How can Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Help with Fertility?

TCM works to enhance fertility by restoring balance to the body and the specific body’s systems that are responsible for regulating hormones.

TCM works to enhance fertility by restoring balance to the body and the specific body’s systems that are responsible for regulating hormones.

Researchers have concluded that acupuncture:

Positively affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, which plays a major role in fertility, especially with regard to enhancing the development and release of mature and healthy eggs.

Increases blood flow to the uterus, thus thickening the uterine lining, which improves the chances of an ovum implanting on the uterine wall.

Reduces anxiety, stress, and hormones secreted during stressful situations – such as cortisol – which significantly decreases fertility (see section on Stress below).

Normalises the systems that regulate ovulation, [including, in women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)].
Regulates the menstrual cycles.

Several studies of Chinese herbal treatments to correct Luteal Phase Defect produced pregnancy rates from 33-56%, far greater than success rates achieved with Western medical treatments.
Studies show that acupuncture can improve the concentration, volume, and motility of sperm (see Male Fertility section below).

(Data from Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York, USA).

What Fertility Issues does Chinese Medicine Treat?

TCM can help with a wide range of fertility problems, including:

  • Assists in Advanced Maternal Age
  • Amenorrhea (the absence of menstrual bleeding)
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Cervical mucus issues
  • Endocrine imbalances
  • Endometriosis
  • Elevated FSH
  • Fallopian tube blockage (mild, and possibly moderate)
  • Immunology factors
  • Luteal Phase Defect
  • Male factors
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Ovarian cysts and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Ovulation factors (including annovulation)
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
  • Premature ovarian failure/poor ovarian reserve
  • Recurrent miscarriages
  • Stress
  • Thin uterine lining
  • Thyroid problems
  • Unexplained Infertility

How Does Stress Affect Fertility?

Our body’s biochemical response to stress has a major effect on the reproductive system.

Whether due to a major event or the constant stressors of daily life. The reaction to stress has the following effects:

  • It increases our levels of adrenaline, which inhibits our ability to use progesterone, one of the key hormones in reproduction.
  • It increases levels of cortisol, which inhibits implantation of the fertilized egg.
  • It also increases levels of prolactin, which inhibits fertility by decreasing or halting ovulation.
  • A hyper-stimulated nervous system sends blood away from the uterus and ovaries to the essential organs, thus lessening the overall function of our reproductive system.

In 2001, a study at the University of San Diego, California, examined the success rates of women undergoing Western fertility treatments. The study concluded the women with higher rates of stress were 93% less likely to become pregnant and achieve a live birth.

Acupuncture is an effective way to reduce stress and rebalance the systems that stress affects.

Stress and Fertility – How Acupuncture Helps

Acupuncture has been shown to relieve stress and anxiety.

  • Acupuncture releases endorphins and serotonin, which have a calming effect on the body. These chemicals decrease the physical symptoms of stress by:
    • Reducing heart rate,
    • Lowering elevated blood pressure,
    • Relaxing the muscles
  • Acupuncture also improves blood circulation throughout the body, which oxygenates tissues and cycles out cortisol and other damaging chemicals.
  • Most importantly, acupuncture has been shown to rebalance the sympathetic nervous system and the endocrine system, thereby regulating the reproductive hormones that stress negatively affects.
  • Women who are treated with acupuncture often report feelings of relaxation, calm and peacefulness and of being energised following treatment. Since infertility and its treatment are associated with considerable stress and anxiety, there is significant benefit to be achieved from this part alone.
  • Furthermore, there are studies that have reported higher pregnancy rates from IVF when stress reduction and anxiety-relieving methods are employed.
  • NOTE ALSO: That NONE of the studies has shown any detrimental effects attributed to acupuncture, which could lead to a reduction in the success of the medical treatment of infertility by IVF.

When Is The Best Time To Start Treatment?

When possible, it’s best to start treatment before you begin trying to conceive or undergo IUI or IVF. There are several reasons for this:

  • Studies show that on average it can take about 90 days to influence changes in a woman’s menstrual cycle, such as improving ovulation and uterine lining, regulating hormones, regulating any problems with the actual cycle, and addressing situations such as PCOS or endometriosis.
  • It takes about 150 days for an egg to grow from a follicle in its resting state, into a full-blown egg ready to be released (and follicles are selected from a pool of resting follicles almost a year before ovulation!).
  • It takes 70 to 90 days for a sperm to grow and mature.

However, many people don’t find out about the benefits of TCM for fertility until they have already started trying to conceive or have started Western fertility treatments. In these cases, it’s best to start treatment as soon as possible.

It’s NEVER TOO LATE TO START using Acupuncture to improve your fertility.

How Long will I Need to Come for Treatments?

Because it takes 90-150 days to influence change in a woman’s menstrual cycle, and because pregnancy does not normally occur in just one cycle of trying even under the best of circumstances, the recommended course of treatment to achieve pregnancy is at least three months. This is a general time frame, however – some patients take less time to achieve pregnancy, I have had women achieve pregnancy in just 4 to 6 weeks of treatments, and some have taken longer than 90 -150days.

Length of treatment and success varies for each individual and depends on the underlying fertility issue, among many other factors.

How committed are you? – a patient who comes regularly for acupuncture (usually fortnightly), takes their herbs (if prescribed), follows the appropriate self-care measures at home, and makes diet and lifestyle changes will have a much better chance of becoming pregnant than a patient who does not take an active role in their treatment.

When you are trying to get pregnant, each passing month can seem like a wasted cycle, and three to six months can seem like a very long time. However, studies show that at least three months of preparation with TCM is optimal for a healthy pregnancy and baby.

There is no such thing as a “wasted” cycle. Each treatment enhances your body’s systems and brings it closer to optimal reproductive health, a healthy pregnancy, and a healthy baby.

Do I Need to Take Herbs?

The choice is yours, but I do recommend Herbal formulas as an important part of my fertility treatments, and there is much research these days to support this.

Herbs supplement your acupuncture sessions and can:

    • Help regulate the menstrual cycle and ovulation,
    • Thicken the uterine lining,
    • Regulate hormones,
    • Help prevent against certain types of miscarriage,
    • Improve overall health.

For these reasons, I often recommended herbs for fertility issues. However, some herbs may interfere with certain Western fertility medications and should be avoided. For this reason, herbal use is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

In addition, some Western fertility specialists do not want their patients taking any types of herbs during their medicated cycles. When this is the case, herbs are not prescribed, or are used only before Western medications are started.

I am here to support you, and therefore will work to support the program that your western fertility specialist prescribes if you are using one.

“Suffering from severe bleeding on a monthly basis and being on the wrong side of forty, written off by western medicine, I was actively encouraged to have a hysterectomy. A friend referred me to Terry – I now have a normal cycle and life involves a few days a month of inconvenience rather than 3 weeks of hell.” Sheryl.

“I was not sleeping well and regularly woke up not able to get back to sleep. I constantly suffered night sweats and felt very drained when I got out of bed each morning. My monthly cycle was very irregular and often with severe cramping pains.

After only 3 treatments, I sleep much better, without any night sweats over the last week or so, and I have more energy. My first cycle since starting the treatments has been less painful. There has been some cramping but only a fraction of what I had had previously. I know I will still improve more from here and look forward to each relaxing session. Highly recommend it.” Peta F.

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