Acupuncture for Women's Health & Acupuncture for Fertility
Both acupuncture and Chinese medicine are well known for improving fertility for both men and women. In fact, more and more scientific studies are being conducted, proving its effectiveness. Tanya Love is a skilled Acupuncturist with the ability to determine each individual patient’s needs and challenges and are then able to create a customized plan to enhance fertility, while being mindful of where Western medicine would be useful as well.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help address many types of amenorrhea or a lack of a menstrual period. These include exercise-induced amenorrhea, PCOS, hormonal insufficiencies, and some types of imbalances with the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis. Tanya will provide customized acupuncture treatments and herbal formulas based on each specific case to help the ovaries begin to ovulate and the cycles to become regular. She may also suggest some dietary and lifestyle changes to help support your treatments.
DECREASED OVARIAN RESERVE
As women age, the ovarian reserve (or the capacity of the ovary to produce viable eggs) naturally decreases. In some women, this happens prematurely, and in other women, the right time to attempt to conceive has come later in life and so a decrease in reserve can pose a problem with fertility. In both cases, recent studies are showing that acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help these women achieve a pregnancy.
As women approach menopause, the hormones regulating the menstrual cycle begin to change. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is a hormone released from the pituitary that tells the ovaries to start preparing an egg to ovulate each cycle. It can become elevated as we age and higher levels are associated with decreased fertility. FSH levels fluctuate each cycle and can respond very well to treatments with acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Most fertility clinics require FSH to be within a certain range in order to proceed with an IVF, so regulating this hormone can be very important for fertility and the success of treatments like IVF.
Endometriosis is one of the leading causes of pelvic pain. It can seriously affect a woman’s ability to conceive and can also cause uncomfortable, heavy or irregular periods. Sometimes there are no symptoms associated with endometriosis and it is only discovered when a woman seeks treatment for infertility. We use a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs aimed at improving blood circulation, clearing inflammation, relieving pain and treating the patient’s underlying condition associated with their endometriosis. Patients with this conditions may also benefit from making specific dietary changes to quicken their healing.
It is estimated that 30-60% of women and at least 50% of women of childbearing age experience fibrocystic breasts. These women develop non-cancerous lumps in their breast tissue that are responsive to the fluctuating hormones of the menstrual cycle and can sometimes cause pain and swelling, especially in the days preceding the menses. We associate this symptom with stagnation in Chinese medicine and treat it with acupuncture and Chinese herbs to improve the circulation of qi and blood. Specific dietary changes can also help this condition.
Chinese medicine has been shown in studies to help regulate the immune system. In cases of autoimmune disorders and immunological fertility factors, acupuncture and specific Chinese herbs, often in combination with dietary and lifestyle changes, can help calm an overactive immune system, promoting a term pregnancy.
Many women experience periods that come irregularly each month, which can make trying to conceive difficult. Irregular menses can be due to an imbalance in hormone fluctuations throughout the month. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are wonderful for balancing the hormones and encouraging a more predictable ovulation, which helps regulate the menstrual cycle.
Good clinical research has demonstrated the effectiveness of acupuncture used in conjunction with IVF demonstrating a 50 percent increase in success rate with acupuncture vs. without. Acupuncture works to improve success rates of these interventions by increasing blood flow to the ovaries during the stimulation phase of IVF, improving the effectiveness of the drugs given. It also relaxes the uterus and addresses uterine spasm after embryo transfer. Acupuncture also reduces stress, calms anxiety, and offsets side effects of the fertility drugs.
During an IUI cycle, acupuncture can help increase conception rates by improving blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, improving the effectiveness of any medications used, and assisting in the development of follicles and the uterine lining. Acupuncture also helps to address uterine spasm around the time of potential implantation and can treat any side effects that arise from the fertility drugs.
It is estimated that 43% of women report issues with libido. Many of the most common complaints can be addressed using Chinese medicine. In women, Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help address low desire, dryness, inability to orgasm, painful intercourse, and problems with arousal.
