Wellness at Santa Monica Fertility: Acupuncture and Fertility
By Virginia Prior, Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Acupuncture has been shown to help women become healthier, stronger and experience less stress – and it’s been having a positive effect on helping women achieve a pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. Especially in conjunction with IVF, the combination of the two approaches is very powerful.
Preconception care is something we use as a way to prepare the couple to achieve the best possible outcome in preparation for IUI, IVF or ICSI. Ideally taking 2-3 months to implement a specialized fertility-enhancing diet, having fertility acupuncture sessions, taking herbal formulas if needed, or supplements for specific conditions such as thin lining, poor egg or sperm quality, stress or underlying auto-immune or thyroid imbalances, etc. can make a huge difference in the outcome as well as in the woman’s overall health and quality of life. Having acupuncture pre & post embryo transfer is also incredibly beneficial, increasing the chances of conception by 62%. Using acupuncture in preparation for egg freezing as well as for treating male factor infertility is also greatly beneficial. All of these approaches have a synergistic effect, and can help get a patient achieve optimal health, and improve conditions which might later be a huge hindrance to the success of an IVF protocol.
Although Western medicine has a lot to offer in terms of thoroughly analyzing and treating specific issues in both female and male factor infertility, adding in other modalities, like acupuncture, herbal formulas, nutritional guidance and certain lifestyle modifications and exercises can enhance the patient’s health and vitality, as well as increase the chances of conception and giving birth to a healthy child. Another benefit is that these more Eastern-based approaches tend to have a huge stress-relieving effect on the patient, increasing a sense of well-being and decreasing the negative cortisol-stress response which often interferes with trying to conceive and fertility treatments. In terms of IUI, IVF or ICSI, acupuncture has a positive influence on these processes for several reasons – it may improve egg quality and effect ovarian reserve, as well as improve a patient’s response to gonadotropins and outcomes for poor responders (Quintero et al., 2003). Acupuncture can also improve endometrial thickness and quality of lining (Yu, et al., 2006). Some studies have also shown that acupuncture is beneficial as it enhances oocyte maturation, uterine perfusion, improves implantation, encourages ongoing pregnancies and reduces miscarriages. In terms of supplements and herbal formulas, oral antioxidants were shown to improve ICSI outcome where sperm had DNA damage if taken for at least 2 months (Fertility Sterility, 2006). This holistic approach, including nutritional changes and herbal formulas when warranted, have been shown to treat various imbalances related to infertility, as well as improving overall disease states and vitality, effecting the whole body, potentially helping to regulate hormones and leave a patient more physically receptive to any Western treatment. In China, want-to-be-parents eat specific foods and attempt to clear up any health issues before trying to conceive, as it is believed that this creates the best chances for conception. Moreover, it helps to create not only a pregnancy, but a healthy child, the ultimate goal. According to epigenetic studies, we now know that what the parents eat and what they experience as stressors does indeed effect not only if they will conceive, but the health of the child when they do. So it benefits the parents to get a jump start and begin the process early, continuing a healthy diet and lifestyle before Western treatment, during IVF treatment and other reproductive procedures, and throughout the pregnancy as well.
This integrative treatment is helping women to conceive healthy children – evidence that integration is a potential key in building families in the healthiest way possible.
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