Acupuncture for FertilityIn February of 2013, I wrote an article about my success rates in treating infertility. After all the feedback I got from the article, I realized in Winnipeg we have few specialized professionals to deal with fertility treatments and that we have only one Fertility Center where patients have to wait many months for the first appointment and sometimes more than a year for a treatment procedure.
Many patients that came to me because of that article told me there is not enough information about Infertility and they felt overwhelmed when it came the time to make decisions. That is why I decided to write a second article explaining how acupuncture improve Fertility levels and answer the questions I received.
I had treated this time older patients. Most of these 40’s patients were frustrated with the lack attention from health professionals, including acupuncturists, and they were upset with the poor results on getting pregnant.
We know that older patients have higher risk of genetic disorders and other complications during pregnancy but there are still good chances for healthy babies and parenting is a dream for many. To follow your dream sometimes you are prepared to face some risks.
If you ‘re 36 years or older and you suffer with infertility ask your physician opinion on a referral for a genetic assessment, it might help you to measure the risks.
I had patients between 41 to 45 years old who had IVF failures and after having acupuncture they were able to get pregnant and so far, the babies have born with no genetic issues.
The other big issue for these infertile patients was the fact they spent significant money on IVF and several IUI’s without success and they wanted to know if they should keep trying.
When is enough is enough? This can be a hard question to answer and the best I can do is help patients see the answer for themselves. Every case is different and you have to take each individual factor into consideration and that is why simply repeating “fertility acu-points protocol” will not give them the best result. Each patient brings a different energy ( Qi) , Clinical complications and family history will not be the same, which is why infertility treatment should be designed for each patient according to their imbalance of energy.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, disruption of the Qi flow can lead to physical and emotional illnesses, including infertility. These meridians can be affected by needling specific points, also known as acupuncture points. The practitioner will need to perform a consultation to understand the person’s situation, to examine the patient and give specific orientation in terms of diet, life change, habits , meditation and exercises.
I worked as a MD in Brazil and I took special training in Psychosomatic Medicine, that can be defined as an “interdisciplinary medical field studying the relationships of social, psychological, and behavioural factors on bodily processes and quality of life in humans and animals”.
“Psychosomatic means mind (psyche) and body (soma). A psychosomatic disorder is a disease which involves both mind and body. Some physical diseases are thought to be particularly prone to be made worse by mental factors such as stress and anxiety. Your current mental state can affect how bad a physical disease is at any given time.” Your current mental state can affect how bad a physical disease is at any given time creating the possibility that many “unexplained infertility cases” might involve contributing psychological factors that trigger poor fertility.
I believe it is important to know what is behind a couple’s female or male factor infertility problems.
I do not act as a Psychosomatic specialist or a Physician in Canada but the knowledge stemming from medical promotes a more complete understanding of each patient.
This is the advantage of a TCM Dr who blends Western and Eastern Medicine. Specially to have a background as a physician which can make a difference when you need to understand the assessment of the patient’s Family Doctor or Gynaecologist. The Fact I’m located in a large medical clinic makes it is easier to review cases with physicians. The fact I understand a diagnosis from a western perspective, enables me to use this information and knowledge in choosing the best Acu-points for each case.
Before talking about successful rates , let’s review what acupuncture for fertility has to offer:
- Improved pregnancy rates during IVF treatment cycles, when acupuncture takes place on the day of embryo transfer
- Increased blood flow to the uterus, leading to an improved endometrial lining
- Reduced stress and anxiety levels
- Possible improvement in ovulation for women with PCOS ( ” Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is a condition in which a woman’s levels of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone are out of balance. This leads to the growth of ovarian cysts (benign masses on the ovaries). PCOS can cause problems with a women’s menstrual cycle, fertility, cardiac function, and appearance.” )
- Possible improvement in sperm count and sperm quality in men with infertility
- Possible regulation of gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which in turn could help regulate ovulation
You can find many acupuncture protocols for IVF patients which I don’t like to use due to the fact each patient is different. Standardized acupuncture points will not work for everyone. But if we’re talking about scientific evidence, the acupuncturist needs to use specific protocols to be able to identify if acupuncture is effective or not. Acupuncturists must methodically follow specific rules so he/she can translate into numbers/ scores and then conclude, on the basis of empirical evidence, which treatment is best.
That is why is hard to find good researches using acupuncture for infertility. Some protocols include 2 treatment for week for 4-10 weeks and some only before and after IVF transfer. In my opinion It is up to the professional to discern what is the best for his/her patient.
If you are moving toward IVF, you must understand few things before you do it:
IVF has five main steps:
- Stimulate the growth and development of multiple eggs within the ovaries
- Remove the eggs
- Fertilize the eggs
- Allow the fertilized eggs to grow and develop in the laboratory
- Place embryos into the uterus
“Each of these five steps can be performed in a slightly different manner based on the preferences of the physician.”
I was reading a review of Dr. Nancy Synderman, a board-certified surgeon/paediatrician and medical correspondent for the popular news/talk shows Good Morning America and 20/20.
Here is an excerpt from that article:
“In an interview with ABCNews.com, Snyderman explained that a woman’s uterus typically undergoes several contractions while an embryo is being transferred, which reduces the chances of successful implantation significantly.
