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Acupuncture for IVF and IUI Cycles

The use of acupuncture as a supportive treatment for couples undergoing assisted reproductive therapies, including in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI) is gaining in popularity, likely due to promising results in countless studies in the past 20 years.

Understanding how acupuncture can improve outcomes in IVF and IUI cycles can help you to decide if this treatment may be right for you.

A brief understanding of IVF and IUI

In vitro fertilization, or IVF is the process where a woman’s follicles are stimulated through medications to mature many follicles simultaneously. Once the majority of follicles are mature (17-20mm) they are retrieved and fertilized in a lab. These embryos grow for 3-5 days and are then transferred into the woman’s uterus (usually 1-2 at a time).

Intrauterine insemination will often also use medications to stimulate follicle growth, but the number of follicles is far fewer. The follicles develop within the woman’s ovaries and at ovulation the semen is inserted directly into the uterus and fertilization occurs within the body.

The success rates of IVF and IUI are variable. IVF alone is around 25-30% and IUI alone is around 13-20%. With acupuncture support, success rates can increase up to 40-60%.

How acupuncture benefits IVF and IUI cycles

Acupuncture has many benefits for improving outcomes (pregnancy rates and delivery rates) in IVF and IUI cycles. A 2002 study by Paulus and colleagues in Germany was one of the first to demonstrate an improvement in pregnancy rates with acupuncture in IVF cycles. The women receiving acupuncture had a 42.5% success rate, compared to 26.3% for those who did not receive acupuncture. Many more studies have since confirmed these findings, with impressive improvements in pregnancy and delivery rates.

Acupuncture is a very safe therapy, with relatively low costs and has no negative interactions with medications. Below I highlight some of the benefits acupuncture has on IVF and IUI cycles.

  1. Improved ovarian response

Acupuncture is based on traditional Eastern philosophies of meridians and acupuncture points. However, we now know that significant hormonal changes occur when we administer acupuncture to specific points in the body. Acupuncture impacts beta-endorphin levels, which in turn impact our production of reproductive hormones (notably GnRH, FSH, LH, estrogen and progesterone). Acupuncture can thus improve response of the ovaries to these hormones and optimize follicle development.

  1. Improved hormone balance

As mentioned above, acupuncture has a significant impact on hormone production and response. In IVF cycles where hormone-modulating medications are used, acupuncture can help the body to respond appropriately to medications, and minimize side effects.

  1. Improved egg (follicle) quality and quantity

Clinically acupuncture has been shown to positively influence the number and integrity of eggs released during IVF and IUI cycles – this may be due to increasing the blood supply to the developing follicles or by increasing the nutritional supply to the egg via the fluids that surround and nourish it.

  1. Improved blood flow to the uterus and increased rate of implantation

One of the most unique actions of acupuncture, increasing blood flow to the uterus can improve implantation rates and decrease rates of miscarriage. No medication currently exists that can enhance blood flow to the uterus the way acupuncture has been demonstrated to.

  1. Optimal endometrial thickness

In women with thin endometrial linings IVF can have higher rates of failure. Acupuncture can help to thicken the endometrial lining (through the enhancement of blood flow) and improve rates of implantation.

  1. Decrease rates of miscarriage

Acupuncture used during IVF results in higher rates of viable pregnancy. Additionally, acupuncture was found in a 2004 study by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine to lower miscarriage, reduce tubal pregnancy and increase live birth rate.

  1. Reduce stress

Stress is a major factor impacting most couples undergoing fertility treatments. Acupuncture treatments have been shown to decrease sympathetic nervous system activity (our fight-or-flight response), decrease stress hormone levels and increase opioid production – all resulting in a sense of calm and decreased stress.

Acupuncture treatments for IUI and IVF

Acupuncture treatments should be individualized to your IVF or IUI cycle, your personal medical history and current health state. For women undergoing IVF or IUI it is recommended in clinical studies to start having acupuncture 8-12 weeks (2-3 months) prior to your IUI or IVF procedure.

