middle and later stages we can work with pain related issues (pelvic pain, etc.).
- There are very easy and successful treatments for turning a breech presentation if necessary
- Labor induction is commonly performed when it is time (or past time).
- Afterwards we can help to rebuild the health of the women due to blood loss, etc.
- Any other issues such as post-partum depression, hormone/thyroid imbalances, etc.
All things considered acupuncture is a very natural medicine and conception and child-birth are very natural processes. Acupuncture can guide your body into balance which allows these natural functions to happen without strong medications, altering your hormones, or overriding natural functions. If you are strong and balanced and have excess energy you will be in an appropriate place health-wise for conception and this is our one and only goal with acupuncture.
Fertility issues can certainly be a frustrating experience for everyone involved, particularly for those who have first gone western routes that have failed. It is important that you work on eliminating stress, enjoying your partner and your life, eating well, exercising – all of the common activities that lead to peace of mind and happiness. Acupuncture will help with this and the regulation of your bodies functions as they relate to fertility. Acupuncture is an enjoyable experience and the benefits are beyond just simple conception. You are likely to feel more balanced, stronger, and at ease with acupuncture for fertility than with other interventions and this alone is a reason to consider following this route at whichever state you currently find yourself in.