My little clinic in Baltimore is growing and growing… along with the bellies of many of my patients.
Acupuncture is amazing for a great variety of problems, but the one that always seems to impress me is it’s great success rate with infertility. Over the years I’ve treated many women with various issues leading to infertility. In my last blog entry, “I’m in the Business of turning babies,” I briefly mentioned how stress reduction and increased circulation greatly improve success at conception both naturally and with artificial insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). Studies have shown that women undergoing in vitro fertilization and receive acupuncture nearly double the success rate of women undergoing IVF alone. With that said, we can also help increase the chances of women getting pregnant without going through IUI and IVF.
As I stated before the reduction in stress is probably the biggest factor in dealing with conception. Stress can greatly influence a woman’s menstrual cycle to the point of throwing off ovulation or even stopping menses completely. With acupuncture your body enters it’s parasympathetic mode, which is similar to a deep sleep or meditative state. During this time your body lets go of stress, hormone levels can normalize, and circulation to the uterus can improve. All big bonuses for the trying parent. If you don’t think stress is a big factor, I’d like to share to anecdotal situations which seem to occur with frequency. One situation many people have heard of is when a women “accidentally” get pregnant when drinking. It seems that alcohol not only removes inhibitions, but also reduces stress levels (at most temporarily). The second seems to happen when a couple “gives up” on trying natural conception and adopts a child. When the pressure of having a child is removed, within a short period of time that adopted child will have a brother or sister. While I don’t have any hard facts about these situations, I can say that I’ve heard these stories from many parents.
The next factor affecting fertility is of course gynecological problems. Many women come in to my office because of dysmenorrhia/ amenorrhia, which are irregular periods or not having periods at all. In oriental medicine we would say that there are two main reasons for this. The first would be “blood deficiency.” This would be indicated by patients who are generally weak, small framed, pale, have spotting or very short periods and may tire easily. If we were to perform a western blood test more than likely results would come back normal, but the signs and symptoms would be an indicator for acupuncture.
Patients may also have these conditions due to “blood stasis.” Signs that oriental medical practitioners would look for is pain in lower abdomen, dark circles under the eyes, and menstruation with heavy clotting or dark blood.
Some patients may exhibit signs of both “blood stasis” and ” blood deficiency,” even so, acupuncture and oriental medicine can be of great help. Normally I tell patients to expect to come in for weekly treatments for three months. This allows the body to build and move blood properly and within that time frame most woman have regular cycles. Once the regular cycle returns, conception occurs much more easily.
Other conditions that inhibit conception are conditions like uterine fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and endometriosis. These conditions are improved greatly with acupuncture and oriental medicine. On several occasions I’ve had patients who were coming in for these conditions for a month or so only to tell me they hadn’t gotten their period. Sometimes, they assume they condition is coming back, but within a few weeks a simple test reveals that they are indeed pregnant.
I would suggest that all women who feel that they are having difficulty conceiving take three steps:
1) Relax, getting stressed out will not help.
2) Consult with your gynecologist, in most cases there is nothing “physically” wrong, or at least nothing that your body can’t work around.
3) Consult an acupuncturist. Infertility is such a big issue and many acupuncturists are very experienced dealing with it. Even if you end up needing IFV starting acupuncture can greatly improve your results.