Getting the Most Out of Acupuncture: Fertility

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If you have been trying to conceive for more than a year without getting pregnant, you may have been given a diagnosis of infertility. Your doctor has probably ordered many tests for you and your partner, and you may be considering medical treatment.

Many women with fertility concerns decide to try acupuncture. When a woman is trying to get pregnant, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be used at any stage, from helping to regulate the menstrual cycle to aiding the success of in vitro fertilization (IVF). If you are considering acupuncture treatments, this article will provide you with information to help you plan how best to use acupuncture in your journey.

Before an Infertility Diagnosis
Not everyone who comes to acupuncture for fertility treatment has received a diagnosis of infertility. Some women may have concerns because their periods are irregular or they don’t think they are ovulating. Others may just want to be as healthy as possible before trying to conceive. In either case, it is never too early to start acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture can be especially effective at regulating menstruation, and its stress-reducing and balancing effect can help to improve your overall health.

After an Infertility Diagnosis
If after a year of trying (or less in certain circumstances) you haven’t conceived, there are many options for your next step. Some people want to try medical interventions as soon as possible. Others prefer to wait and try to improve their health naturally. Acupuncture can be used at this stage, either on its own or in conjunction with Western medical treatments. If you chose not to begin Western treatments, you should still get a full medical work up done by your doctor to rule out any underlying conditions (for example, low thyroid function). Make sure that your partner gets a work up as well.

I strongly suggest that any woman concerned about fertility use a basal body temperature (BBT) chart to track her cycles. Not everyone ovulates on day 14, and if you are “trying” during the wrong time of the month, that might explain why you haven’t gotten pregnant. The new ovulation testing kits can be helpful, but I prefer the BBT chart because it provides more information and allows you to see patterns. A very good book that explains charting and other methods of tracking fertility is Taking Charge of Your Fertility.

Charting is great if you are trying to make sense of your cycles. However, if you are experiencing a lot of stress and pressure around trying to conceive, charting may only add to your anxiety. In that case, take a few months off and just enjoy yourself. You can always start charting again at the beginning of the next cycle.

As with most conditions, acupuncture for fertility can take time to work. The needles are sending signals to your body and it may take several treatments before your body picks up on those signals and responds. This is why we recommend that anyone coming in for fertility or menstrual disorders commit to treatment for 3 cycles. If your cycle is regular, treatment once a week for 3 months is a good period of time. However, if your cycle is long, that time frame will be extended. If you are experiencing amenorrhea (absence of a period), you will need to come in for treatments 2-3 times a week until your period begins, and then start the 3-cycle schedule. Certain other conditions may require more treatments or a longer time frame (this will be determined after your initial intake with the acupuncturist).

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is sometimes best to take a break from trying to conceive to give your body a rest. Circumstances like recently giving birth, miscarriages, heavy menstruation, and even fertility treatments can put a strain on your body. You can still continue acupuncture to improve your health while your body recovers.

There are very specific protocols for acupuncture treatment to improve IVF success. Although a recent clinical study showed mixed results, prior studies have found that that acupuncture increased IVF success rates. If you decide to undergo IVF, you should schedule an acupuncture treatment within 24 hours before the procedure, and another within an hour after the procedure.

Other Thoughts
Acupuncture can help functional issues (for example, irregular menstruation) more than structural issues (like scar tissue in the uterus). For this reason, a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility” is often a good sign.

Although a diagnosis of infertility can be devastating, try not to create an identity for yourself as an “infertile” person. Stress is counterproductive to your health and may even impede conception. Do whatever you can to manage stress during this time. Luckily, acupuncture is a great stress reliever!

Do you have other questions about acupuncture and Chinese medicine for infertility? Contact us or give us a call at (508) 890-8899.

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