How can you help your Natural Fertility?
What role can acupuncture play when couples are looking for natural fertility help?
Our aim is to help you fall pregnant, right? Well, our aim is really to bring your body into balance from a TCM ( Traditional Chinese Medicine ) perspective – this means ensuring your menstrual cycle is regular, your stress is manageable and your knowledge on ‘self-care’ is adequate ie. does this person know about the kind of things that may help keep themselves healthy, and thus keep their fertility as vital as possible?
The path to increasing your natural fertility
The path is often about small victories along the way to increasing your natural fertility. We always talk about your health using the language of Chinese Medicine – Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang. What we aim to do is to balance these things so that your cycles are regular and relatively pain-free, your mood is good and that there is an ample supply of blood to the reproductive organs.
For him, it’s also about balance, encouraging healthy habits and using supplements to promote optimal health.
So what effects are the acupuncture and herbs having? In brief, there are a few hypotheses regarding how acupuncture and Chinese medicine may support natural fertility help:
– improving ovarian function and blood flow to produce better quality eggs (1,2)
– increasing blood flow to the uterus and increasing the thickness of the lining (3,4)
– relaxing the patient and decreasing stress (5,6)
– improving semen quality and quantity (7,8)
– decreasing the chance of miscarriage by helping to treat underlying issues such as endometriosis (9,10)
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine have been used in Women’s health for many years – over 1000 at least! We listen to our patients, assess them from a TCM point of view, and use acupuncture and herbs to bring the ‘person’ back into a more healthy state. This is how we approach natural fertility.
Our treatment plans will always aim at helping to address any annoying symptoms you may have such as migraines or low back pain, whilst all the while keeping an eye on your menstrual cycle ( the barometer of Women’s health in TCM ). Again, we talk about these things in terms of rebalancing your vital energy – your Yin and your Yang. You might find that you come to understand your symptoms in a more relatable way when you think about them in these terms.
For various articles on how acupuncture and Chinese Medicine might be used in relation to natural fertility, check out some of the various blog posts and articles I’ve written.
Research surrounding acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, fertility & IVF support
There have been some meta-analysis and systematic reviews of both acupuncture and Chinese Medicine and their role in fertility and IVF support.
Whilst we have more conclusions to be made on the effect of acupuncture and ART and fertility, there have been some positive conclusions concerning acupuncture and its supportive role in IVF, indicating acupuncture may increase pregnancy rates as well as help improve menstrual health in general (11-15).
When considering Chinese herbal medicine, a recent Systematic Review (12) concluded that by regulating the menstrual cycle over a 4 month period, that chances of pregnancy rose two-fold.
We acknowledge the hard working and persistent researchers in this field and continue to benefit in our own clinical world from their persistent hard work.
How we like to work
Ideally, both partners will present for an initial consultation so a complete health history can be taken. During this process, any medical tests and diagnosis will be taken under review in order for us to come to our own TCM diagnosis.
We will assess your general state of health and work towards bringing you both into a better state of balance, giving you both the best chance of conceiving and maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
Depending on each particular case, you will be asked to come for weekly acupuncture treatments where you will receive a mixture of acupuncture, cupping and massage, moxibustion and infra-red heat lamp therapy.
It is likely that you will receive Chinese herbal medicine to help increase your chance of pregnancy (12).
Most people find acupuncture extremely relaxing and look forward to their weekly ‘time-out’.
The research on Chinese Medicine and increasing your chance of pregnancy:
Clinically, this preparation period is incredibly important as it gives your practitioner time to help regulate your menstrual cycle and assess and treat any underlying fertility issues that may emerge when treatment commences. It is based on recent Systematic reviews where research found that treatment over a four month period doubled the likelihood of pregnancy (12).
Now that you’re pregnant, you may chose to continue your acupuncture treatments into your first trimester.
Your relationship with your obstetrician is very important and we honour it by working in conjunction with you and your choice of medical professional. Our aim will always be to keep the pregnancy on track and keep you as well as possible.
Common complaints during pregnancy which we see in the clinic:
- morning sickness and nausea
- muscular aches and pains
- low energy.