In my Toronto practices, I use acupuncture points selected based on clinically proven protocols (Paulus protocol, Stener-Victorin protocol, Westergaard protocol, Smith protocol), as well as points based on Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnoses and indications.

Success in acupuncture depends on more than just the frequency and timing of visits. It also requires a knowledgeable practitioner who can guide you through the process and help you achieve the benefits you desire. If you’d like to learn more, book a free meet and greet consultation or initial intake today.

References

Betts D. The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2006.

Change, R, Chung P, Rosenwaks Z. Role of acupuncture in the treatment of female infertility. Fertil Steril. 2002 Dec:78(6)

Dieterle, S., et al. Effect of acupuncture on the outcome of in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection: a randomized, prospective, controlled clinical study. Fertil Steril. 2006 May;85(5):1347- 51.

Gurfinkel E, et al. “Effects of acupuncture and moxa treatment in patients with semen abnormalities.” Asian J Androl. 2003 Dec;5(4):345-8.

Johnson D. “Acupuncture prior to and at embryo transfer in an assisted conception unit – a case series.” Acupunct Med. 2006:24(1):23-28.

Paulus WE, Zhang M, Strehler E, El-Danasouri I, Sterzik K. Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertil Steril 2002;77(4):721-4.

Stener-Victorin E, et al. “Use of acupuncture in female infertility and a summary of recent acupuncture studies related to embryo transfer. Acupunct Med. 2006 Dec;24(4):157-63. Review.

Westergaard. LG, et al. “Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial.” Fertil Steril. 2006 May;85(5):1341-6.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

 

 

 

Natural Treatments for Tinnitus

Tinnitus impacts nearly 400 000 Canadians and can severely impact the quality of life. Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound without an external source. It may be described as a hissing, ringing, or whooshing noise.   Many individuals diagnosed with tinnitus are told that the condition is chronic, will never improve, and they will just have to learn to live with it.

While Naturopathic Medicine can not guarantee a successful treatment of tinnitus, there may be hope in some of the integrative treatments available.

Cause of Tinnitus

The exact underlying cause of tinnitus is not known. It can be associated with noise trauma (explosions, loud noises), physical trauma, post-inflammation, anxiety and other conditions. In many cases an underlying cause is not identified.

The symptoms of tinnitus may be processed by different parts of the brain than typical auditory pathways. The amygdala and limbic system – parts of the brain responsible for memory and emotions – seem to play a significant role in tinnitus.

Diagnosis of Tinnitus

Diagnosis of tinnitus is generally clinical – the presence of a reported noise with no external source. An audiologist assessment should also be performed. A contrast MRI is also a useful tool and can identify possible underlying causes of tinnitus. Blood work for autoimmune antibodies, vitamin B12, inflammatory markers (ESR), cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, thyroid-stimulating hormone and comprehensive hormone testing can also provide useful information in identifying metabolic, hormonal, or autoimmune cases of tinnitus. Questionnaires can also be valuable in tracking progress with integrative treatment options.

Conventional Treatment Options

There are several different treatment options offered by qualified audiologists. Many involve sound therapy, masking, hearing aids or tinnitus retraining devices. A referral to an experienced audiologist is necessary for these treatments.

Correcting underlying causes of tinnitus will be helpful in a patient-by-patient basis. If the tinnitus is caused by a hormonal imbalance, such as thyroid disease, correcting the thyroid dysfunction can lead to resolution of symptoms. Antidepressants (impacting serotonin and/or dopamine) and GABA-enhancing medications have also been used in some individuals with success.

Naturopathic Treatment Options

While no guarantee of success exists in the treatment of tinnitus, the lack of conventional treatment options leads many people to seek out natural and integrative therapies. The majority of these options are safe and may provide some degree of relief to people suffering with tinnitus. Working with a knowledgeable Naturopathic Doctor is advised as these treatments may have side effects or interactions with other medications.

Ginkgo biloba

One of the most commonly sold botanical medicines worldwide, ginkgo is used to increase blood flow to the head and treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and vascular tinnitus. ginkgo has antioxidant, neuroprotective and platelet-inhibiting effects. Studies suggest that ginkgo may have a positive impact on patients with tinnitus, by increasing blood flow to the ear and may be especially useful in the elderly. The use of ginkgo may be limited by its interactions with medications, especially blood thinners, aspirin and seizure medications.

Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral with significant actions in the central nervous system, including the hearing pathway, as well as in hormone production, enzyme function, and synthesis of DNA and RNA. Studies have suggested that zinc deficiency impacts between 2-69% of individuals with tinnitus. Giving zinc to individuals with tinnitus is a low risk intervention, and measuring serum zinc levels may identify those in greatest need for supplementation.

Melatonin

Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland during the night, regulates sleep/ wake cycles and acts as an antioxidant. Some studies have found that supplementing melatonin may improve tinnitus, especially in individuals with sleep disturbances. Melatonin may also help in individuals with stress by balancing cortisol production, another hormone often involved in tinnitus.

Vitamin B12

An important nutrient, and common deficiency, there have been studies showing a relationship between vitamin B12 deficiency and abnormal function of the hearing pathway. For every individual experiencing tinnitus, vitamin B12 levels should be assessed and optimal levels should be achieved through dietary and supplemental means.

Garlic

The flavourful garlic bulb is useful for many cardiovascular conditions. It has cholesterol-lowering effects, lowers blood pressure and can decrease blood clot formation. It may be useful for tinnitus by improving blood flow to the inner ear. There are no current studies on the use of garlic for tinnitus, but the possible benefits are evident.

Pycnogenol

Preliminary research suggests that the antioxidant, pycnogenol (pine bark extract) can decrease symptoms of tinnitus after one month of use. It is suspected that it’s influence on inflammation and the cardiovascular system may lead to improvements in tinnitus.

Hormone Modulation

Hormonal imbalances have been identified in many individuals experiencing tinnitus, with imbalance in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis being most common. This HPA axis is involved in the stress response, with abnormal cortisol production being a common feature. One study found that individuals with tinnitus had a blunted cortisol response after stressful events. Identifying and correcting underlying hormonal imbalance can improve tinnitus in some people, especially those with stress.

Acupuncture

Several studies have demonstrated improvement in tinnitus symptoms with acupuncture treatment. Improvements with acupuncture have not been found in all studies, and improvements may be short lived (average of 100 hours in one study). Acupuncture is a very safe treatment, with limited side effects and no interactions with medications. Administered by a qualified naturopathic doctor or acupuncturist, it may be a valuable option for the treatment of tinnitus.

Taking an integrative approach, managing stress and balancing your hormones may help to improve the symptoms of tinnitus, and also improve the quality of life of people suffering with tinnitus. To learn more, speak to a qualified Naturopathic Doctor.

References:

The sound of stress: blunted cortisol reactivity to psychosocial stress in tinnitus sufferers. Hébert S, Lupien SJ. Neurosci. Lett. – January 10, 2007; 411 (2); 138-42

Diagnostic value and clinical significance of stress hormones in patients with tinnitus. Kim DK, Chung DY, Bae SC, Park KH, Yeo SW, Park SN. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol – November 1, 2014; 271 (11); 2915-21

Hormones and the auditory system: A review of physiology and pathophysiology Neuroscience, 2008-06-02, Volume 153, Issue 4, Pages 881-900, Copyright © 2008

Complementary and Integrative Treatments for tinnitus Gregory S. Smith MD, Massi Romanelli-Gobbi BM, Elizabeth Gray-Karagrigoriou Au.D and Gregory J. Artz MD  Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America, The, 2013-06-01, Volume 46, Issue 3, Pages 389-408

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

 

Naturopathic Acupuncture

As a Naturopathic Doctor, I have received extensive training in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture. TCM is a system of medicine that has been used to prevent, diagnose and treat disease for over 5000 years. It is based on the Eastern philosophy of “Qi” (life energy). Traditional Chinese Medicine seeks to balance the flow of Qi in the body in order to maintain health, treat illness and relieve pain.

