The beauty of Acupuncture and Chinese medicine for natural conception is that it can fine tune your body into balance which may be just that missing link to you not getting pregnant. Unlike a quick fix, acupuncture works in natural time with your body and you should expect treatment time to be on average three to six months. This is because it takes three months for new follicles to develop mature healthy eggs for ovulation. During this time, Acupuncture will work on regulating your hormones, balancing your menstrual cycle and correcting any issues out of sync such as painful periods, light or heavy periods and so on. Here at Log House Clinic, we will work closely with your BBT charts in order to identify any issues around your hormones, length of follicular and luteal phases and also to identify your ovulation window and optimal conception timing. Whilst all this wonderful work is being done, you will find that other health issues you have can be indirectly treated such as digestive issues, problems with sleep, body temperature and of course the inevitable anxiety and sometimes obsession that comes with desperately trying to become pregnant.
And don’t forget the males. As sperm are needed to create a baby, the often overlooked partners also can benefit from acupuncture or herbal tweaking, to assist with healthy new sperm generation and all round good health.
Acupuncture and Herbs to benefit Sperm Health
Acupuncture is not just for men who have sperm issues. It is for any man who is part of a couple experiencing fertility challenges. Because sperm quality is so easily optimized with acupuncture and herbs, addressing the male often leads to more success whether you’re trying to conceive naturally or with ART (IUI, IVF). As an added benefit, acupuncture can also help relieve stress and its effect on your body, increase your sex drive, and improve your overall health and well-being.
Sperm are living cells within the male body and are subject to whatever conditions the rest of the body is exposed to. High temperatures around the testicle area, smoking, drug use, stress and poor diet can all impact the quality of sperm. The length of time it takes for new sperm to mature is 2 to 3 months. Based on this, at log House Clinic, we recommend three months of treatment with acupuncture and Chinese herbs along with diet and lifestyle changes before trying to conceive or having a repeat semen analysis.
Unexplained infertility is arguably one of the most frustrating diagnoses you can get when struggling to conceive. All your tests look fine but you’re still not getting pregnant. What can possibly be going on? From a Chinese Medical perspective, a diagnosis of “Unexplained Infertility” can actually be encouraging because it indicates that there is nothing structurally wrong e.g. blocked fallopian tubes, uterine abnormalities, fibroids, etc. to prohibit conception. Instead, it indicates a functional disorder where your organs are performing just below the detectable range (where it doesn’t show on traditional tests such as a bloods, ultrasound, or hysterosalpingogram (HSG)) preventing pregnancy.
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine is instrumental in helping to bring your body back into balance by optimizing the performance of your reproductive organs along with the rest of your body so that you can conceive and maintain a healthy pregnancy.
However, there is another area of unexplained infertility which falls into Immunology.
Currently 30% of unexplained fertility can be due to immunological causes.
The time to suspect an immunological problem is when:
- All other investigations fail to diagnose your cause of infertility – male factor, cervical mucus, ovulation, tubal patency, endometrial receptivity, egg quality and pelvic pathology.
- When a couple fail 4 or more IVF cycles
- When a woman experiences 3 or more consecutive miscarriages
- Positive blood tests for immunological factors
Immunological Factors are:
- Raised Natural Killer Cells – where your body will not recognise the implanting embryo as your own and so your natural defence mechanises kick in to prevent the ‘foreign pathogen’ implanting.
- Blood Clotting factor – recurrent miscarriage can raise this factor. A blood clotting disorder can prevent the placenta development from week 8 or 9 gestation.
- TH1/TH2 cytokine ratios – an imbalance of cytokines which direct the balance of TH1 and TH2 for immune response.
- Sperm Anti bodies – 10% of women with implantation failures and recurrent miscarriage have Anti Sperm Antibodies which can affect a couple conceiving even if they have done so in the past.
- HLA DQ Alpha – where the sperm and eggs share similar or identical DQ Alpha genotypes preventing the mother from creating alloimmuntiy to the developing placenta.
- Hidden C – historic infection in the uterine tissue can prevent implantation.
- Endometrial Receptivity – endometrial thickness and quality as well as NK cells or sub clinical infection.
- Autoimmune disorders – Systemic connective tissue diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus; Endocrine disorders such as Addisons, Hashimotos Thyroiditis; Systemic Neuromuscular disorders such as MS and other autoimmune disorders such as Celiac, Crohns, Ulcerative Colitis.
A range of tests can be organised through specialist fertility Clinics in Ireland and abroad.
Treatment is usually Steroids, Intralipids, Humeara and others via your Fertility Consultant. Positive results for any of these tests can be treated with mycology (mushroom supplements) in advance of your planned IVF cycle. Mycology supplements can reduce NK levels and so retesting is advised prior to IVF commencement if using Intralipids. You can then choose to continue with mycology or use western medicine such as Steroids or Intralipids.
It’s now well documented and studies have proven that acupuncture increases the success rate of IVF from 26% to almost 46%. If you are planning to do IVF, it’s recommended that you have acupuncture and Chinese herbs for at least three months before your IVF/ICSI cycle. This is because it takes at least three months for follicle development to mature eggs. It will also improve the quality of your endometrial lining. We will also discuss nutrition and lifestyle advice since pre-conception health is important and preparing your body for a pregnancy is always in your best interest.
