Acupuncture For Fertility
When should you get acupuncture for fertility?
If you are planning to get pregnant, congratulations! You are about to embark in a wonderful and very much unpredictable journey.
Pre-conception care should start at least 3 months prior to conceiving, and the main reason for this is that it takes approximately this time for a full follicle to develop into a mature follicle (egg).
The focus during this time, is to work on egg quality and ensure your overall health is optimum to achieve and sustain a very healthy pregnancy.
Chinese medicine has a distinct approach to fertility, and I will explain in simpler terms how we treat from the oriental perspective. In practice, I combine eastern knowledge and biomedicine, as I am currently undertaking a master’s degree in reproductive medicine at UNSW.
I firmly believe that when these two medicines are integrated, the health outcomes are greater and less risky. Because one medicine should not be used in place of another, the term complimentary medicine was coined.
Let’s start at the beginning, and bear with me if you have already begun your TTC (trying to conceive) journey.
Book an appointment with your GP
This should be the first step in preparing to conceive. Regardless of your health, your doctor will run a series of tests to check for antibodies and a full blood panel to ensure there are no deficiencies, such as iron, vitamin D or B, to name a few.
Depending on your age and medical history, a hormone test may be recommended. This information is critical to have ahead of time to ensure there are no underlying deficiencies that could interfere with pregnancy.
Click here to read an article I wrote about what routine testing should be done for a couple suffering from primary infertility.
Do you have a regular period?
A regular period is a sign of regular ovulation and hormonal balance. A regular period is defined as an ideal 28-day menstrual cycle, plus or minus a few days. Regular cycles can range from 24-35 days, provided they are consistent and don’t vary in length by more than a few days each cycle.
Having a regular period, makes it easier to predict ovulation and therefore, your fertile window.
Getting pregnant can sometimes require more than two people; for this reason, it is critical to select a medical team whose primary goal is to assist you in achieving pregnancy. Choose the members of your squad in the same way that you choose a team of employees to work for you.
Trusting them as individuals and in their abilities is essential. Ensure your GP or fertility specialist have your best interest when making decisions about your treatment plan.
When choosing complementary medicine to go with your IVF treatment, IUI, or natural conception. It is equally important to choose a practitioner who is knowledgeable in such procedures and who works collaboratively with specialists. On the same token, when selecting a fertility specialist, choose one who is willing to work alongside your alternative treatment and does not dismiss it simply because they do not understand how the other medicine works.
When these two members of your team do not collaborate, the amount of conflicting information can be overwhelming and potentially detrimental to the success of your fertility outcome.
What does the research say about acupuncture for fertility?
The evidence is conflicting, in part because there aren’t enough high-quality studies being conducted due to the difficulty to obtain funding for studies in Chinese medicine and acupuncture. There are studies on the benefits of acupuncture in fertility, but I won’t list any of them here for a couple of reasons; the main one is that I am biased and may only show you the ones I want you to see. So, I’ll leave it up to you to research and find information to satisfy your curiosity.
However, I would like to point out that more fertility clinics in Australia are incorporating their own in-house acupuncture as an adjunct treatment for IVF.
How does Chinese medicine view fertility?
When you want to bake a bun, the first step is to pre-heat the oven to prepare it for baking! Please accept my apologies for comparing you to an oven :) What we often see in clinic are cold ovens lacking fire.
In most cases, we begin treatment by promoting blood flow into the uterus and warming it up, making it a more hospitable environment for embryo implantation and development.
Basically we make sure the soil is rich and fertile before planting the seed!
What will happen during my first session?
During your first session, your practitioner will go over your entire medical history, both past and present. This appointment normally lasts about 90 minutes, as we thoroughly assess your medical history. Please bring any blood results, imaging results or medical tests to your consultation, we will discuss them and we might interpret them differently to your conventional doctor.
To complete the picture of your diagnosis based on Chinese medicine principles, your practitioner will take your pulse and examine your tongue. Your treatment plan will be discussed during this session, and you will have a better idea of how many sessions are required and how frequently.
As a standard treatment plan, appointments are done weekly for the initial month and more often during egg collection or embryo transfers.
Whether you are trying to conceive naturally, or are undergoing assisted reproductive treatment (ART), we will support you through all stages of the journey.
How many sessions do I need?
As previously stated, this will be discussed during your initial appointment. During the first month, we recommend weekly appointments to closely monitor your entire menstrual cycle. After that, we usually continue with fortnightly to monthly appointments. The goal is for you to become pregnant, so we will work with you until that happens.
What happens after I get pregnant?
Once pregnancy is achieved, you can continue to have monthly acupuncture treatments as part of your wellness routine, just like any other healthy patient. Acupuncture is an excellent preventative medicine, and in ancient China the role of the royal practitioner was to keep the king and his kingdom healthy, and he was only paid if no one got sick.
You can still have acupuncture during pregnancy, and it can assist with preventing common pregnancy-related problems such as back pain.
We also work with you to provide you with a wealth of information on prenatal care and how to care for your body during pregnancy and after childbirth.