Acupuncture is the use of very fine, sterile acupuncture needles inserted into specific points (acupoints) in the body to manipulate and control the flow of Qi. Acupuncture has been proven to be beneficial in the treatment of many conditions including joint pain, chronic back pain, digestive difficulties, menstrual irregularities, depression, insomnia, migraine and many others.

In my practice I use TCM and acupuncture for a variety of conditions, most notably fertility enhancement, IUI and IVF cycle support, female and male hormone balancing, menstrual irregularities, endometriosis, labour induction, menopause symptoms (hot flashes, night sweats), anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches and digestive complaints (diarrhea, constipation, heartburn). Acupuncture is safe and effective for all adults, including pregnant women. Acupuncture provided by Dr. Lisa is covered by most extended insurance plans under Naturopathic Medicine.

Natural Treatments for Thin Endometrial Lining

The uterus is made up of three layers: an outer protective layer, a muscular layer, and an inner lining (endometrium) which develops each month to support and nourish a fertilized egg. If a woman does not conceive, this lining is lost during the menstrual period.

Endometrial thickness is an important factor in improving pregnancy outcomes. An ideal thickness is between 9-10 mm at ovulation. If your endometrial lining is thin it may not allow for optimal implantation and successful pregnancy.

A thin endometrial lining can be identified on ultrasound done at or near ovulation, or can be suspected in women who have very light menstrual periods.

Women with long term use of birth control pills (10 years or longer) are more likely to experience thin endometrial lining. Use of the fertility drug Clomid (Clomiphene citrate) is also associated with thin endometrial lining, especially when used for multiple cycles in a row.

Below are some suggestions for ways to naturally increase the thickness of your endometrial lining and improve your chances for a healthy pregnancy.

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

An herbal medicine with a very long history of use, red raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) is a uterine tonic that may help to optimize development of the uterine lining. It is also a rich source of nutrients to support a healthy endometrium, including iron and vitamin C. Drink three cups of the tea per day from the first day of your period until ovulation.

Black Cohosh

Another herbal medicine, black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) is a rich source of phytoestrogens that can provide further estrogen stimulation to the uterus and support a thick endometrial lining. Studies have been done combining black cohosh with clomid and found improved endometrial thickness and more successful pregnancy rates. Dosage ranges from 80-120mg per day from the first day of your period until cycle day 12. Best taken under the supervision of a naturopathic doctor who can monitor liver function for optimal safety.

Red Clover

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is another isoflavone rich phytoestrogen, similar to black cohosh. It is used to increase blood flow to the uterus and support estrogen balance in the body. It is used daily from cycle day 1 to 12 at a dose of 40-80mg of standardized isoflavones.

Bioidentical Estrogen

red poppyEstrogen is necessary for the development of a healthy endometrium. If estrogen levels are low (which occurs as we get older) then the lining of the uterus will not develop optimally before ovulation. A blood or saliva test for estradiol can identify low estrogen levels and a bioidentical estrogen cream can be used safely to increase estrogen levels in the first half of the cycle, prior to ovulation. Your Naturopathic Doctor can prescribe bioidentical estrogen at a dose that is individualized to your needs.

Iron

Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in women. Necessary for the health of red blood cells, low levels of iron may lead to an inadequate development of the uterine lining. If you are a vegan or vegetarian or have a history of having a thin uterine lining, ask your Naturopath or Medical Doctor to test your iron (ferritin) and hemoglobin levels.

Exercise

Inadequate blood flow to the uterus can be a significant cause of a thin uterine lining. This can be caused by a sedentary lifestyle, chronic stress or uterine fibroids. Exercise and acupuncture are two of the most effective ways of improving blood flow to the uterus. Swimming, walking, jogging, dancing, yoga or hula hooping are all excellent ways of getting the blood flowing to the uterus. Try engaging in some form of physical activity every day, especially in the two weeks leading up to ovulation.

