Pregnancy ProgramThe Many Ways Acupuncture Assists Fertility
Specific Fertility Boosts
Some of the major benefits of TCM for fertility include:
- Increase blood flow to your uterus and improve thickness of uterine lining
- Hormonal regulation of the body’s natural cycles (sleep, menstrual, energy, etc)
- Reduction of stress levels
- Improve function of your ovaries to produce higher quality eggs
- Enhance chances of successful implantation
- Increase live birth rate
- Lower rates of ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages
And for men…
- Improve semen quality, quantity, and motility
- Reduce stress and improve well being
In 2005 a study demonstrated that sperm quality and motility was improved after the men received acupuncture treatments. The men treated experienced increased sperm motility levels, increased the number and percentage of healthy sperm, and significant improvements in sperm structure and quality as compared to a control group.
An important German study that received notable attention in the American press showed that acupuncture significantly increased the effectiveness of IVF success. Impressively, pregnancies were documented in 34 out of 80 patients (42.5%) in the acupuncture group as compared to 21 out of 80 patients (26.3%) in the control group. Part II of this article will explain how to use Western infertility treatments and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) together.
It is advisable to begin acupuncture 3 months before attempting to get pregnant, but most women wait until they are actively trying to conceive. In my practice, I see women 2 times weekly until we get a positive pregnancy test result and 1 time weekly for the first trimester to reduce the risk of miscarriage.
The main goal of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is to keep the body in balance or to restore balance. This is one reason why TCM is so effective with fertility which depends on a balanced body.
Dulgosz, L. and Brachs, M. Epidemiologic Reviews, Vol. 14 pg. 83, 1992.
Pei, J., Strehler, E., Noss, U. et al. Fertility and Sterility, July, Vol. 84 (1), pgs. 141-7, 2005.
Paulus, W., Zhang, et al. Fertility and Sterility April, Vol. 77 (4), 2002.
How Acupuncture Can Enhance Fertility
Successful conception is more likely when both partners are healthy. With acupuncture and Oriental medicine, prospective parents can improve their health to create the most optimal environment for conception.
According to the principles of Oriental medicine, a person’s health is determined by the quality of Qi, the vital life energy, and blood circulating through the body. When Qi and blood are circulating properly, the body is properly nourished and functioning optimally which, in turn, enhances fertility.
In addition to their ability to strengthen, support, and balance overall health and well-being, acupuncture and Oriental medicine are effective in treating issues that affect reproductive health and fertility including:
regulating the menstrual cycle
addressing pre-existing medical conditions or concerns
improving sperm count and motility
reducing stress and anxiety associated with infertility
normalizing hormone and endocrine systems
improve blood flow in the uterus
decreasing the chance of miscarriage
increasing the chance of pregnancy for women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF)
Fertility treatment approaches and time-frames can vary from person to person, but are usually scheduled for at least three consecutive cycles (twelve weeks). Treatments can include acupuncture, customized herbal therapy, stress reduction and dietary counseling.
– Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM
Erase the Agony of Infertility
Almost as old as Aprhodite, the Greek Goddess of Fertility (and associated behaviors), Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the form of acupuncture has emerged into western medicine with respect to the reproductive and endocrine systems. It is used both as a sole treatment for conception (and throughout pregnancy) as well as complementary to scientific advances such as Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) and Embryo Transfer.
Utilizing TCM, which is a combination of acupuncture, herbal tinctures, and nutritional/lifestyle modifications, the skilled practitioners at Healthy Body & Soul have been highly successful in assisting hundreds of couples conceive both naturally, and through IVF. We understand that this is a crucial time for you and your growing family and are here to suit your needs the best we can.
Helpful Lifestyle Changes
There are many lifestyle changes that can also help your body’s readiness to conceive. Some suggestions include:
Caffeine: Reduce or cut out coffee from your diet. A joint US/Swedish study of 562 women found that 1-3 cups of coffee increased miscarriage rate by 30% and more than 5 cups increased it by 40%. Also, in another study conducted during the first trimester of pregnancy, women who had a high caffeine intake showed an increased risk of repeated miscarriage.
Stress: Stress has been linked to irregularities in ovulation and abnormal sperm development. When you can lower your levels of physiological stress, you have increased your chances of conception.
