Acupuncture for Fertility and Pregnancy Support

The IVF clinic is often the first port of call for couples who are struggling to get pregnant. Recent advances in technology now means this procedure offers much higher chances of success than in previous years.

Whichever variation of the process you undergo, it must be remembered that IVF does not improve the quality of the eggs, only the quantity. The thickness of the uterine lining is also measured. The general health of the couple does also tend to be ignored.

In contrast, TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) considers the overall health of the person who is making the gametes. This in turn will promote healthier gametes! TCM influences the how well the eggs are nourished and stimulated to grow. It can also increase endometrium thickness and quality.

Many men also have fertility problems and they should seriously consider treatment themselves and not leave it all up to the woman! Acupuncture can have an impact on the number, quality and motility of sperm.

What can acupuncture do?

  • Improve gamete/ embryo/ endometrium quality
  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce drug side effects
  • Reduce chance of miscarriage
  • Strengthen immune system
  • Regulate hormones
  • Improve ovarian function

It is best to start your acupuncture treatments 3 months prior to starting IVF. This will allow us to regulate the body's functions and therefore making IVF more successful. This 3 month preparation time allow us to do the following:

  1. Improve ovarian function - encourages the better development and quality of eggs and strong healthy embryos. The uterine lining can become thicker via the regulation of hormones and in turn this increased blood supply will promote follicular development and implantation. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) can help the ovaries to respond better to the drug treatment - encouraging the production of more follicles and better quality eggs.
  2. Strengthen immunity and reduce stress - many chemical pregnancies miscarry. High stress levels are common when trying to get pregnant and TCM is very helpful in alleviating and reducing stress. Being relaxed helps prevent the uterus from contracting and so improves implantation and reduces the risk of miscarriage. Side effects from the drugs are also common and can increase stress levels - TCM can reduce the effects.

Western vs. Chinese Medicine

There is a lovely story, retold by fertility expert Jane Lyttleton, in which the 2 systems - Western and Chinese medicine are compared. Both medical systems have different strengths and weaknesses but are often used to address the same illness or problems.

"Imagine the patient is a round table, which in its diseased state has grown sharp corners. It now looks like a square table - oh dear! The table goes to see a specialist in corners. 'No problem at all, my dear table. We'll have you round again in no time at all.' Well, right he was, more or less. The operation was performed the very next day. The surgeon, wielding a saw, quickly removed the table's corners. The procedure was quite painful but over and done with rapidly and efficiently. Unfortunately, he cut a little too close on the forth corner and the table lost part of one of its legs. The top however, whilst not entirely round and smooth no longer had sharp corners. But imagine if the table had come to see the old Chinese professor himself. 'Tut, tut, how did this corner business come about?' he would have enquired and then carefully and thoroughly felt the wood of the table's corners, top and legs. 'Yes' he might say quietly after some time, 'I can help you be a round table again.' Then he would pull out a small file, apply it to one corner and begin to file. He would file and file. And even though it might be tedious and require a lot of patience on the part of the table and the doctor, and it might take up to one year before the table would be truly its old round self again, eventually it would be beautiful smooth and strong and perfectly round again."

Jane Lyttleton

The side effects of western medicine - the rough contours and the damaged legs - are sometimes a high price to pay for immediate effective treatment. But this promise of a fast and effective result is what makes us choose this type of treatment, so often, despite its risks. Of course, if having 'corners' is a life threatening situation, then fast-and-effective is what we want. But where corners are not so critical, but are more of a threat to the quality of our life, then the slower and more subtle approach has its advantages.

What our TCM treatments would entail

A full, comprehensive consultation to establish why there is a problem with fertility. This includes pulse and tongue diagnosis as well as the signs and symptoms that you present with. Treatments initially should be on a weekly basis for 3 months. This will allow for 3 cycles and to improve your health. After this time treatments may be reduced to 2 - 3 times a month. Improving the health of the would-be parents and the gametes, can be a lengthy process - up to 6 months plus in some cases in comparison to the short term 4 - 6 weeks of an IVF cycle.

It may seem like a lot to ask but this slower process is far better in the long run. Don't forget that TCM is more concerned with quality than quantity of eggs and of your overall state of health.

Nicola Court BAc(hons), LicAc, Member of BAcC.