red tulipsVitamin E and L-Arginine

Researchers have found that the use of these two nutrients can increase the blood flow to the uterus through the uterine radial artery. Published in the journal Fertility and Sterility in 2010, it was found that vitamin E increased blood flow in 72% of patients and increased the endometrial thickness in over half of patients. L-Arginine increased blood flow in 89% of patients and increased endometrial thickness in two-thirds of patients. Dosage of vitamin E in the study was 600mg per day and the dosage of L-arginine was 6g per day.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is one of my favourite ways of addressing the issue of a thin endometrial lining. Acupuncture has many benefits for women’s hormonal health. It decreases stress, supports hormone balance, and regulates and increases blood flow to the reproductive organs. Clinical studies have demonstrated an improvement in the thickness of the endometrial lining with regular acupuncture treatments. Points that are often considered include: CV4, CV6, LI10, KI3, SP6, SP10 and ST36. Moxibustion, a warming technique, can also be used in combination with the acupuncture.

Working with a Naturopathic Doctor can help you to develop an individualized plan that will improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy. Additionally, if you difficulty conceiving be sure to have your thyroid thoroughly assessed because low thyroid function is also associated with failure of implantation.   Be sure to work with a Naturopathic Doctor who is experienced in supporting fertility and can help you achieve your goals, naturally.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Select references:

Takasaki A, Tamura H, et al. Endometrial growth and uterine blood flow: a pilot study for improving endometrial thickness in the patients with a thin endometrium. Fertil Steril. 2010;93(6):1851-8.

Yu W, Horn B, et al. A pilot study evaluating the combination of acupuncture with sildenafil on endometrial thickness. Fertil Steril. 2007;87(3):S23

Natural Labour Induction

As every pregnant woman approaches the last weeks of pregnancy they can’t help but start thinking of ways to bring on labour and get the chance to meet their baby sooner.

A pregnancy is considered full term at 37 weeks and the techniques discussed in this article should not be started until after this point.  Some women choose to wait until 40 weeks, or their due date to begin trying to naturally induce labour.

Below are suggestions for natural labour induction methods that can be attempted at home and also those that should only be administered by a qualified Naturopathic Doctor.

Techniques for Natural Labour Induction at Home

1.     Sexual intercourse

One of the simplest methods of inducing labour (if you’re up for it!)  The prostaglandins in semen can help with the dilating and effacing (thinning) of the cervix.  If you are able to achieve orgasm this can further open the cervix.  Additionally, sex can trigger the release of oxytocin, the ‘contraction’ hormone.  Sex, even this late in pregnancy, is perfectly safe for both the mother and baby.

2.     Nipple stimulation

Stimulating the nipples (manually or with a breast pump) can lead to increased frequency and strength of contractions.  Stimulating the nipples causes the release of oxytocin, the same hormone that is responsible for uterine contraction.  This technique is best done if you are already experiencing infrequent contractions, labour has stalled or you are several days past your due date.  There are several methods that are suggested:

i.   firm pressure of nipple with fingers for 2 minutes, rest for 3 minutes.  Repeat for 20 minutes.

ii.  15 minutes of firm nipple (including the areola) stimulation (alternating breasts midway through) each hour for several hours in a row.

3.     Exercise

Sometimes the best technique for inducing labour is encouraging the baby to assume the best position for labour and delivery.  Exercise, such as walking, swimming, belly dancing, or some yoga movements can help descend a baby into the pelvis and apply the necessary pressure on the cervix for dilation to occur.

4.     Pineapple

Fresh pineapple is a rich source of bromelain, an enzyme that some people think can encourage ripening of the cervix and bring on labour.  Eat fresh pineapple daily, juicing and canning pineapple destroys the bromelain.  Caution: large amounts of pineapple can contribute to heart burn or diarrhea in some people.

5.     Castor Oil

One of the oldest methods of bringing on labour, it is one that I don’t personally recommend unless you are past your due date.  Castor oil works by irritating the digestive tract and having purgative (vomiting) and laxative (diarrhea) effects.  This over-stimulation of the digestive tract also results in stimulation of the uterus and can be effective in bringing on labour.  However, many women would prefer not to be experiencing diarrhea or vomiting in their early labour.  If you choose to use castor oil start with smaller amounts (1-2 tablespoons) and mix with a nut butter (such as almond butter) to provide  some fat and protein to lessen the negative effects of the castor oil.

