A Philosophy of Fertility Enhancement
I approach fertility as if imagining your body is an abundant, growing garden. Before planting anything, we must first clear the debris and prepare the soil, making it rich and fertile so that the tiny embryo seed can implant, receive nourishment and beautifully grow into a healthy baby. This philosophy applies to couples preparing for conception naturally or through medically assisted conception such as In-Vitro, ICSI or IUI.
These are many of the keys to fertility enhancement, which Traditional Chinese Medicine helps to treat:
Regulating the menstrual cycle
Treating all forms of PMS
Providing relief for PID
Treating PCOD, regulating blood sugar imbalances, weight management and ovulation regulation
Improving sperm motility, count and quality
Balancing hormone levels
Decreasing FSH hormone levels
Increasing the thickness of the uterine lining by creating more blood flow to the reproductive organs
Increasing the functioning of the ovaries to produce better quality eggs
Strengthening the immune system and reducing stress
Preventing uterine contractions
Preventing or decreasing the chances of miscarriage
Relaxing the body, mind, spirit and emotions
How and why does it work?
Traditional Chinese Medicine works by regulating your hormonal imbalances to bring your body towards optimum health through the use of acupuncture, nutritional counseling and herbal medicine. These techniques will help you to help enhance your fertility by balancing your endocrine system, nervous system, immune system, and give your body the ability to achieve conception.
Based on your Chinese Medical evaluation along with a review of all of your past and present gynecological diagnoses, I will recommend a specific program for you to follow. I recommend certain foods and supplements that will work to assist in creating favorable conditions for reproductive health. Patients' plans vary according to individual needs and often incorporate the following elements:
Dietary Changes: eating unprocessed, organic, whole fresh foods and eating only hormone-free, organic meats
Hydrating! Drinking at least 8-10 glasses of water a day
Moderate exercise such as tai chi, yoga, walking or swimming
Teaching you to understand your fertility signs
Weekly Acupuncture treatment
An herbal formula will be designed to address your individual needs
Herbal Medicine may also help to assist in conception by addressing your specific underlying patterns of imbalance. Just as each person is different, each herbal formula will be tailor-made for your specific conditions. The formulas are safe, gentle and effective. Formulas are changed frequently to address different parts of the menstrual cycle, often being switched weekly or bi-weekly.
Fertility challenges and hormonal imbalances are linked to the endocrine and reproductive systems, which are closely tied to your ovaries, and to the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in your brain. This is the system that is responsible for menstruation, menopause, and ovulation. Together these make up the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis (HPO). This system is very delicately balanced and can easily be thrown out of equilibrium by stress, the aging process, or any number of other factors. Acupuncture has actually been proven to regulate the HPO, optimizing its ability to function properly, which subsequently will increase your chances of conception. Patients report that they have a much better sense of well-being, greater energy, and less depression and anxiety when they are receiving their treatments.
Assisted Reproductive Technology and IVF
I work alongside your Reproductive Endocrinologist, supporting his or her efforts and maximizing your time and money. A combination of acupuncture and/or herbal medicine effectively complements your ART protocol, giving you the best of both worlds, and the best possible chances for success. Research shows that acupuncture can increase the efficacy of IVF procedures from 27% up to 43%.
How I Work With You During ART/IVF:
Preparation - A full series of Traditional Chinese medical treatments in advance of ART procedures, which may include IUI, IVF or ICSI, work to improve your overall health and regulate your nervous, endocrine and reproductive systems, creating the best possible situation for conception. Months, weeks or even days prior to embryo retrieval, Acupuncture treatments contribute to a smoother procedure.
During Fertility Medication Protocol - Acupuncture reduces the side effects of the medications, which range from hot flashes and mood swings to gas, bloating and other digestive disturbances. It also increases blood flow to your uterus, thereby thickening the endometrial lining and preparing it for implantation.
Embryo Transfer - I will attend the actual embryo transfer at your physician's location, providing Acupuncture both before and after the transfer. That alone, studies show, can increase your chances of achieving pregnancy by reducing stress, relaxing the uterus and reducing cramping.
