The Daily News

LFCA Latest Issue: Friday, September 25, 2009.

Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

My Status: Fed Josh's almonds to the squirrels. They needed them very badly.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Acupuncture for Fertility

Written by Carolyn

Why Would You Be Doing Acupuncture?

In general terms, the purpose of acupuncture is to reconnect the flow of chi through the meridians of the body. When part of the body becomes blocked, chi builds up and is unable to flow to other areas of the body. The needles used in acupuncture can help unblock these chi stoppages and reconnect the flow of energy all over the body. Acupuncture has been practiced in Asia for over 2,000 years and is practiced all over the world today to help treat a variety of medical conditions including infertility.

Specifically, acupuncture is believed to help stimulate blood flow to the reproductive organs (in women and men) and aid in balancing hormone levels. Thus, acupuncture is more helpful for patients with functional fertility problems (such as hormone imbalances) than structural problems (such as blocked fallopian tubes). Regardless, acupuncture can also help as a relaxation aid, especially when a patient is going through a stressful medical procedure such as IVF.

Acupuncture can be done in conjunction with other infertility treatments or alone, and is frequently accompanied by herbal treatments prescribed by the acupuncturist.

What You Can Expect

**This is my experience with one acupuncturist. I didn’t have many appointments, and I’m sure that other acupuncturists will do slightly different things than mine did. I don’t have experience using Chinese herbs, which many acupuncturists instruct their patients to take. Nonetheless, I hope this and any comments that follow will give you a reasonably good idea of what to expect when doing acupuncture to help with fertility.**

Your first acupuncture appointment should be on the longer side—mine was around 90 minutes. The first 20-30 minutes were spent filling out a medical history form and talking with my acupuncturist about what I wanted to achieve during our sessions. After that, the acupuncture itself lasted 45-60 minutes. Later sessions should also be around an hour.
Your acupuncturist will ask you to remove your pants/skirt and possibly your top. If you’re uncomfortable removing your shirt, I suggest wearing a loose tank top or cap-sleeved blouse. Comfort is essential—the chi can’t flow if you’re too tense. Ask for a blanket or sheet if you’re cold.

If you’re squeamish about needles, close your eyes as the acupuncturist puts them in. Each needle is sterile and for single-use only. Some you may not even feel, others can be uncomfortable for a minute or two. Try to relax. Your acupuncturist should tell you where he/she is inserting the needles and what each is intended to do. Each needle is tiny and very, very thin. These aren’t like the needles you use to do an injection!

Depending on your body and energy, the needles may hurt, tingle, or give you a “swirling” sensation at the insertion site. If they hurt, make sure the acupuncturist knows, so he/she can reposition the needle more comfortably. I typically had one needle in my forehead, one in each arm, two on each hand, one or two in my belly, and several on my legs and feet.

After the needles are inserted, the acupuncturist typically puts on some soothing music and leaves the room for 15-20 minutes. This is a good time to focus on your mantra or some inspirational quote/imagery that will help you to relax and focus on your chi. I found that doing a body scan was very helpful in determining where I still had chi blockages and where the needles were really working.

The acupuncturist should come in again and shift the position of the needles to “stir” the chi before leaving you alone for another 15 minutes. Again, try to meditate or use your mantra/imagery. After 15 minutes are up, the acupuncturist will remove the needles and talk to you for a minute about how you’re feeling. Get up as slowly as you need—I was usually a little dizzy after a session and needed a minute to re-orient myself.

Reactions to acupuncture really vary depending on the person. I found that immediately my periods became heavier and shorter. I was also more energized and focused in the days after a session and was more relaxed during medical procedures.

Here Are Some Problems That Might Arise

Quite a few doctors still don’t believe that acupuncture is a valid way to assist in treating infertility. You may encounter resistance from your RE, but it’s important to tell all of your doctors that you’re doing acupuncture. Some acupuncturists also prescribe Chinese herbs to assist in conception. Mine didn’t, but I would strongly advise you to research these herbs on your own and speak with your physician before taking them.

On a random note, blood banks treat acupuncture the same way they treat tattoos and piercings. If you’ve had a session in the last 12 months, you can’t donate blood. This isn’t a problem for most people, but something I discovered when I went to donate blood a few months after my last acupuncture appointment. Some blood banks will allow acupuncture patients to donate blood if the acupuncture has been performed by a licensed doctor.

Personal Tips

Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions! Finding the right acupuncturist is the most important step. Get referrals from anyone you know who has used acupuncture for fertility. Search Internet message boards if you don’t personally know anyone who has done it. Finding an acupuncturist is easy, but finding one who specializes in helping infertile patients conceive can be difficult. Do your homework. Once you’ve found an acupuncturist, “interview” them during your first appointment. Make sure that your personalities click. This is a person you’re trusting with your reproductive health, so make sure that you trust them as much as you trust your doctor. Like your doctor, your acupuncturist should know all medications you’re taking, medical procedures you’re undergoing, and have emergency contact information for you in case something unexpected happens.


Emilie said...

Just want to add a plug for the book "The Infertility Cure: The Ancient Chinese Wellness Program for Getting Pregnant and Having Healthy Babies" by Randine Lewis. If anyone is interested in learning more about acupuncture for infertility, this is the book to read.

tn said...

