Acupuncture & Herbal Infertility treatments
Fertility Treatments with Traditional Oriental Medicine (TOM)
“An estimated 1 in 7 couples have difficulty conceiving. This is approximately 3.5 million people in the UK” (www.nhs.uk/conditions/infertility)
Over the past 20 years I have been approached by an ever increasing number of patients asking me for help with fertility issues.
Some patients come to me after failed IVFs and ask me to get them in the best shape possible to increase their chances of conception, some are waiting for IVF and ask me to help get them in the best shape possible and some just want to try naturally.
Inability to conceive can be due to causes that lie either in the man or the woman or both.
30% of infertility cases are due to male problems for example low sperm count.
Identification of the underlying causes is the key to successful treatment, but in 30% of cases the cause is unexplained.
In order to help people understand how I work as a Traditional Oriental Medical Practitioner I have outlined some ideas.
The first point to address is why do some people have difficulty conceiving?
In my clinical experience it is unusual for only one factor to inhibit conception but often it is due to a complex pattern of interrelated factors.
Common causes include:
Due to an infection of the womb or other diseases such as salpingitis (inflammation of the fallopian tubes), endometriosis, or TB. there may be thickening of the tubes which either narrow or completely block the passages.
Those conditions can cause adhesions resulting in the tubes, uterus and ovaries to stick together.
Prolapse & Fibroids
There could be malposition of the uterus or fibroids which can lead to sterility. The latter can also cause miscarriage early on or a difficult labour.
The cervix can also be affected adversely and cause sterility. Infection or excess mucus from inflammation can expel the sperm, or polyps may prevent the sperm from entering the uterus.
Lifestyle, emotional state
A History of recreational drug / alcohol use, obesity or very low weight; lack of or excessive exercising; poor diet leading to lack of essential vitamins etc.
No sperm or low sperm count.
This may be caused by numerous factors including an infection during puberty, undescended testicles, taking certain drugs, trauma to the testicles, or exposure to large amounts of X-ray as part of treatment.
For the most part however, a low sperm count tends to be related to more easily reversible conditions. A long illness or a chronic infection may lower general health, as could poor diet, strenuous physical exercise, lack of exercise, too much smoking and drinking, being over-weight, overwork, tension and fatigue.
A common reason for a low sperm count is abnormal temperature regulation in the testicles, which function at a temperature slightly lower than the rest of the body.
Low sperm motility
This makes them unable to travel from the vagina, through the fallopian tubes to fertilize the ovum.
This tends to be related to some of the above factors, and may also be due to enlargement of the prostate gland, as well as an imbalance of male hormones in the body. The vessels along which the sperm travel in men could be blocked by an inflammatory or infectious process or by varicosity in the area.
30% of couples who undergo medical investigation have what is known as “unexplained infertility”. That means there appears to be no obvious reason for the inability to conceive.
How would I work with you?
In Traditional Oriental Medicine (TOM) there are two points I strongly emphasise;
1. I do not treat infertility (bet that got your attention)!
Over the years I note that there is a trend towards practitioners calling themselves fertility specialist and adopt protocols. I don’t work in this manner as I believe, in my humble opinion; this undermines the beauty of TOM. As a paradigm for looking at illnesses, from a truly holistic point of view, it is phenomenal and to focus on one symptom is doing a major disservice to TOM. I spent 14 years working for the NHS in Westminster treating predominantly muscular skeletal (MSK) pain and use the same framework to treat to treat MSK complaints as I would fertility. For example I may have been referred a patient with lower back pain but during the consultation I noted they had severe IBS. In order to treat the lower back pain I had to also treat the IBS. The same concept applies to fertility treatment, I would have to address the patient’s entire wellbeing in order to increase the chances of success.
What I try to do is treat people with difficulty conceiving or maintaining pregnancy. This means that I look at you holistically; I do not just focus on the fact you have fertility issues but try to find the underlying causes of your health problem, which can be as diverse as fatigue, poor circulation of blood, emotional difficulties or even IBS.
