Couples trying to conceive have many options when it comes to improving their odds each month. While even the most advanced science or technology cannot guarantee a pregnancy, thankfully many treatment options exist for couples who are struggling to conceive. Chinese Medicine, which consists of acupuncture, moxibustion, customized Chinese herb therapy and nutritional advice, has been used for thousands of years to enhance fertility. Recent studies are confirming the ability of Chinese medicine to naturally improve fertility as well as enhance Western medical fertility treatments, such as IntraUterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). A more holistic approach not only enhances fertility, but also supports a healthy pregnancy and postpartum recovery.
Reproductive Endocrinologists & Acupuncturists
Many Western doctors, particularly Reproductive Endocrinologists (fertility specialists), are starting to value an integrative approach for their patients. Sarah (37 years old) came to see me for fertility support after several rounds of failed IVF cycles at a clinic in New York City. She was producing abnormal embryos and had a history of chronic endometriosis. She also had a consistently thin uterine lining. Sarah’s doctor suggested she try Chinese medicine for a few months before doing another cycle.
To prepare, we did weekly acupuncture sessions and changed her diet to reduce foods that could cause inflammation. She also took supplements to improve circulation in her ovaries and uterus. After 3 months, another IVF produced a normal embryo. The first frozen embryo transfer attempt was canceled, because her uterine lining did not get thick enough. After discussion with her doctor, we added a customized Chinese herb formula to her hormone protocol. This protocol was to help thicken her uterine lining. We also added additional acupuncture treatments leading up to the transfer. The final outcome was a successful transfer, resulting in the birth of her daughter.
How Does Chinese Medicine Help Fertility?
As research continues to be conducted, understanding the impact of Chinese medicine on fertility is a work in progress. However, many important discoveries have already been found. Couples who work with a Chinese medicine practitioner in the months leading up to an IVF have higher live birth rates. Studies also show that acupuncture and Chinese herbs for fertility help strengthen the communication between the pituitary gland in the brain and the ovaries. Therefore this can improve the health of a woman’s cycle including:
- Reducing PMS symptoms.
- Regulating the menstrual cycle.
- Promoting regular ovulation.
- Strengthening the luteal phase.
- Improving progesterone production.
- Promoting ovulation in women with the polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
- Promoting ovulation in women with hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been shown to promote pregnancy in women with complications from endometriosis. It’s used to manage associated symptoms like pelvic pain as well. Acupuncture for fertility improves blood flow to the uterus and ovaries. When combined with appropriate Chinese herbs, acupuncture can help build a healthy, more receptive lining.
Acupuncture is often used as a supportive therapy during IVF and IUI cycles.
Acupuncture to Boost Fertility
To enhance the effects of medications, acupuncture is often used as a supportive therapy during IVF and IUI cycles. First, acupuncture helps by bringing more blood to the uterus and ovaries and therefore improving implantation. Second, it also helps moderate the immune system, which can also support implantation and possibly prevent some types of miscarriage. Finally for male infertility, acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been shown to improve sperm parameters.
Any intervention or treatment for fertility (Eastern or Western) merely increases the odds of conception by eliminating potential barriers and optimizing conditions. It is not always clear why a couple is not conceiving, so it is essential to keep trying ways to improve these odds by eliminating factors that could impede a pregnancy each cycle. Chinese medicine is one path to help and works very well alone or in combination with Western medical interventions.
Many women and couples who struggle with fertility experience high levels of stress and anxiety. It’s important to remember that anxiety and stress alone do not typically cause infertility, but women who attempt to lower anxiety and stress levels with techniques like acupuncture generally have improved fertility outcomes, enjoy a less stressful fertility journey and go on to have a healthier pregnancy, labor and delivery and postpartum recovery time.
The information provided above is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or a substitute for medical care.
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