What is infertility?
Infertility is the inability for a woman to become pregnant after a reasonable time of trying to conceive. This time frame varies from Dr to Dr. Some Doctors say one year of unsuccessful attempts to become pregnant while others may see 6 months as the maximum before assessment and or treatment should be sought out. At Inner Zen Acupuncture Clinic, we look at this as being individual to each person (and/or couple) depending on extenuating factors such as patient’s health conditions or incorrect timing of ovulation etc and of course, our own TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) diagnosis.
Western Medicine vs Traditional Chinese Medicine and Infertility
In Western Medicine, female infertility is thought to be caused by conditions such as Endometriosis, Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), blocked Fallopian tubes, uterine fibroids, polyps, uterine scar tissue (Asherman’s Syndrome), anovulation (not ovulating), premature ovarian failure, uterine lining issues, hormone imbalance etc. In men, the sperm count may be low or motility or morbidity may be such that successfully impregnating an egg can be difficult. Men can also have sperm that are not formed correctly or have DNA fragmentation. These conditions are diagnosed using tests and procedures such as sonohysterogram, endoscopic surgery, blood tests and semen analysis. These diagnoses are important when undergoing IUI or IVF as they give your Dr a clear idea of what they are dealing with and allow them to properly prepare you for your procedures.
With Traditional Chinese Medicine, we look at how imbalances in the body with regards to TCM theories may be preventing optimal functioning. For instance, if a woman has weak yang energy (yang is warmth), she may be experiencing what we call a “cold uterus” or what western medicine might interpret as poor circulation to the uterus and weakened blood flow. This same lack of blood flow may hinder ovulation as follicles may not properly mature. Acupuncture helps to warm her uterus and correct weakened blood flow in order to better allow for a optimal environment for ovulation to take place and an embryo to implant and thrive. There are many TCM syndromes which may contribute to infertility and a proper TCM diagnosis is needed to differentiate what your particular case may involve.
How can acupuncture help?
Through a proper TCM diagnosis, we can treat the underlying syndrome for a patient’s particular case. We look at how we can improve the functioning of the body depending on what we diagnose using TCM theories with the use of acupuncture and other methods such as moxa, electro stimulation or a mineral lamp. In women, acupuncture can help to improve hormone function, boost the immune system, aid with healthy ovulation, improve blood flow to the uterus and combat the stress that comes with fertility issues. In men, acupuncture has shown to improve sperm count and quality.
What can I expect for treatment and protocols with my fertility?
I have 16 years experience treating infertility with acupuncture, diet, lifestyle and supplements. I have worked with hundreds of women and couples who are either undergoing IUI or IVF treatments as well as with those who chose to forgo medical intervention. I understand the medications, tests and treatments that fertility clinics use and I know how to work along with these clinics and Doctors. My experience with fertility allows me to understand where a woman who attends a fertility clinic is at with regards to her treatments. I know how to use acupuncture and TCM diagnosis and treatments as an adjunct to conventional western medicine fertility protocols without interfering with any medications she may be taking.
If you chose to forgo western medicine fertility clinics, I will strive to do my best using TCM diagnosis and acupuncture along with diet, lifestyle and supplements to help you to achieve optimal health balance to aid your fertility. I have experience, education and knowledge of herbal and supplement remedies and nutrition and I employ this to suggest alternatives that may be helpful for your case. I do not sell supplements in my clinic but will provide you with written suggestions to take to a health food store.
Generally, your treatments would be spaced a week apart for the 3 weeks out of each cycle that you are not menstruating unless there are circumstances that require you to come more often or, you are close to an IVF retrieval and need an extra treatment. Your treatments will be aimed at the time you are at in your menstrual cycle although this may vary depending on whether or not you are with a fertility clinic and what protocols you may be on. If you wish to have more than one treatment per week, we can discuss how this may benefit you when you come in for treatments.
Ideally, we like to see a woman for a full 3 cycles before she starts an IVF cycle to allow her body to make the changes necessary to enhance her fertility. This being said, it’s okay to start treatments at anytime as we can still achieve results that may aid her IVF cycle.
Male factors and acupuncture
Male factors can also be enhanced using acupuncture and supplements. I have seen good results using acupuncture for low sperm count. However, male factors can take longer to achieve results and require a commitment from the patient. Usually, the treatments are once a week for 4 months. We can discuss your case and see if acupuncture is a treatment that you would like to commit to.
Treatments before and after an IVF or Frozen Embryo Transfer
There is a specific treatment protocol that is used world wide right before and after an embryo transfer. According to research, it enhances the chances of implantation from approx 26% to 43% which is a significant increase. I recommend that all my patients undergoing IVF have these treatments and I also use the same protocol for those undergoing IUI as well if timing permits. I would be happy to discuss this more with you in person.