In my opinion the key to success is to address these issues in order to increase the chances of conception and giving birth. The main objective is to treat you as an individual and create a tailor made treatment programme.
2. You and I work in partnership.
A good analogy I often use with patients is, imagine there is a stool with three legs. One leg is represented by treatment which could be acupuncture, herbs or both, the second leg is diet (my old herb teacher said to me the kitchen is the first pharmacy, if you eat the right things you don’t need herbs!) and the third is exercise.
For me exercise does not mean just physical activity but can be mental ones involving visualisation and breathing exercises. I don’t think it is any surprise the ancient Chinese doctors observed a close link between mental wellbeing and physical and I often believe my patients, due to the hectic pace of life ,have lost the art of just standing and staring.
Going back to my analogy of the three legged stool, it can only stand on three legs. I can only control one of the legs the other two, diet and exercise is down to the patient. That is why I actively involve my patients in their treatment by providing dietary, exercise or lifestyle advice specific to their needs, but obviously I totally respect the patient’s right to decide whether to comply or not.
Could Acupuncture Help Promote IVF success?
The German Medical study, published in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility, found that acupuncture increases the chance of pregnancy for women undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
26 percent of the women who received IVF became pregnant. Of the patients who had received acupuncture treatments, 42 percent of the women became pregnant (Paulus et al 2002).
When, How often do I need to attend and for how long?
If there are no issues with the male then I focus all my attention on the female. Timing and consistency of treatment is of primary importance, whether having acupuncture or just taking herbs.
Consistency of treatment for men is important in order to raise sperm count and improve sperm motility. The body takes 70 days to generate new sperm. Therefore men would need to have at least 10 weekly treatments prior to giving a sample in case of IVF or trying naturally.
Timing and consistency is also important for women as there are specific adjustments that can be made at each week of the cycle.
In my opinion acupuncture can increase blood flow for a finite time. I focus my attention to the reproductive organs at each treatment encouraging the flow of blood each time, hence the need for regular treatments.
I require a minimum of three consecutive cycles (12 treatments) to do the foundation work of regulation of menstrual cycle or reducing any other health complaints. Timing is even more important when IVF is concerned in order to increase the chances of the embryo embedding.
After the 12 weekly treatments I often reduce to fortnightly unless the desired health changes have not materialised then I may have to see weekly for further 4 weeks and then review.
Ultimately the main signs and symptoms I focus on in terms of female infertility is creating an environment in her body so she has a 28 day cycle, 5 day menstruation which is painless, bright red bleed with no clots, no pain, fluctuation in body temperature, pain or emotional changes. Basically I am looking for the perfect period!
If I can do this then my job is done and the rest is down to the partners trying at the right time and a bit of luck on our side.
How I assess my patients’ likelihood of conception
If a woman is nearing forty years old and has had either over 3 unsuccessful fertility treatments, has been using birth control pills for more than 5 years, elevated FSH, polycystic ovaries, endometriosis, sperm antibodies, low egg reserves or a history of drug, excessive alcohol, or smoking , then it usually takes longer to balance her reproductive system.
Likewise, if a man has a history of STDs, history of drug/alcohol abuse, smoking, urinary tract infections or other urological health issues it takes longer to rejuvenate the reproductive function.
The extent of rejuvenation is relative to the effort and inherent constitution of the individual.
Under these circumstances the couple must expect to focus six to nine months before really expecting to evaluate results. There is no quick path when it comes to conception and full term pregnancy.
If a woman is in a state of high level wellness from a traditional medicine’s point of view (warm hands and feet and no PMS are just several indicators), and has abundant energy and healthy lifestyle, then it is appropriate to evaluate from the fourth to sixth month of consistent treatment.
If any of these issues are of interest to you please don’t hesitate to contact me directly on 07855 851 255 or drop me an e mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are the fees?
Initial consultation and treatment: £56
Follow up treatments: £49
Buy a course of 5 treatments get the 6th free, which works out at £40 per treatment!