Acupuncture Fertility and Reproductive Health
In Canada, one in six couples have fertility challenges – that means you or someone you know has had, is having or will have difficulty conceiving and carrying a pregnancy to term. It can be a lonely journey, but only if we don’t talk about it and explore options for treatments and support as needed. Challenges with fertility can be overwhelming! Whether it is a result of a diagnosed condition such as PCOS, endometriosis, male factor sperm health, diminished ovarian reserve, or something more mysterious such as “unexplained infertility” it is an awful and challenging position to be in. You want to be sure what you are doing is helping as you move towards your goal of a healthy, happy pregnancy. Not to mention the decisions to be made around the barrage of blood tests, ultrasounds, sperm tests, timing intercourse, lack of intimacy, etc. etc. etc.!!!!
The stressors of infertility can be extreme and profound, not to mention the effect it can have on relationships and our physical health. Typically if you are under 35 years old and have been trying to conceive for a year or more, or over 35 years old for 6 months, you will be able to get a referral to a fertility doctor for support and to explore further options. This should definitely be taken advantage of. My advice to patients is to collect as much information as possible – it is powerful and can help you to make better more informed decisions, not to mention saving you months of frustration. It is a fact that 35-45% of fertility problems are a result of sperm health and this is something you should find out ASAP.
The question remains, how do we improve our fertility? What is the best solution to supporting better reproductive health and to ensure we are in the best physical or emotional health for a pregnancy? How can we make decisions on a daily basis that we know will help? How can both partners optimize their health to approach baby making in a positive, fun and proactive way? When is it logical to start thinking about IUI or IVF treatments? What can you expect from these choices?
With acupuncture, you will get a full assessment of your reproductive health, as well as a treatment plan including acupuncture protocols, dietary changes, exercise, and useful or necessary supplements. Implementing changes to your daily routine can optimize your chances of a pregnancy, and reduce the chances of miscarriage.
How can acupuncture and Chinese medicine help?
- Give tangible goals and changes to be made that will result in a positive transformation in health and improvement of reproductive potential.
- Address the root of imbalance and focus treatment on this. It’s as simple as that – through the sharing of information we are able to determine where disharmony lies and fix it. The questions and details we ask about a woman’s menstrual cycle are often more than they ever thought about or were asked before.
- Reduce stress, improve sleep and balance digestive function. This is ultimately a goal with all patients, as these issues pervade the general population. With the addition of acupuncture, addressing diet and lifestyle choices can quickly lead to positive health outcomes.
Acupuncture for Fertility
Acupuncture can address menstrual irregularities, reduce inflammation and improve uterine blood flow, support healthy sperm production and men’s health, and reduce the stress and anxiety surrounding your journey to a healthy pregnancy. Typically 10-12 acupuncture treatments are required as an initial course, as well as a commitment to lifestyle and dietary changes. It is always best to treat both the female AND THE MALE PARTNER!
A medical diagnosis is an essential way to understand the body, as correct treatment often relies on the best information regarding our hormones and an array of other details. Now, in conjunction with Chinese medicine and acupuncture, both men and women have powerful tools and treatment options to optimize their chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy.
One of Chinese medicine’s great strengths is its diagnostic system, which enables a practitioner to approach each patient individually to develop a treatment plan (including acupoints, diet, exercise, herbs, etc.) that will work for that particular person, always taking into account other treatments, medications, or hormone therapy.
The physiological subtleties at play during a menstrual cycle (and equally in the male partner), are complex and can easily be influenced by diet, stress, emotions, toxins and sleep. It is important to explore the details of the menstrual cycle to understand the changes within the body. We then do the same for digestion, looking at potential of undernourishment or underproduction of energy and blood from poor Spleen and Stomach function, or possible inflammation. We explore sleep to tell us the state of blood circulation from the Liver to the Heart and back, and the ability for the Spleen to turn off (rumination). Also, a patient’s mental emotional state can give us insight into their pattern based on the theme of dreams they may be having. Exploring the interaction of these details allows us to properly treat each patient to optimize their health.
Acupuncture and Unexplained Infertility
Unexplained infertility is a favorable diagnosis to work with, as it basically says that the problem is not hormonal or physical. It Unexplained infertility can present in a variety of ways, although there are some common patterns worth mentioning. A common situation and diagnosis could be described as stress and poor sleep with digestive issues, body pain, a tendency towards heavy bleeding or spotting, and PMS; seeing combinations of these symptoms clearly points to an existing health situation that is overwhelming the reproductive system. We can help to identify and ‘explain’ imbalances present in the individual and work towards amending any disharmony that exists.
Successful treatments for women include balancing the menstrual cycle to reduce pain and excess bleeding, reduce menstrual blood clotting, improve sleep, decrease mood swings and PMS symptoms. For men we can see improved sleep and sexual function, more energy and a more balanced emotional life – as well as better digestion and support with weight loss if necessary.
Acupressure for fertility home care
Acupressure is a useful and accessible way to treat yourself at home or on the go. Apply firm pressure on the point with your middle finger or thumbs, at a 90 degree angle from the surface of the skin for 1-3 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day on both sides. If you find that your fingers are getting weak or sore, you can substitute a golf ball, pencil eraser or other appropriate object.
- SP6 – Spleen 6 – Sanyinjiao – “Three Yin Crossing”
**Caution: Do not perform acupressure on this point if you might be pregnant.
Spleen 6 is a commonly used point to nourish and harmonize reproductive health. It is a crossing point of 3 major meridians – Spleen, Kidney, Liver – all of which play an important role in reproductive and overall health.
Take home tips to augment fertility:
- Explore how stress may be affecting your health, and make tangible and sustainable changes to your lifestyle.
- Work to address imbalances in your life, in terms of diet and exercise.
- Make sure all those involved in the baby-making are also involved in getting healthy!