For years, health care professionals have theorized that relaxing the uterus during embryo transfer could increase a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant, but the proof of this theory has been lacking. The Fertility and Sterility study, Snyderman feels, may have provided just the evidence the scientific community has been looking for. ”
“There is no doubt, because this was a very well-done study and it was reported in a very highly regarded medical journal, that doctors will sit up and pay attention to it,” added Dr. Synderman. “This is the first time we may have had a serious marriage between an art and science that is so many, many years old, and what is really cutting-edge technology.”
Since my last article published in February 2013, in which I reported seeing 17 women, age 24-45, with infertility, I was pregnant with my second son and by mid-May I saw my last patient before spending 7 months on maternity leave. I kept in touch with several of my infertility patients who became pregnant just days before I started leave. I kept receiving emails from them with baby pictures and updates which made my day. When I returned to work in January 2014, I was surprised to see I had dozens of news patients with infertility issues. Males and females with different issues and generally older than previous patients. This time I was dealing with 36- 45 years old patients. ( I’m seeing older women than 45 years old but I cannot include them on the statistics yet).
I had one single lady who was 29 years old who had oligomenorrhea and anovulation and she got pregnant naturally, with the help of acupuncture.
Following are my rates of success in treating infertility,including males and females mostly on late 30’s and beginning of their 40’s.
Here are the total numbers:
73 cases FROM January 2012- July, 2014: ages ( 24- 45 years old)
- 6 cases of male infertility ( Azoospermia-defined as the complete lack of sperm in the ejaculate.) that acupuncture reversed their sperm count into regular numbers and better sperm quality . From these 6 cases, 5 cases got their women pregnant naturally or by IUI with their sperm.( not counting the 6th case who is still waiting IUI)
- IVF Cases : 6 patients – 5 pregnancies ( different preparations, some patients had 2 treatments, before and after the IVF and others were treated a few weeks before IVF). One set of twins.
- IUI CASES: 7 patients- 4 pregnancies ( more than 3 treatments each), 3 failed ( the ones who did not get pregnant had only 3 treatments), 1 case of twins
- 7 Cases gave up treatment with no further notice. I found out later that 3 cases got pregnant, one case with twins. I don’t know about the other 4 cases.
- 1 Miscarrage : one lady got pregnant after a single treatment but she had a miscarrage and after couple of moths she decided to come back and she remains in treatment with me. In this case, the pregnancy is counted in the statistics as a successful pregnancy with a special note on the miscarriage.
- 26 cases of infertility ( with different health issues , these patients were drug free when they came to me and they wanted to attempt pregnancy naturally; 52% of these 26 cases had performed IUI and IVF in the past with no success ) -in other words, 23 of 26 got pregnant.
- 3 cases of Anovulation (defined as a condition in which the ovary does not release a ripened egg each month.Naturally, with no egg available for sperm, a woman cannot become pregnant. Thus, anovulation is a prime factor in female infertility. As is”, oligomenorrhea which is the term used to describe light or infrequent menstrual periods. It occurs in women of childbearing age. Some variation in menstruation is normal. A woman who regularly goes more than 35 days without menstruating may be diagnosed with oligomenorrhea”.
These patients experienced at least 4 months of no menstruation before their consultations with me.
All 3 became pregnant ( between 6-20 treatment sessions)
The total treatment population to date was 73 patients which includes the 17 cases reported in my first article ( Feb/2013). From these 17 cases, 16 women got pregnant.
In total then, of in 73 cases, involving both male and female factor infertility, 60 patients got pregnant which translates into a success rate of : 82. 19%.
- Dear Dr Kerr, Thank you so much for your help and kindness. When I started seeing you a year ago, I was not entirely sure if acupuncture could help me or not. I was a 29 years old women who was trying to conceive, but I just was not ovulating. You took the time to listen to me, and your advice was greatly appreciated. Within only a few treatments, I ovulated and got pregnant right away, after months and months of trying. I could not believe it! You were also absolutely wonderful during the first months of this pregnancy, still treating me to avoid morning sickness and miscarriage. You were always available for questions and concerns, which has also been greatly appreciated. I now have an adorable and healthy little baby boy, and I will forever be grateful to you for him. Thank you so much again.Marie, 30 years old
- Paulus W, et al. Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertility and Sterility April 2002;77(4):721-4.
- Acupuncture may help fertility treatment, study finds. Reuters, April 17, 2002.
- Pins and needles. Could acupuncture help promote pregnancy? ABCNews.com, April 16, 2002. Available on line athttp://more.abcnews.go.com/sections/gma/healthywoman/gma020416accupuncture.html.
-  Suzuki, H. Infertility and Acupuncture Treatment. The Japanese Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion Therapies, Vol. 65, No. 6, 2006
-  Kinoshita, H. Infertility, In Latest Clinical Acupuncture, Ido no Nippon Sha, 387-396, 1986
- e-Study Guide for: Health Psychology: An Introduction to Behavior and Health by Brannon & Feist, ISBN 9780495090656 (Google eBook)- psychosomatic definition
- http://www.patient.co.uk/health/psychosomatic-disorders- psychosomatic definition