LUTEAL PHASE DEFECT
When the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle (the phase after ovulation until the menses or a pregnancy is achieved) is shorter than ten days, it is diagnosed as luteal phase defect. Women with this condition often experience difficulty conceiving and may have low levels of the hormone progesterone. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help support the ovarian function, improve progesterone levels and lengthen the luteal phase.
MALE FACTOR INFERTILITY
Male factor infertility accounts for 40% of couples struggling to conceive. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been shown in recent studies to help improve sperm count, motility, and morphology, as well as correcting some immune factors such as anti-sperm antibodies that can interfere with conception. Treatments that affect sperm quality in both Chinese medicine and Western medicine can take a minimum of 3-4 months, so it’s best to start as soon as possible.
Chinese herbs are very effective in treating many of the symptoms that arise during menopause including hot flashes, irritability, insomnia, weight gain, and night sweats. Acupuncture is also beneficial for balancing hormones, which eases this transition.
Ovarian cysts can cause pelvic pain and interfere with a women’s ability to conceive. They can be naturally occurring or as a side effect of some fertility treatments. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help resolve both.
About 50% of women who are menstruating experience cramping and pain during their periods, while about 10% of them have debilitating pain. Our patients are often thrilled to experience relief from their menstrual cramps, even when that is not the focus of treatment. We often see changes in the severity of menstrual cramping within one to three months of regular acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and appropriate dietary changes.
POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME (PCOS)
PCOS is becoming an increasingly prevalent cause of infertility. Women with PCOS are not ovulating and many do not have periods or have irregular cycles. We are seeing an increasing number of patients with PCOS and have found acupuncture and Chinese herbs to be very effective at stimulating ovulation and regulating their cycles. Recent reputable studies have shown these treatments to be as effective as the fertility drug clomid in stimulating ovulation.
Premenstrual symptoms are very responsive to treatment with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Headaches, cramping, breast tenderness, bloating, moodiness, acne, insomnia, and changes in bowel movements can all be resolved with regular treatments. In combination with specific dietary changes, most women see an improvement in their PMS symptoms within one to three cycles.
There are many causes of recurrent miscarriage, some of which can be addressed with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Tanya can help determine potential imbalances leading to early pregnancy loss, and will refer to appropriate physicians for testing and concurrent medical treatment when necessary. Studies have shown acupuncture to prevent some types of miscarriage, so it is recommend that newly pregnant ladies to continue acupuncture treatments into their pregnancies.
STRESS RELATED HORMONE IMBALANCE
The modern diet and stress-filled lifestyles we often lead can wreck havoc on our hormones in multiple ways. Stress hormones communicate can lead to a cascade of signaling in our bodies, causing blood to divert away from organs like the digestive and reproductive systems. Since many hormones are dependent upon one another to remain balanced, over time, excess levels of stress can lead to imbalances in the reproductive hormones, potentially affecting fertility. Acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow to the reproductive organs and in conjunction with Chinese herbs can work to regain hormonal balance of the entire body.
Uterine fibroids are benign growths in the uterus and are often are associated with heavy periods, cramping, bleeding or spotting between periods, abdominal swelling, and sometimes pain during intercourse. They can also interfere with the ability to conceive. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be effective as treatment for fibroids or as adjunctive treatment with Western medical interventions when fibroids are advanced in size.
A diagnosis of unexplained infertility can be one of the most difficult to receive. One of the many strengths of Chinese medicine is the emphasis on the menstrual cycle health and its ability to make subtle changes to the cycle that can improve fertility, even when no issues can be found with medical testing. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can support the full spectrum of fertility patients from those just planning to start trying to conceive to patients coming to us for help after several failed IVFs or miscarriages.
Some women are prone to frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs) and can experience them regularly, particularly after sexual activity. While most UTIs should be treated by your doctor with antibiotics, over time, repeat doses of these drugs can interfere with digestion and lead to other problems like yeast infections. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help women prone to UTIs by preventing recurrence and treating symptoms before it becomes a full-blown infection.