A note on the research:
Whilst good quality randomised controlled trials for acupuncture in relation to pregnancy support are limited and or poorly designed, we are always searching for good quality research. Anecdotal evidence exists for the benefit of acupucnture and morning sickness, but the evidence from large scale trials is poor. Yes, we need better quality research trials. Australia has some of the best researchers involved in acupuncture research – hold on!!
In the lead up to birth, acupuncture has been sought out to compliment ‘regular care’ from Western medical doctors for some time.
We see women who have enjoyed acupucnture as part of their fertility journey and who have benefitted from adding it as a protocol to their IVF support , as well as ‘first-timers’ who have had friends suggest that acupuncture has helped them in the past with things like headaches or low back pain (15).
Malpositioned baby – ideally by 34-36 weeks the baby will have settled into a head down position within the pelvis. The ideal position is known as an Anterior Occipital Anterior position. We are interested to know how your baby is traveling within – we’re always keen to know about your relationships with your Obs/Gyne, yoga instructor, doula etc to make sure you are being taken care of in the best holistic way possible.
Induction – when your due date has passed, women may present asking if there is anything that we can do to ‘help the baby along?’ Whilst the anecdotal evidence has been strong for many decades, and esteemed authors on the subject of acupucnture during pregnancy such as Debra Betts have written extensively on its use and success, to date there have been no large scale Systematic reviews or trials into the efficacy of acupuncture for induction. Again, more research is required where trained acupuncturists using ‘real’ acupuncture against alternate interventions are required!! We’re getting there.
Acupressure in labour – the use of acupressure in labour is a practical way of administering some pain relief and creating a more efficient labour. These are points which can be shown and taught to your partner, birthing partner and/or support people.
We are lucky to have new associations available to us now such as the Obstetrical Acupuncture Association – providing us with the highest standard in education, research and the practice of acupuncture as it relates to prenatal, obstetrical and postpartum health.
Some common issues which women may present with during this period :
- insufficient or difficult lactation
- perineum pain or swelling
- mood swings or low mood
- persistent bleeding
- night sweats
- low energy
- heart palpitations
Again, due to the very ‘niched’ symptoms , the gold-standard research ( Randomised Controlled Trials) on these issues is poor i.e. it doesn’t exist. Finding enough women to undergo a large scale clinical trial for these symptoms would perhaps be impossible? There does exist however, a very long history of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine being used in pre-natal, obstetrical and postpartum care. We’re happy to be a part of that continuing history.
Have questions about how acupuncture may help you?
Use the contact form below to ask a question or to make an appointment. Alternatively, call us now on 3357 3205. I look forward to helping you on your road to health.
- Inoue T et al, OJOG, Vol. 3, No. 1A (2013) Open Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
- Stener-Victorin E et al Autonomic Neuroscience, 2003, Vol 108, Issues 1-2, Pg 50-55 Autonomic Neuroscience
- Magarelli, PC, D Cridennda, M Cohen. Fertil & Steril. 2009 Dec;92(6):1870-9 Fertility and Sterility
- Yu W et.al. Presented at the Pacific Coast Reproductive Society Annual Conference 2007
- Fan Qu et al, Sci Rep Nature, (2014), 4, Article number: 5028Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing
- Lynch CD et al, Hum. Retrod, (2014) 29 (5): 1067-1075. Human Reproduction
- Chen A et al, Jnl Acup Tuina Sci, 2011 Vol 9, Number 4, 219-222 Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science
- Siterman S et al Andrologia, 2000 Jan;32(1):31-9. Andrologia
- Zhu Wen-jie et al, C JIM (Chin), 2002;22(10) ‘ 729 Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine
- Qi Gao et al, EB Comp and Alt Med, 2015, Article ID 317586, 10 pages Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
- Manheimer E et al, BMJ 2008 (336) 545
- Reid K, Comp Ther Med, 2015 Feb;23(1):116-28
- Qian Y et al, 2016 Arch Gynecol Obstet, Dec p 1-16
- Cochrane S et al, International Journal of Women’s Health, March 2014 Volume 2014: 6 Pages 313—325
- McDonald J, Janz S. The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review (Revised Edition). Brisbane: Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine