One in seven couples experience fertility issues. There can be many factors involved. Often I see women who are desperate to understand why they are not conceiving or why they have had several failed IVF attempts. You may feel you have exhausted all medical tests and procedures without answers. You may have heard the term reproductive Immunology but not fully understand what this means or what tests can be done. Anna can help guide you on your fertility journey.
Have you or your partner experienced any of the following..
Often Acupuncture can offer a way forward. Anna offers a 30 minute complimentary consultation to discuss your individual circumstances and explain how treatment may benefit.
Many people turn to acupuncture because they would like to avoid assisted conception: some because they have heard it is a beneficial support during assisted conception, and others because they have tried everything else and want to fully explore all the options that may help them to conceive.
Chinese medicine seeks to understand each person as a whole, fertility is seen as more than just the mechanics of the reproductive cycle, for example to enhance your fertility it is crucial to understand how your emotions, energy levels, weight, exercise, sleep and menstrual cycle are impacting on your fertility, and how by taking better care of your self, and embarking on acupuncture treatment you can greatly improve your chances of conception.
In order to fully optimise your fertility, and prepare your body for a pregnancy, it is recommended you start preparing at least 3 months before trying to concieve or starting an IVF cycle. This allows enough time for any lifestyle changes and treatment to be most effective.
Many women struggling with infertility have already had the baseline tests to measure certain fertility markers. One of those markers is the Antral Follicle count (AFC) this shows the number of follicles that are about to develop into potential eggs. This is used along with Anti-Mullerin Hormone (AMH) as a marker for the success of IVF. We know AMH levels decrease with a women's age. Being diagnosed with a low AMH level can often leave women feeling disheartened, some may have already had multiple IVF cycles without success. Research has shown that AMH levels can change and that with the right lifestyle changes and acupuncture treatment the Antral Follicle level (number of follicles that are about to develop into potential eggs ) can be increased. A study on women going through IVF with low ovarian reserves found that acupuncture can increase the number of oocytes (immature eggs) retrieved and these embryos were of higher quality than those who had not had acupuncture (Zheng, Y, et al. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2015.)
below are some simple ways you can optimise your fertility.
It is vitally important to recognise the role that stress has to play in the conception process and how you can benefit from acupuncture during pre-conception. Stress can be detrimental to hormonal feedback loops; by reducing your stress levels, you can aid your endocrine system and help balance your hormones.
For many couples who are struggling to conceive, the causes of infertility are unknown. This diagnosis can bring about a lot of confusion, as although all standard fertility tests are showing as normal, they still struggle to conceive. In Chinese medicine we would perceive this as potentially showing sub-fertility: everything is doing what it should, the hormone parameters are in normal function, the endometrium is looking healthy, the Fallopian tubes are clear, the sperms are in normal range, yet still there is no viable pregnancy.
The combined results of seven clinical trials showed that combining IVF embryo transfer with acupuncture led to a 65% increase in successful implantation, and and a 91% increase in the likelihood of a live birth.
Anna will guide you through a full consultation, looking at diet and lifestyle to support and prepare your body for pregnancy.
This is primarily due to the detrimental influences of modern lifestyle: the effects of sub-nutritional diet and/or poor eating habits (no breakfast, sandwich in front of the computer, eating large meals too late in the evening), not to mention the culture of overwork, long commutes and the constant overexposure to electromagnetic influence – laptops over the groin, mobile phones in trouser pockets, long days spent in front of the computer, wifi everywhere. Then of course there may be issues around excess alcohol and smoking. For all these reasons, and more, we are seeing ever decreasing sperm parameters.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can offer a great deal towards helping you improve your sperm parameters, not least for using the constitutional diagnosis to help guideline dietary and lifestyle advice to help countermand the detrimental influences of daily life.
In the same way that Chinese Medicine may be helpful for menstrual regulation, it may potentially have a positive effect on the male uro-genital tract.
Stress can be a major factor on the male reproductive hormones; over a sustained period of time, stress can have significant impacts on our sexual function and our fertility.
In TCM we use the Western sperm analysis to help determine the direction of the treatment. We look at the concentration (sperm count), the motility (how well they are moving), the morphology (how they are shaped), as well as the volume, pH and the viscosity. In combination with the underlying constitutional diagnosis, we aim to formulate a treatment plan to improve parameters.
In TCM, a robust regular menstrual cycle optimises fertility. A balanced cycle with a steady follicular phase as the ovum grows, matched with an even length luteal phase is what we are aiming for. The Lead up to a period should be without PMT, and when flow starts it should be without pain. A healthy flow should not be too heavy or too scanty and without clots. Acupuncture treatment is given at key times during the menstrual cycle, depending on your particular needs, to address the disharmonies present and ensure a smooth harmonious cycle.
When treating menstrual issues, Anna will normally ask you to use a BBT (Basal Body Temperature) charting. We use the pattern of the temperature changes to help us determine the diagnosis and to decipher which phase of the cycle needs attention. This information will ultimately determine your treatment plan.
We will use the TCM diagnostic criteria of history, looking at the character of your periods since puberty, including your contraceptive and conception history, as well as any assisted treatment you may be having/had, all taken in the context of your medical history.
Then in combination with your signs and symptoms (in particular, how your period is behaving now), and in combination with our Chinese diagnostics of pulse and tongue and palpation, we will determine how to treat you to improve ovulation.