Herbal Medicine and ART/IVF
I work closely with patients and their Reproductive Endocrinologists to ensure that any herbal treatment is completely safe during Assisted Reproductive treatments. Herbal formulas may be stopped prior to stimulation cycles and used only in preparation for IVF, which we can explore depending on your individual case's needs.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine may assist with treating some of the following fertility imbalances:
Advanced Maternal Age, Poor Ovarian Reserve and Premature Ovarian Failure - As a woman ages, her ovarian reserve diminishes. Even if you are active, healthy and feel young, every woman has a fixed number of eggs at birth that naturally grows smaller as you get older. Women over 35 will have a more significant decline of their eggs, and in particular their good quality eggs. Acupuncture increases blood flow to your uterus, which may help to improve the quality of your eggs. It can also help to improve ovulation and to increase the thickness of the uterine lining for implantation of the embryo.
Unexplained Infertility - Women often receive the frustrating diagnosis of "unexplained infertility" by their doctors. Often after going through months or even years of many tests and bloodwork, there seems to be no conclusive evidence to explain the reason for the infertility. At this point a patient may be encouraged by her doctor to consider IVF or an egg donor. Through Traditional Chinese Medicine, I look at the underlying pattern of imbalance that presents itself to to me through my diagnostic evaluation. From a Chinese medical perspective, there is actually no such thing as "unexplained infertility", and I am able to diagnose and then treat you in a new and effective way which will support, balance and harmonize your body, allowing for an easier path to conception whether naturally or in conjunction with IVF.
Elevated FSH - Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is the hormone that stimulates the growth and maturity of your egg-producing follicles. As the ovarian egg reserve diminishes, the pituitary gland must release more and more FSH. A high FSH level is an indicator of a lower ovarian reserve. It also implies that your estrogen levels are declining. Higher FSH levels are actually a perfectly normal function of aging, but are problematic for conception. Over several months, Traditional Chinese Medicine may help to decrease FSH levels. This is especially important for women undergoing Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART), because your FSH levels are often an indicator of how well you will respond to IVF treatment.
Stress - Studies show that women with high stress levels are up to 93 percent less likely to conceive. Stress not only reduces blood flow to your reproductive organs, it can interfere with communication between your brain, pituitary and ovaries, creating a hormonal imbalance throughout your endocrine system. Furthermore, research shows that discovering a diagnosis of infertility is as stressful for a woman as discovering she has HIV or cancer.
Acupuncture can help to relax your nervous system by releasing endorphins. The treatment works by inhibiting that "fight-or-flight" sympathetic nervous system response, which is counter-productive for conception, actually moving blood flow away from your reproductive organs. This is essential when struggling to save your life, however for conception, it actually discourages blood flow to the organs that need it the most. Acupuncture works to reverse the effects of stress - increasing circulation and regulating hormones.
Compromised Health - A variety of observable and underlying illnesses can affect your fertility. Traditional Chinese Medicine enhances your overall health, boosts your immune system and can even treat potentially disruptive ailments.
Hormonal Imbalances - Acupuncture helps to regulate hormonal imbalances by going straight to the source; the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian-axis (HPOA), which is responsible for releasing the right hormones from your endocrine system in the correct amounts. This can be especially beneficial for women faced with luteal phase defects, high FSH levels, low estrogen levels or polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD).
Male-Factor Infertility - Men who suffer from reduced sperm count and/or compromised sperm, the lack of sperm production can benefit from Traditional Chinese Medicine. Motility (how they swim), morphology (how they look) and amount (how many) can all benefit from acupuncture and in particular from herbal remedies and correct supplementation.
By increasing blood flow and correcting underlying imbalances, acupuncture may improve sperm count, motility and morphology after only a few months. It has also been shown to reduce the number of structural abnormalities in sperm.
Miscarriage - There are a number of causes of miscarriage, including chromosomal abnormalities, illness, problems with the uterus or cervix, advanced maternal age, as well as hormonal imbalances. Traditional Chinese Medicine may help to prevent some of the causes of miscarriage, regulating hormones and optimizing progesterone production, essential to maintaining the uterus for a sustained pregnancy. Acupuncture has been proven to help thicken the lining of the uterus and may protect against first-trimester miscarriages.
Anovulation - Many women do not ovulate each month; the ovary's follicle does not release a ripened egg. There are many causes of this, including PCOD, advanced maternal age, or even stress. Research shows that acupuncture and herbal medicine can induce ovulation in many patients.
How long will it take?
I strongly urge patients to begin treatments as early as possible and to maintain a consistent treatment schedule. Great results generally take at least three menstrual cycles, however even a single treatment can be very beneficial through reducing your stress and encouraging calm introspection.
If you have questions about how acupuncture can help during your fertility journey, contact me and I will be glad to help.