Preparing to conceive – PCOS

Women with PCOS, particularly those with irregular or infrequent periods, have their own particular challenges when it comes to conceiving.  We don’t yet fully understand the causes of PCOS however we do know that certain acupuncture protocols can reduce some of the factors that operate to prevent polycystic ovaries working properly. For example some studies show that acupuncture reduces testosterone and LH (luteinising hormone) levels promoting the conditions for more frequent ovulation and better quality eggs. (references)

Patients with PCOS who are trying to conceive naturally or planning to do IVF, may benefit from doing a course of acupuncture over 3 to 4 months to improve ovary function. For those PCOS patients who do IVF, certain acupuncture protocols during the stimulation phase and after embryo transfer have been shown to reduce the risk of hyperstimulation.

Low intensity gentle electro-acupuncture is applied to points on the abdomen and the legs.

Suggested Schedule: Acupuncture 1 – 3 times a week until regular ovulation is re-established, until you conceive or for 3 months to prepare for IVF.

 

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Clinical trials in Europe and Australia have shown that acupuncture can lower elevated levels of testosterone and luteinizing hormone which inhibit ripening of eggs and ovulation in PCOS patients. Acupuncture has also been shown to decrease insulin resistance and reduce sympathetic nervous system activity both of which are often abnormally high in PCOS. 

Working at all these levels, acupuncture can improve ovary function and increase ovulation frequency restoring more regular menstrual cycles.

Furthermore, we may anticipate that better quality eggs could result after acupuncture treatment because the damaging effects of high testosterone and LH are ameliorated, although changes in egg quality are still to be demonstrated. One of the common problems for PCOS patients doing IVF is not the numbers of eggs harvested but their quality. From this point of view creating a better ovarian and follicular environment (ie one lower in testosterone and LH) for the eggs in the few months before an IVF cycle could allow for the possibility of recruitment of better quality eggs when the stimulating drugs are used. Another problem that PCOS patients face when doing IVF is a higher than normal risk of hyperstimulation. Some researchers in China have found that acupuncture during the IVF stimulation reduced this risk.