"I started seeing Hye-Eun after I was recommended by friends. My partner and I had been trying to conceive for 1 year. I am 40 and have a FSH of 27.6 and had a course of 5 treatments of acupuncture and herbs. This resulted in pregnancy. I would recommend Hye-Eun to anyone trying to conceive. I only wished I had known about her sooner"
Approximately one in six couples have difficulty achieving a pregnancy. It has been found that female factors are responsible in 30% of cases, male factors account for a further 30%, combined male and female factors account for 20% and the remaining 20% of cases are unexplained.
Under normal circumstances, the chances of pregnancy occurring as a result of unprotected intercourse during the fertile time of the cycle are about 25% per month. After 12 months of trying, approximately 80% of couples will have conceived. 2
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can successfully be used for improving fertility in both men and women, and be beneficial for:
- general fertility boost
- unknown infertility
- amenorrhoea (no periods) and ovulation disorder
- high FSH (Follicular Stimulation Hormone) levels
- polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) & endometriosis
- improving the sperm count, motility & reducing abnormal forms
- increasing successful chances while undergoing IVF or IUI
Timing of fertility treatments for women
Treatments for improving fertility should be aiming at three to six full menstrual cycles. If a patient does not have regular period patterns or has complications such as a high FSH (follicular stimulating hormone) level and irregular ovulation, PCOS and endometriosis, the patient will usually need to have more regular treatment sessions. Fertility treatment in my practice is often carried out in a combination of three to four acupuncture sessions a month together with Chinese herbs to optimise the effectiveness of the overall fertility treatment.
Fertility treatment for women using Chinese medicine is usually divided into four phases with a different emphasis on each stage (based on a 28 day cycle):
- period (from Day 1 - Day 4): to help the menstrual flow and to encourage the complete discharge of menstrual blood so that a new endometrium can grow evenly on a smooth base
- post-period (Day 5 - Day 12): to build up blood and essence, and to begin to prepare the body for ovulation
- ovulation (Day 12 - Day 16): to promote the movement of Qi (vital energy) & blood in the uterus for effective ovulation
- post-ovulation (Day 17 - Day 25): to maintain healthy levels of progesterone and warmth in the uterus
Ideally, weekly visits to the clinic for acupuncture and Chinese herbs are recommended for women of 35 and over, or for women with a history of difficulty in conceiving (more than two years).
Patients will be asked to take a BBT (Basal Body Temperature) chart throughout the course of their treatments to monitor the timing of ovulation and to check the overall progress of the treatments.
Fertility treatments for men
Male infertility accounts for thirty percent of infertility. To determine male fertility, semen analysis is often performed. The normal semen parameters according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) are as follows:
- Volume: more than 1ml
- Count: more than 20 million sperm per ml
- Motility: more than 50% progressively motile
- Morphology: more than 14% normal appearance
Another way of assessing male fertility is to undertake retrospective studies of couples achieving or not achieving pregnancy. When a large population of men was studied, those who had succeeded in fathering a child in the previous two years had more than 48 million sperm per ml, with more than 63% moving, and more than 12% with normal morphology. 3
There are many contributing factors leading to male fertility problems, including hormonal dysfunction, fever or infection, especially prostatitis, epididymitis or orchitis, medical drugs, caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, recreational drugs, poor diet, tight underwear and environmental chemicals.
Timing of fertility treatments for men
The process of sperm maturation averages 70 - 90 days. This is why the man receives acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine for at least three months while the couple are trying to have a baby.
In Chinese medicine, there are several pathologies that can affect sperm quality and production, such as Kidney Yin & Yang deficiency, Qi stagnation and Blood stasis or Damp-Heat in the pelvic area. The combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, when specifically tailored to an individual’s pathologies, in combination with life-style modifications, can be very beneficial for improving sperm quantity and quality.
Acupuncture for IVF cycles
The success rate of IVF is determined to a large degree by the age of the woman undergoing the treatment. Younger women tend to have healthier eggs, which increases the chances of success.
The average success rate after one cycle of IVF treatment in the UK is:
- 28% for women who are under 35 years of age,
- 24% for women who are between 35-37 years of age,
- 18% for women who are between 38-39 years of age, and
- 11% for women who are between 40-42 years of age. 4
A recent study in Germany has found that using acupuncture with IVF achieved a 42% clinical pregnancy rate in the test group, compared to 26% in the control group that did not receive acupuncture. This study involved giving acupuncture for just one day, shortly before and after the transfer of embryos. 1/5 In practice, the broader support of both acupuncture and Chinese herbal preparation throughout the IVF cycles can be significantly beneficial for reducing miscarriages and maintaining healthy pregnancies.
Benefit of acupuncture during IVF procedure
Acupuncture during IVF/IUI can help to:
- improve the function of ovaries
- regulate the hormones to produce a larger number of follicles
- increase the blood flow to the uterus
- increase the thickness of the uterine lining
- improve semen to create better quality & quantity of embryos
- decrease the chances of miscarriage
- lessen the side effects of drugs used in IVF and stress!
Timing of acupuncture treatment for IVF
It is recommended that from approximately three months prior to the IVF procedure, the couple receive acupuncture treatments for a general fertility boost and to improve and balance their general health. Even a month’s treatment prior to IVF can be significantly beneficial.
Once the IVF procedure starts, for the female patient, acupuncture treatments (sometimes in combination with Chinese herbs) will be given according to the different IVF stages, e.g. different acupuncture point combinations will be selected during down regulation and ovarian stimulation etc. Treatments during the IVF cycle are normally carried out on a once a week basis, but flexibility is required to move appointments forwards or backwards according to the IVF progress. Patients are also recommended to come for before & after treatments on the day of embryo transfer to further assist success.
- Acupuncture & IVF by Lifang Liang, 2005, Blue poppy press
- Reasons for infertility, Lister Fertility Clinic, http://www.ivf.org.uk
- Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine, Jane Lyttleton, 2004, Churchill Livingstone
- IVF Introduction, NHS Choices, http://www.nhs.uk
- Wolfgang E Paulus, MD, Mingmin Zhang, MD, Erwin Strehler, MD, Imam El-Danasouri, PhD and Karl Sterzik M, Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy, Fertility and Sterility, Vol.77, No.4, April 2002