Treating Infertility with Acupuncture
ou've probably seen the headlines in the news, it's been in the news for years, Acupuncture Treats Infertility, or some variation. It's true, Acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat infertility in both women and men. Let's take a closer look into how Acupuncture is used to treat female infertility.
There's an old Chinese medicine saying "you have to tend the garden before you plant the seeds" so when your Acupuncturist approaches a case of infertility, we first have to focus on the garden- the woman's health. There are three main areas of health we look at when approaching a case of infertility;
Menstruation, in traditional Chinese medicine a woman's menstrual health offers a very important window into her overall health. Your Acupuncturist will ask questions about your cycle, for example: what are your periods like- heavy/ light, regular/ irregular, cramps, clots, spotting- all of these things are important indicators for a Chinese medicine diagnosis. If you track your cycle in an app, or take your Basal Body Temperature (BBT) that is valuable information that your Acupuncturist would like to see as well.
Diet, what you eat is what our body uses to nourish itself, and a fetus, so diet is very important. You will be asked about your diet, and your Acupuncturist will likely make recommendations based on your Chinese medicine diagnosis.
Emotional well being, how you feel emotionally has an impact on your fertility too- you've probably heard the stories of people trying to conceive for years, and then when they went on vacation and stopped *trying* they got pregnant. There's a lot of truth to that, our emotions impact our physical health.
Your Acupuncturist will also ask detailed questions about other areas of your health, such as sleep patterns, pain, skin, and collect a detailed health history. Once your Acupuncturist has all of this information they will formulate your diagnosis, decide on a course of action, and a point prescription. For some patients the focus will be on reducing emotional issues (stress, anxiety, depression, sadness, anger), for others regulating the menstruation will be the main focus, and for many dietary changes will be recommended.
Your Acupuncturist may want work on your underlying issues for a few cycles before switching focus to really work on infertility. For many patients working on the issues detailed above will be enough for conception to take place. For others we will need to wait for the body to fully regulate and switch to a more targeted infertility approach. This is very individual and determined on a case by case basis.
Depending on what the issue is, and the Chinese medicine diagnosis, appointments will be scheduled at specific times during your cycle- if we are working on regulating menstruation, appointments will likely be around the time of ovulation, a few days before and a few days after your period. If infertility is the main focus, appointments will likely be scheduled before ovulation and around the time of implantation. If we are working on stress or emotional issues, appointments will likely be once or twice a week until symptoms improve.
The number of appointments needed will vary, depending on what underlying issues are present, and your lifestyle. When working on infertility it is important to remember that one month of treatment is one try, rather than one treatment equaling one try when working on something like back pain, for example.
Acupuncture works by tapping into the natural healing abilities of your body. The needles act like a switch, turning on or off specific actions within your body, by sending signals to your brain. It's a bit like breaking a habit, we have to send the signal to your brain enough times for your body to take over the action, without being reminded by the Acupuncture needles. For some people this can happen very quickly, for others it does take longer. There are many factors that must be taken into account when determining the course of a treatment, and number of appointments. Your Acupuncturist will discuss all of this with you during your first appointment.
Infertility is, of course, a very rewarding area of practice. Meghan would be happy to talk to you if you have any questions or concerns before starting treatment.