Hi, all! Randine Lewis' book is helpful, but make sure you find a practitioner to work with in person, instead of treating yourself based on Lewis' suggestions. S/he should be someone you feel very comfortable with, who is worthy of your trust and who listens and responds carefully to your concerns, both physical and emotional. Not all acupuncturists are created equal, and not all are skilled at treating reproductive issues. Also, though many folks respond within three months or so, in my personal experience, it can take much longer to get back in balance. I had intensely disturbing luteal phase spotting for several years and (surprise!) have had trouble getting pregnant. However, after about 4-5 months of herbs and weekly acupuncture sessions, my symptoms are history. Still not expecting, but my hormone levels show amazing improvement, my fertile mucus is back, and so on and so forth. I found that after progesterone supplements and all sorts of other medical treatment that had little effect and led to no clear diagnosis, I finally found something that at the very least has relieved my symptoms and anxiety. I'm fairly young, though, so I understand that some gals would feel less able to wait and see and give the TCM approach time. You really have to be in it for the long haul and willing to make major lifestyle changes, things that don't work for everyone. Best of luck to all of you!

coppertop said...

With regards to "emilie's" comment, the author of The Infertility Cure has trained at least two of the acupuncturists at Well Women Acupuncture in Los Angeles. They specialize in acupuncture for fertility at their clinic.

Anonymous said...

I am a firm believer in acupuncture and specifically taking Chinese herbs for conception. We received the biggest surprise of our lives when at age 40 I became pregnant...had no morning sickness whatsoever, and a great pregnancy! It took me nearly a year to go for acupuncture after a friend recommended it because I had depression about not concieving after 4 months of Clomid and a failed IUI, plus a high FSH level of 24. The first 3 months my Chinese doctor did acupuncture twice a month (cost about $90 a session) and gave me herbs to reverse the effects of Clomid (which had caused 21 day cycles).Then, she said "Do you really want to get pregnant?" and I said "Well sure if you can help, but my RE said I had a 0 chance of ever conceiving." Yeah, yeah, we'll see" was her answer (BTW, my Chinese doctor was an RN for 12 years before studying Chinese medicine). She gave me Fertile Garden an herb pill from a compnay called Heath Concerns of Oakland, CA (its also availalbe at a hoilistic herb site on the internet). I took it 2X per day, and in 2 months was worried because my period didn't start by day 35 of my cycle. I checked my basal temp that morning to see that it was still elevated, before buying a pg test kit (because I spent tons of money on them and always disappointed). I was so nervous to take the pg test, and shocked to see 2 lines !!!
I recommend CHinese herbs and acupuncture to friends, and have several friends here in Dallas who have had babies because of it! Also, it bugs me that the media only reports that acupuncture is advantageous when doing IVF, because my RE actually told me I had no good eggs, and my FSH was so high that even IVF was a waste of my if acupuncture can work for me, it can work for lots of women!

Anonymous said...

To anonymous: Were you also taking pre-natal vitamins (I take Pre-nate) while you were taking the Chinese herbs (Fertile Garden)? I'm always worried about taking someting in addition to Pre-nate and getting "too much" of something. But the accupuncture certainly sounds intriguing -- I am also over 40 and ttc!

Anonymous said...

I'm also following the acupuncture route in Atlanta. I'm 37 w/family hx of early menopause (Mom & sis by 39). Cancelled IVF in April - my body didn't respond; family history of early menopause and so far my cycles are looking better, longer luteal phase and more regular temps. I'm hopeful this will work. She wants us to wait a few more months before trying - said that if I get pregnant before things are balanced I will be more likely to miscarry. I also endorse the Randine Lewis book. The Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor I see has me taking prenatals and high dose of fish oil. 4 per day.


Anonymous said...

I am also 37 and live in Atlanta. Have been ttc for 4 years. After reading Randine Lewis' book, I began going weekly to Tigerheart Acupunture (excellent) 9 months ago and now go to Absolute Holistic Medicine (AHM) in Dunwoody. I took herbs for about three months with AHM. My RE did not want to mix treatments, so I stopped the herbs in order to start Letrozole again for my third IUI. Over the past two years I have been on Clomid for 6 cycles, had 4 IUIs with Letrozole, and am about to begin my IVF estrogen-suppression protocol. Like so many on this blog, my husband and I have "passed" all of our tests at the RE, but my TCM doc says I have a form of endometriosis and LPD. The herbs helped both of those issues. I recommend TCM. It makes sense. I am so glad that infertility led me to acup. Some new research came out this past spring about risks to mother and baby due to ICSI and IVF, so my husband and I are doing a lot of research first. My clinic is ACRM in Dunwoody. They have been great, but I may seek a second opinion at Emory before I do my IVF. On top of all this, I have started having night sweats which is freaking me out.

Anonymous said...

We're doing our first round of Clomid, Ovidril and IUI this month. A close friend who went through three rounds of unsuccessful IUI before doing acupuncture with their fourth successful cycle told me to make sure it was okay with my RE and then to call the Chinese doctor she went to who does acupuncture. This physician was a gynecologist in China before moving to the states and starting her practice. I went for my first session this afternoon and ended up so relaxed that I felt like I'd melted into the table. I was surprised when she came back in the room and I felt like I had been mindful the whole time I was laying there, but when she entered the room it was as if I had been asleep the whole time. I hope that it works. She said that she would recommend two cycles of just acupuncture to compliment the IUI and then if we're still not successful to add herbal treatment. Many other couples who have used my RE have also seen this acupuncturist, which also put me a little more at ease.