Some women find that when they come off of birth control, in particular the hormone control methods (pill, patch, injection, hormone coil) and in some cases after the unmedicated coil is removed, that their periods may change in character, that they may become irregular or in some cases do not resume at all.
Sometimes the hormonal influence of birth control can adjust the Hypothalmic-Pituitary-Ovarian (HPO) axis, which is the feedback loop system that controls the release of your LH, FSH, oestrogens and progesterons, thus when the birth control is stopped the period does not easily resume.
Many women have found TCM to be helpful in reinstating the menstrual cycle, and it may be especially helpful when there is annovulation subsequent to using hormonal birth control.
Some women have primary annovulation (no periods ever) which will usually have been managed through pharmaceutical hormone treatment to create a functioning period. Primary annovulation will require assisted conception to provide the hormonal stimulation the body is not doing for itself. In these cases we highly recommend our Pre-conception treatments to adjunct your IVF treatment.
PCOS Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a metabolic condition which can affect the Hypothalmic-Pituitary-Ovarian (HPO) axis, and can very often have an inhibiting effect on ovulation: the common reason why women with PCOS may have difficulty conceiving.
Lack of regular and predictable ovulation makes it harder to fall pregnant. Anti-mullerian hormone is secreted by developing follicles in the ovaries and is an indication of ovarian reserve, it is generally higher and declines more slowly in women with PCOS. This means that there are many immature follicles developing in the ovaries without one becoming dominant.
A study looking at women with PCOS and high AMH levels proved acupuncture to be effective at reducing and normalising AMH levels. (Leonhardt H, et, al. Acta obstetrician Gynecol scand 2015)
There is a direct link between insulin resistance and ovulatory issues, and for many women with PCOS, especially those with known fertility problems, understanding the importance of the influence of diet on ovulatory function is necessary for conception.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a comprehensive understanding for treatment of PCOS, and in combination with correct dietary advice according to TCM constitutional diagnosis, your treatment plan will be tailored to aid your body into regular periods.
Both PCOS and Endometriosis are spectrum disorders. Each woman experiences this in a unique way. Anna will endeavour to help you understand your profile of your condition and to help you find the right solutions.
Endometriosis is being seen more frequently in recent years, this may be because of deferred child bearing and environmental pollutants. Endometriosis is defined by the presence of endometrial tissue outside the uterus often in the pelvic cavity. Adenomyosis is the term used to describe endometrial tissue appearing in the myometrium (muscle layer) of the uterine wall.
Endometriosis affects approximately 30-40% of women who are struggling to conceive. Endometriosis is thought to occur with retrograde menstruation- when endometrial fragments pass through the Fallopian tubes during menstruation, and attach to nearby pelvic structures and then grows during the oestrogen dominant part of a women's cycle. This endometrial tissue then sheds blood each month causing inflammation inside the abdominal cavity. This inflammation leads to the formation of adhesions (scar tissue) which can tether internal organs and distort the Fallopian tubes. The fact that not all women develop endometriosis maybe to do with impaired immune response. Immunological changes haven been seen in women with this disease. Chinese medicine has a comprehensive understanding for the treatment of this condition.
In chines medicine the strategy for treating endometriosis is to bring relief from the discomforts and pain this condition may cause and by working to resolve the underlying condition through the use of acupuncture and moxibustion.
In acupuncture treatment, understanding the history of the development of the condition is vital; Anna will review your menstrual history including contraception, this will be in the context of your family history and any relevant surgeries, or possible history of any genital infections. This will then allow a treatment plan to be created for the particular character of your endometriosis.
Repeated miscarriages can be very distressing for couples. The current guidelines state that recurrent means at least 3 miscarriages.
This is also true of repeated IVF failures, further investigations are not normally done unless there have been 3 failed cycles. The current recorded miscarriage rate is between 1 in 7.
From a Chinese medicine viewpoint, we can offer further understanding of how your physiological state maybe a factor, for example there maybe a nutritive issue, your endometrium may not be receptive to an embryo. Other factors such as immunological or thrombophillic (blood clotting) issues may be present.
Anna endeavours to work closely with your western practitioners to find an appropriate treatment.
Through TCM diagnosis we can offer extra understanding of how your physiologic state, in respect of that garden analogy we spoke about at the top of this page. It may be a nutritive issue, there may be an underlying undiagnosed asymptomatic (no symptoms) STI or GUI (sexually transmitted disease / genito-urinary infection), it may be about the health of the endometrium, it may be an issue of too hot or too cold (something we can uniquely diagnose and treat).
We wish to work closely with your western practitioners at this stage, as the investigations from that side can often enhance the picture of understanding. Sometimes it may be an immunilogical reason, a chromosomal issue, possibly an auto immune issue, or possibly a thrombophilic (blood clotting) issue.
As with 'unexplained infertility', sometimes there is no obvious explanation or reasoning from the western medicine perspective.
The Chinese diagnosis can be very helpful in these circumstances as it may offer a reasoning that is not included in the western lexicon. We seek to support you through whatever treatment your fertility clinic wish to prescribe.
Anna has nearly 10 years of experience. She is an active member of the Acupuncture community, frequently keeping up with the latest research and continuing professional development (CPD) to ensure your treatment is the most effective.
Anna has undergone intensive post graduate training in gynaecology, fertility and obstetrics to aid couples through their fertility journey