Having acupuncture treatments alongside your IVF cycle will do the following:
- Increase the blood circulation to the ovaries to nourish the developing follicles, boost ovary stimulation, create better egg quality and produce stronger embryos
- Regulate the body’s natural hormonal production which in turn improves ovarian function, egg quality, reduces FSH levels and boost progesterone levels
- Regulate and increases endometrial lining and thickness
- Support implantation
- Relax the body and associated stress levels to improve reproductive function and support the IVF process
- For male partners, acupuncture increases blood flow to the testicles for improved sperm quality in order to optimise the males contribution to embryo quality
The extra beauty of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is that it will address any imbalances in your body that may be contributing to your particular fertility issues and it will also treat any side effects from the IVF medication such as headaches, difficulty sleeping, bloating, hot flushes and anxiety.
Timing of Acupuncture treatments with IVF
We recommend that you start weekly treatment 3 months prior to your IVF cycle as this is the time it takes for an egg to mature. It’s also more benefical to take Chinese Herbal Medicine along with your Acupuncture.
Down regulation, Stimulation and Egg Collection
We recommend weekly treatments during the down regulation stage and biweekly during the stimulation phase or depending on how follicles are performing based on your scans. Acupuncture can help increase the responsiveness of your ovaries to the fertility medications. It can also help mitigate some of the side effects of the medications. It will increase blood flow to the uterus, which will improve the endometrial lining and quality of the follicles. For women with PCOS, it can also help adjust the fluid balance in your abdomen which can help you avoid potential symptoms of hyperstimulation. We also recommend a treatment after egg collection, to decrease cramping and feelings of nausea or other side affects from the anesthia such as headaches. Lastly, Acupuncture will help decrease the feelings of stress and anxiety that comes with an IVF cycle.
The Day of Transfer
Pre and post transfer treatments will put your mind at ease, relax your cervix and uterus by decreasing contractions from the procedure, as well as increase blood flow to the uterus so that it is a warm and nutritive place for implantation to occur. Log House Clinic will accommodate early morning and weekend appointments for your pre and post transfer treatments.
The Two Week Wait
We recommend that you have a treatment 7- 10 days after your transfer. This treatment helps to assist and stabilize implantation and associated anxieties.
Modern Research on Acupuncture & IVF/ICSI Support
- Effects of acupuncture on pregnancy rates in women undergoing in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Zheng CH et al. Fertil Steril. 2012 Mar;97(3):599-611. [PMID: 16616748]: “Acupuncture improves CPR (clinical pregnancy rate) and LBR (live birth rate) among women undergoing IVF based on the results of studies that do not include the Streitberger control. The Streitberger control may not be an inactive control. More positive effects from using acupuncture in IVF can be expected if an appropriate control and more reasonable acupuncture programs are used.”
- Increase of success rate for women undergoing embryo transfer by transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation: a prospective randomized placebo-controlled study. Zhang R et al. Fertil Steril. 2011 Oct;96(4):912-6 [PMID: 21862001]: “The clinical pregnancy rate, embryos implantation rate, and live birth rate of group I with mock treatment (29.3%, 15.0%, and 21.2%, respectively) were significantly lower than those in group II with single TEAS treatment 30 minutes after ET (42.7%, 25.7%, and 37.3%, respectively) and group III with double TEAS treatment 24 hours before ET and 30 minutes after ET (50.0%, 25.9%, and 42.0%, respectively). Transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation (TEAS), especially double TEAS, significantly improved the clinical outcome of ET.”
- Effect of acupuncture on the outcome of in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection: a randomized, prospective, controlled clinical study. Dieterle S et al. Fertil Steril. 2006 May;85(5):1347-51 [PMID: 16616748]: “In group I (who received luteal-phase acupuncture), the clinical pregnancy rate and ongoing pregnancy rate (33.6% and 28.4%, respectively) were significantly higher than in group II (who received placebo acupuncture; 15.6% and 13.8%). Luteal-phase acupuncture has a positive effect on the outcome of IVF/ICSI.”
- Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Paulus WE et al. Fertil Steril. 2002 Apr;77(4):721-4.[PMID: 11937123]: “Clinical pregnancies were documented in 34 of 80 patients (42.5%) in the acupuncture group, whereas pregnancy rate was only 26.3% (21 out of 80 patients) in the control group. Acupuncture seems to be a useful tool for improving pregnancy rate after ART.”
Acupuncture & IUI Preparation
If you are going for intrauterine insemination (IUI), it would be the best for you to start preparation three months before as with IVF preparation. This is because it takes at least three months for follicle development to mature eggs. It will also improve the quality of your endometrial lining.
When to have Acupuncture with IUI
Three months before your IUI – 1 treatment per week along with Chinese herbs
Around your IUI day (one day before or after, or on your IUI day) — 1 treatment
After your IUI (3-4 days after IUI) — 1 treatment
Until your pregnancy test & during the first trimester — 1 treatment/week