Fertility & IVF
When assessing our patients with reproductive health challenges, a significant amount of information is considered. Not only do we take into consideration the western diagnosis for our patients but we also look at functional levels of imbalance that may not ever show up on a lab test. So many of our patients come in with a diagnosis of "unexplained infertility" while feeling hopeless and discouraged. Traditional Chinese medicine offers alternative explanations for functional levels of imbalance. Issues that may stress the system enough to inhibit fertility may be contributing factors such as systemic inflammation, high levels of oxidative stress, dysglycemia or blood sugar metabolism issues, low grade infections, unresolved functional anemia etc. It is not abnormal to need several months to address these systemic issues, but when pregnancy does occur it is in an environment that is healthier for the duration of the pregnancy as well as making the postpartum recovery period rapid.
As with anything medically related, all people are unique and therefore require an individualized health care plan. Typical fertility treatment plans will often include weekly acupuncture treatments coupled with herbs, nutraceuticals and an individualized diet regimen. Many patients who are treated with us require approximately 5 menstrual cycles to conceive. Once pregnant, weekly acupuncture will continue through gestational week 12. Patients are then reduced to monthly treatments through gestational week 35 followed by weekly treatments until delivery. There are many factors to consider however when determining treatment duration. These factors are taken into account and an honest approximation of treatment time will be discussed. If after 10 consistent menstrual cycles no conception has occurred, we will discuss options and may provide information for a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist for further assessment.
I firmly believe in building strong alliances with other modalities of healthcare. For this reason I will work closely with you reproductive endocrinologist, OB/Gyn, midwife, doula and other healthcare professionals to achieve the most positive outcome for my patients. If you are an IVF patient, I believe the most critically important thing you can do to enhance your IVF success is to have the "Day of Embryo Transfer protocol" performed. I use the Paulus Protocol for the "before" and "after" treatments. Here is an informative video highlighting this protocol-> Paulus Protocol
Utilizing traditional Chinese medicine for fertility dates back 2,000 years. These fertility treatments have been time tested and proven to be effective in improving fertility potential. Even though traditional protocols still exist, many of the acupuncture protocols and herbal prescriptions have been refined to suit the modern day state of health here in the west. Over the ages, pathologies have shifted and so must the medicine. More recently TCM has been used for Assisted Reproductive Technologies or ART. An article published by WebMD below outlines some interesting facts about acupuncture and ART.
"It can allow you to cross the line from infertile to fertile by helping your body function more efficiently, which in turn allows other, more modern reproductive treatments, like IVF, to also work more efficiently," says James Dillard, MD, assistant clinical professor, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and clinical adviser to Columbia's Rosenthal Center for Complementary and alternative medicine.
Indeed, in a study of 160 women, published April 2002 in the reproductive journal Fertility and Sterility, a group of German researchers found that adding acupuncture to the traditional IVF treatment protocols substantially increased pregnancy success.
In this study one group of 80 patients received two, 25-minute acupuncture treatments -- one prior to having fertilized embryos transferred into their uterus, and one directly afterwards. The second group of 80, who also underwent embryo transfer, received no acupuncture treatments.
The result: While women in both groups got pregnant, the rate was significantly higher in the acupuncture group -- 34 pregnancies, compared with 21 in the women who received IVF alone."
The British Medical Journal, in 2008 published research which concluded that acupuncture is a significant, clinically relevant adjunct to IVF. It reduces vascular resistance and relaxes the uterus for the successful implantation of an embryo within the uterine lining.
The American Pregnancy Association reports that the most effective fertility treatments involve combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine and western medical interventions. Although conception certainly also does occur without the use of western medicine.
Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York reviewed recent studies and concluded that acupuncture regulates the menstrual cycle and increases blood flow to the uterus. This is relevant as it improves the chances of egg implantation. It reduces stress and anxiety by reducing cortisol surges. These hormonal surges can significantly inhibit fertility so this benefit to the acupuncture treatments is a very important one. Acupuncture also regulates the endocrine and hormonal systems involved in ovulation in patients with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. The hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis is also positively affected by acupuncture.
For additional information on acupuncture for pregnancy and childbirth, check out this informative website by Debra Betts.