One busy area of my practice is supporting patients for assisted conception. This is often IVF ( in vitro fertilisation) or assisted reproduction, this can vary from a natural cycle or frozen embryo transfer (FET) with many variations thrown in depending on which clinic a couple is attending.
Why should I consider acupuncture for IVF/ Assisted conception, FET or a natural cycle?
Here is some research collected by the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC)
A 2010 BAcC (British Acupuncture Council) survey found acupuncturists in the United Kingdom where 7.5 times more likely to see sub fertile female patients than sub fertile male patients. In many cases where the sub fertility is confirmed to be due to a male factor, it is still the female partner who comes for acupuncture. Generally, in two out of three couples I treat, there is likely to be a male related subfertilty cause, either alone or in combination with a female factor.
*Some issues which may cause subfertilty in males are: cryptorchidism (13%), varicocele (10%), congenital abnormality of he vas deferens (4%) and endocrine abnormality (2%). Other medical causes can be congenital anatomical abnormalities, infections, cancer treatments, scarring from STD’s, injury, surgery, vasectomy or vasectomy reversal, impotence or erectile dysfunction, as well as some medications.
Lifestyle factors that can impact sperm quality are: heavy use of alcohol, recreational drug use, being overweight, smoking, exposure to environmental toxins & heat, occupational factors, poor diet, lack of exercise, stress and older paternal age.
This may remind us, there is a real importantance for both female and male partners to attend acupuncture treatment to enhance their investment and journey during this time.
* I Szmelskyj & L Aquilina, Acupuncture for IVF and Assisted Reproduction, Churchill Livingstone
What is PCOS? (Poly cystic ovary syndrome)
A syndrome with a broad variety of issues such as an-ovulation & menstrual irregularities, signs of androgen excess, insulin resistance and hyperinsulinanaemia. Acupuncture treatment is often aimed at regulating the menstrual cycle and hormone balance initially, then strategy shifts for IVF to regulating fluids (damp) in the uterus as well as supporting better egg quality for most PCOS patients.
Female 30 - 35 years of age
The patient was diagnosed in her late teens with PCOS and had been trying to conceive for a year prior to coming to acupuncture. She had an endoscopy and ovarian drilling the year prior. She had been prescribed Metformin for the condition and Clomid to support ovulation. The patient received acupuncture for 7.5 months prior to regulate hormones and promote natural ovulation with the aim to fall pregnant. The couple decided after the 7.5 months to pursue IVF.
IVF cycle 1 - Short Down Reg
She initially tolerated medications and trigger injection until the transfer day. Upon the pre transfer acupuncture treatment the patient was showing sign of OHSS (ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome) The IVF clinic recognised progressive symptoms of bloating, severe breathlessness, dizziness, nausea and loss of appetite, the first round was halted and the transfer was called off. Pre transfer acupuncture treatment was given prior.
Post IVF cycle 1
Acupuncture points were used to regulate fluids, aid recovery from OHSS and regulate menstrual cycle.
IVF cycle 2 - FET
Medications seemed to be less invasive with mild headaches and nausea symptoms, acupuncture used prior to collection was aimed at improving egg quality and calming the patient. Endometrium was 8mm+. Post transfer acupuncture treatment was given on for day 5 embryo. Eight eggs were frozen for possible FET in future (frozen embryo transfer) Acupuncture treatment during the ‘wait’ was to raise the patients energy upwards to enhance implantation, move fluids in the uterus and calm. Unfortunately the outcome was an ectopic pregnancy which was very painful but there was no long term damage to the fallopian tubes.
Pre acupuncture treatment IVF/ FET cycle 3
Acupuncture treatment to regulate the period to start the next cycle. Clomid taken to regulate ovulation.
IVF Cycle 3 - FET
Acupuncture was applied to support endometrium thickness, regulate fluids in the uterus (damp), regulate bowels and clear a candida infection due to progesterone pessary. Pre and post acupuncture transfer protocols used on the day of the FET. Acupuncture given during the 'wait' to the pregnancy test was given on day eight. Treatment was aimed at calming, clearing candida (damp heat) and supporting the embryo in early gestation. With confirmation of a positive pregnancy the patient came to the next treatment feeling anxious and excited. Acupuncture points were chosen to calm as well as support the energy of the mother keeping an upward direction of her energy (Qi) as well as regulating fluids in the uterus to maintain a balance with her symptoms of PCOS. The candida infection had receded. Upon attending the six week scan gestational sac could be located but no foetal heart beat was picked up. The patient continued her medications until she had a bleed the following week. Although the outcome was not positive the couple will move forward with a fourth FET cycle.
The patients eggs were graded highly which is a positive source of support. In my observation, as the couple repeat the process of ART they become less anxious with the knowledge of ‘what is going to happen’. However this can be mixed with anxiety, and that is one of the most supportive benefits of acupuncture during this process as it is excellent for calming the mind and balancing internal energy which is required to produce quality eggs and conceive. As well, treating the male partner during this process is integral for sperm quality and energy balance.
Spring is on the approach, only 10 days until we change the clocks! Soon British asparagus will be available.
Nutritionally asparagus has many benefits such as;
Promotes healthy bacteria in the large intestine and can help reduce bloating
Asparagus contains vitamin K, essential for healthy blood clotting
It is a rich source of vitamin C, which boosts your immune system
Asparagus is a mild diuretic and is believed to help detoxify the body
Need help with libido, eat asparagus
Hangover? asparagus can helps clear excesses of night before and help the liver remove the toxins
From a TCM point of view asparagus has a cool temperature, its flavour is bitter, salty and sweet. It nourishes 'Yin', it can clear damp, heat, drains water and toxins.
Check out this site for recipes: http://britishasparagus.com