Sleep: Treatment in Chinese medicine always aims to improve your sleeping pattern. Lack of sleep has long been recognized as influencing fertility. It leads to physiological disruptions including the inhibition of growth hormones.
Alcohol: Women who drink alcohol may delay conception because it is poorly metabolized and can lead to a disturbance of the estrogen/ progesterone balance. During IVF, men and women are both advised to avoid alcohol because, in women, it can lead to reduced egg production and, in men, it may reduce the number of healthy sperm.
Weight: Being too thin or too heavy can have an impact on how quickly you conceive. Excessive thinness is known to interfere with menstrual periods. Now, it is also believed that if both partners are overweight or obese, conception will take longer.
Smoking: Smokers have an increased rate of repeated miscarriage. Women smokers have been shown to have lower levels of estrogen which may delay conception. Smoking is also thought to influence tubal factor infertility, and can cause early menopause. In men, smoking may damage sperm. When men stop smoking, their sperm count increases quickly.
Some of our fertility success stories.
Connor Evan White
October 4, 2018
6 lb., 7 oz.
“I am writing to let you know how successful our two acupuncture sessions were. The drug they started me on was supposed to take 12 to 24 hours to start working before they would start the Pitocin. However my body was primed and ready and took over after only 2 hours. They took out the cervidil after 2-1/2 hours and the baby was born after 6 hours with only 2 pushes! I progressed quicker than anyone there had seen and the actual delivery was so fast I was stunned. I did opt for an epidural after the first three hours and I’m glad I did because contractions were on top of each other with no time to regroup in between. I do think it was all due to priming my body. Thank you so much – I appreciate your talent. You are forever part of Connor’s birth story.”
Erin White, pictured with her family
Caroline Elizabeth Comesana
November 7, 2018
“I had always wanted to be a mom, so when we got married I wanted a baby right away. It didn’t quite work like that. My body was out of whack due to medication and so I seeked help. I tried the doctors first but they wanted to put me on medicine to get my body back to normal. I thought “There has to be a better way!” So then I tried acupuncture. I did acupuncture in January and February 2018 and conceived my baby girl in February!
I am beyond thankful for Leena. She listened to me and was truly the reason my body got back to normal!”
– Mercedes Comesana
Bennett Charles Deese
Nov. 24, 2018
Pierce William Campbell
August 16, 2018
6 lbs, 7 oz
Acupuncture During Pregnancy
By: Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM
Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can play a vital role in the comfort of a pregnant woman. There is strong evidence to support that acupuncture is highly effective at treating some of the most common problems experienced during pregnancy including morning sickness, heartburn, insomnia, water retention and sciatica.
Here is a list of some of the problems that an acupuncturist often treats during pregnancy:
Nausea and Vomiting
Edema and Swelling
Urinary Tract Infection
Neck and Back Pain
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Fatigue and Exhaustion
Anxiety and Depression
While there are acupuncture points that can provide natural pain relief during labor, acupuncture is more commonly used to induce labor. There are several points that stimulate contractions and influence cervical ripening. There is also an acupuncture point that has been found to turn a breech baby.
Many women feel depleted after the birth experience. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help the transition of those first few months after birth to ensure a quick recovery. Postpartum care focuses on the physical, emotional and psychological recovery of the mother from the effects of pregnancy and labor, as well as encouraging breast feeding.
Here are some of the postpartum disorders that can be treated with acupuncture:
Insufficient or Excessive Lactation
Post Operative Healing
Turning a Breech Baby
An acupuncture point on the small toe of the foot (Urinary Bladder 67) has been found to effectively revolve fetuses in breech presentation. In an Italian study, 240 women at 33-35 weeks of gestation carrying a fetus in breech presentation were randomized to receive acupuncture plus moxibustion (an herb used to apply heat to an acupuncture point) or to be assigned to the observation group.
At delivery, the proportion of babies that had turned from breech position to vertex (head-down) position was 53.6 % in the group treated with acupuncture while the proportion of babies that had turned from breech position to vertex position in the observation group was 36.7%.
Source: J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2004 Apr;15(4):247-52
”TCM practitioners specializing in pediatrics caution parents to save antibiotic use for only when it is truly necessary . . . try less drastic methods such as Chinese herbs. Often herbs will be all it takes to conquer the most common pediatric infections. If the child does need stronger medication, a skilled pediatric herbalist will refer the child to a medical doctor.
