I am seeing more and more people who are coping with the heartbreak and stress of fertility problems – especially those who have waited to start a family until their 30s and 40s. The wide range of factors contributing to infertility and the overwhelming variety of treatment options just seem to add to the stress. As many as 15% to 30% of couples dealing with infertility do not find an identifiable reason for the failure to conceive. But there is good news – in my experience, cases where standard fertility diagnostics have failed to diagnose an abnormality, patients respond well to acupuncture and herbal medicine. The treatment modalities used by Chinese Medicine specialists involve gentle acupuncture, tailored herbal medicine, homework, and nutritional guidance to help the patient increase overall health and heighten fertility. The treatment process is very soothing and I liken it to preparing the soil to provide proper nutrients for its plant.
How can acupuncture help me get pregnant?
When I first started learning about reproductive medicine procedures in my doctoral studies, I was surprised to see how effective acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine were for enhancing chances of pregnancy. I was even more surprised during my internship when I observed patients getting pregnant naturally, even after a diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), fibroids, or other condition. While research on acupuncture therapy for infertility continues, we do have definitive data showing a significant increase in blood flow to the uterus and ovaries after receiving acupuncture. Researchers have also discovered that acupuncture before and after artificial reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), have increased the chances of conception by a significant degree – up to 91% with IVF cases!
Other effects of acupuncture, such as regulation of cortisol and prolactin levels, increased thickness of uterine lining, lower miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy rates, luteinizing hormone (LH) and estrogen levels normalization, stimulating ovulation, and lowered stress levels have been positively confirmed.
Tips that can help
The following tips are beneficial for your health no matter what the cause of your infertility. More specific nutritional, supplementation, herbal medicine, and lifestyle advice, personally tailored to each patient, can be provided after you are examined by me, or another Chinese Medicine specialist.
- Stop drinking iced beverages. This seems strange, especially for people living in hot climates, but drinking cold drinks is a drain on our energy. Your body reacts to cold drinks by bringing a tremendous amount of blood flow to the stomach to try to warm and digest the cold fluids. If you’re feeling hot, drinking cold drinks will turn on the body’s internal heater to try and warm the stomach, actually making us feel warmer. It’s more helpful to use our blood to regulate other processes in other areas of the body, such as our immune system, instead of warming things you put inside your body. Stick with room temperature or even warm drinks.
- Meditate daily. I am not asking you to quit your job and become a Buddhist Monk, but when you look at the research around meditation, it is amazing how much a 10-minute practice daily can do for your nervous system and circulation over time. Just 10 minutes a day! You can search for guided 10 minute sessions on your phone or iPad and find apps such as Headspace. Play around with some and find the one you like best. It is a wonderful practice for so many reasons.
- Mayan abdominal massage daily. This is a lower abdominal massage that is easy to learn and can be accomplished while you are in the shower, before getting into the shower, or just before bed. This practice is good for increasing blood circulation to the uterus, particularly for those with fibroids, PCOS, or endometriosis, while at the same you are giving your womb some love. You can find YouTube videos demonstrating this simple and quick technique – I have found the one by Melissa M. Turner to be the easiest to follow.
- Stop drinking cow dairy. This is a good tip for most people and many conditions, particularly allergies and certain digestive disorders. Our adult bodies do not process pasteurized milk products well and we end up carrying extra fluid and feeling bogged down. Combined with the excess hormones, this can also contribute to cysts and decreased circulation to our reproductive system. There are some healthy alternatives to cow milk, such as almond, cashew, rice or coconut milk. My favorite is unsweetened almond milk, yum!
- Get acupuncture treatments regularly. Regular acupuncture treatments can not only help both men and women with many of the underlying fertility issues, but provide a lovely side effect – a reduction in stress levels. Stress can negatively impact fertility status. So, you have nothing to lose, but a lot to gain.
When is it time to see a fertility specialist?
Infertility is generally diagnosed if you have been actively trying to conceive for at least one year. If you have been trying for one year, or 6 months if you are over 35, and have not gotten pregnant, then it is recommended that you seek answers from a specialist. I generally suggest a sperm analysis as an initial diagnostic test as it is easy to obtain and non-invasive. Diagnostic examinations for a woman involve a series of steps, typically beginning with lab work and a pelvic exam. Modern medicine offers great diagnostic tools that help us understand what we have to work on in our fertility journey.
My fertility practice
I specialize in treating infertility and pregnancy-related conditions with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Acupuncture. Doctors of Acupuncture and TCM are trained to identify areas and processes of the body that are not functioning well and to offer guidance on how to correct the imbalances. I take a very thorough and detailed approach with my infertility patients, spending the time needed to give you appropriate direction on how to help yourself achieve the outcome we all want.
I’m committed to treating and supporting couples during the process of getting pregnant. Holding a baby conceived after I have treated a couple for infertility is the most joyous part of my work!
Featured Image: Ashley Luther & baby Finley; Photography by: Jenna Bishop. 34 weeks pregnant. Location: salt River
Visit Ashley’s Health Coaching Website http://ashluther.com/ “Becoming Your Best You.”
Erin West is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and licensed acupuncturist in Gilbert, Arizona specializing in pain and infertility. She loves sharing her passion for natural approaches to women and men’s health through her online articles and at her clinic, Emend Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, on South Val Vista Drive. Call for an appointment at 480-788-1757.
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