One of the things you see mentioned often in a traditional Chinese medicine gynaecology textbook, is the term “Regulating the Cycle”. This refers to the ideal of a 28 day menstrual cycle (give or take a few days), and a regular ovulation occurring around the middle of that cycle. Achieving this ideal is one of the first aims of much TCM treatment carried out in gynaecology departments in hospitals in China. A regular menstrual cycle can be an indicator of good ovary function and good hormone balance.
Implantation of the embryo in the uterus is a vital and pivotal event which determines the success of an ongoing pregnancy after conception, or after transfer of an embryo in an IVF cycle.
The crucial role that the immune system plays in the process of implantation and the development of the placenta is gradually being elucidated though there is much we still don’t know. A positive finding of immune factors like anti-cardiolipin antibodies, anti- thyroid antibodies, anti-nuclear antibodies or an excess of some types of NK cells can indicate that there may be subtle imbalances in the immune environment of the uterus which are not conducive to implantation and establishing a healthy pregnancy.
Women with PCOS, particularly those with irregular or infrequent periods, have their own particular challenges when it comes to conceiving. Other than a pharmaceutical approach to elevated insulin levels there are not a lot of treatment options for these women. Hence many choose to try acupuncture. We don’t yet fully understand the causes of PCOS however research being carried out around the world is exploring the impact that acupuncture has on reducing some of the factors that operate to prevent polycystic ovaries working properly.
Endometriosis can damage ovary function (AMH is reduced in endometriosis patients) and can negatively impact the immune milieu (inflammatory cytokines are raised) and affects the lining of the uterus and its implantation sites. Clinical trials have shown that acupuncture is helpful in managing the symptoms of endometriosis like pain and menstrual disturbance.
Stress, for most of us living and working in modern cities, is part of life. However it can get a lot worse when you are not conceiving as easily as you thought you would. And in a cruel vicious cycle, stress can have a negative impact on fertility. Women who are more stressed appear to have reduced fertility, and urologists believe that stress affects semen quality.
Acupuncture is well known for its ability to relax the patient and this has been demonstrated in an IVF setting. No matter what brings a patient to our clinic they almost always comment on how relaxed they feel after their treatments.
The connection between sleep and fertility is not always self evident, although getting to bed early with your partner may for some couples have obvious benefits.
You may not realise that the quality and quantity of your sleep influences sex hormones, sperm production, ovulation, immune factors, weight gain, mood, stress levels and longevity as well as the more obvious stamina.
In the acupuncture clinic, the practitioner will make a TCM diagnosis based on your sleep symptoms and the tongue and the pulse.
It takes two and this stressful journey is traveled more easily when the two of you do it together, supporting each other. Whether it is unexplained infertility, male factor or ovarian issues, focusing on improving general and reproductive health on both sides often helps. Many of the couples we have seen have voiced an appreciation of the emotional and psychological benefits they experience when they come to the clinic together.