Both Western doctors and TCM practitioners are working to educate the public about overuse and misuse of antibiotics as well as the alternatives to antibiotics. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that one-third of the 150 million prescriptions written for antibiotics each year are unnecessary, resulting in bacterial strains that become tougher than the antibiotics being used against them. Children are among the patients most susceptible to these antibiotic resistant “super bugs”.
TCM practitioners specializing in pediatrics caution parents to save antibiotic use for only when it is truly necessary. They advise parents to first try less drastic methods such as Chinese herbs. Often herbs will be all it takes to conquer the most common pediatric infections. If the child does need stronger medication, a skilled pediatric herbalist will refer the child to a medical doctor.
Chinese herbs are prescribed in individualized formulas which are custom written to suit the needs of each child. These formulas typically consist of anywhere between four and fifteen herbs. Many herbs have anti-bacterial or anti-viral properties while others work to promote the body’s innate ability to heal and recuperate. Herbal formulas can be very effective in the treatment of acute illness as well as in preventing illness when there is a history of chronic infections and antibiotic use.
In a child with asthma, for example, one formula is used in the remission period and a different formula is used when there is an acute attack. Both these formulas can be used together with western medications. Very often, parents will find that the asthma attacks are occurring much less frequently and that the child’s lungs are becoming stronger after adding herbs to their child’s medical regimen.
Although they do not have the pharmaceutical concentration of Western drugs, herbs are still powerful medicines. It is very important, especially in the treatment of children, that herbs be prescribed only by a licensed professional. The California Acupuncture Board (the state governing board for practitioners of Chinese medicine) requires extensive training and examination in Chinese herbalism as part of the licensing process. Side effects of properly prescribed herbs are uncommon, and if they do occur are quite mild.
Together with tuina massage and nutritional therapy, Chinese herbs are used to treat conditions ranging from colic in babies to frequent colds, asthma, and ADD in older children. Acute and chronic coughs are the most common conditions seen by TCM pediatric practitioners. Different herbal formulas will be chosen depending on whether the cough is moist or dry, barking or weak. Certain Chinese herbs will actually strengthen the lungs when they have become weakened and irritated by a long-term cough.
Differentiating the qualities that go along with a symptom such as coughing is part of establishing the child’s “pattern of disharmony”. The “pattern of disharmony” is a diagnosis used in TCM which takes into account not only physical symptoms, but also the child’s emotions and individual constitution. There are four methods used to go about establishing this diagnosis: asking, looking, listening, and palpating.
Asking involves questioning the child and parent about physical and emotional signs and symptoms. Other questions about such things as sensation of temperature or sweating may be asked in order to assess the child’s constitution. Looking includes looking at the child’s facial complexion, color, and tongue. In babies, the veins at the root of the nose and on the forefinger will be observed for color or distention. The practitioner will listen to the quality and strength of the child’s voice and breathing. Palpation includes gently touching the abdomen, acupuncture points, or areas of the body where there is pain, but primarily refers to the practice of feeling the pulse. The quality of the pulse gives important information with regards to a child’s constitution.
To understand a child’s constitution in TCM terms, one should first look at the theory of “internal organs”. The TCM definition of an internal organ is very different from the Western concept. In Western medicine, an organ is a physical, anatomical object. In Chinese medicine, each internal organ encompasses much more. There is an anatomical structure, but there is also a corresponding emotion, tissue, sensory organ, color and element.
In addition, 12 of the internal organs correspond to the 12 main acupuncture meridians (or channels) that run through the body. There is qi (or energy) flowing through each meridian. If an internal organ is out of balance, the qi of that organ will be damaged.
The TCM internal organs which are commonly affected in most typical childhood illnesses are the Spleen, Lung, and Liver. Damage to the qi of these internal organs results in such problems as digestive complaints, respiratory illnesses, and temper tantrums.
Children tend to outgrow many common pediatric diseases as they mature and develop and the qi of their Lung, Spleen, and Liver becomes stronger.
Because TCM is a holistic medicine, healing focuses on balancing the qi of the internal organs by taking into account both physical and emotional symptoms. Children are generally more susceptible to getting sick, but they are also quicker to heal. For most common pediatric complaints, complete healing can be attained through herbal medicine, dietary changes, and the use of simple tuina massage techniques. The goal of all pediatric treatment is to restore balance and harmony to a child.