6.     Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose oil is a rich source of prostaglandins and can support the thinning and dilation of the cervix.  Gel caps are easily available in health food stores.  Insert 3 capsules as close to the cervix as possible each night at bedtime (wear a pad to bed in case there is a slight discharge.)

Techniques for Labour Induction Provided by a Naturopathic Doctor

7.     Red raspberry leaf tea

A botanical that is well known for it’s uterine tonifying properties.  It promotes stronger contractions of the uterus and is often used throughout the entire third trimester to ‘work out’ the uterus and get it ready for labour and delivery.  It is unlikely to induce labour on its own, but when used in combination with other methods it can speed up the progression of labour and promote strong, healthy contractions.

8.     Botanicals – blue cohosh and black cohosh

Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) and black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) are uterine tonifying herbs.  They are known to cause contraction of the uterus and are thus contraindicated for use in early pregnancy.   They may be used in certain circumstances to stimulate labour and promote strong and regular contractions.  These herbs should never be taken without proper medical supervision from a qualified Naturopathic Doctor, midwife or obstetrician.

9.     Homeopathic Remedies

Homeopathic remedies are small doses of more potent substances and, as a result, are very safe for use during pregnancy, labour and delivery.  They are considered much safer than botanical remedies – no published studies exist showing any harm to the mother or fetus after use of homeopathics in pregnancy and labour.

The most common homeopathic remedies used to induce labour are pulsatilla, caulophyllum and cimicifuga.  Homeopathic remedies are taken by mouth at regular intervals to induce labour.  Dosages vary – contact your Naturopathic Doctor for an individualized plan.

10. Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat conditions associated with pregnancy (such as heart burn, nausea, and carpal tunnel syndrome) as well as for inducing labour.  Acupuncture to stimulate labour can be begun after 37 weeks gestation and is administered from once per week to once per day, depending on the desired outcome.  When performed after the due date, acupuncture has been shown in studies to have a success rate of up to 88% in starting labour.

Specific points are used to stimulate and strengthen uterine contractions, promote proper fetus positioning and encourage the downward movement of Qi (energy) which can bring on labour.

All published studies have shown acupuncture to be safe for both mother and fetus when applied by a qualified practitioner.  Be sure to find someone who is experienced in perinatal acupuncture protocols and techniques.

Your Naturopathic Doctor can also teach you proper acupressure techniques for you, or your birth partner, to administer to induce labour or manage pain during labour and delivery.

Remember, although most of these methods are safe and can be effective in encouraging labour in full-term pregnancies, it is important to make sure your primary health care provider (e.g. midwife or obstetrician) has given you the go-ahead for trying to induce labour.  There are some instances where waiting is the best approach for both mother and baby.

Also be sure any practitioners (Naturopathic Doctors, homeopaths, herbalists, acupuncturists, etc.) are fully qualified and knowledgable in pregnancy and labour.  Not all practitioners have the same level of experience – ask questions and only work with practitioners you have confidence in.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Acupuncture and Endometriosis

Millions of women across Canada suffer from endometriosis – a condition where endometrial cells are found in locations outside of the uterus. For most women this means pain, sometimes debilitating, before and during their periods. For some it also means pain with intercourse, pain during ovulation, pain during bowel movements, back pain, abdominal pain, pain, pain, PAIN. Women with endometriosis often report such high, prolonged periods of pain that they lead to exhaustion, depression and anxiety.

So what is a woman with endometriosis to do? There is no cure, surgery is somewhat successful but has recurrence rates up to 74%, and hormone therapies can have terrible side effects.

It’s not surprising that many women are looking to acupuncture for pain relief, and many are finding it.

Endometriosis and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

TCM fertility treatment TorontoIn Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis is made based on symptoms and categorized based on eight principles (yin and yang, empty and full, etc). Two women, both experiencing endometriosis, may be diagnosed differently based on their symptoms – where and when pain occurs, colour and texture of menstrual blood, aggravating and relieving factors, and others. Naturopathic Doctors are trained in TCM diagnosis and will individualize acupuncture plans for their patient based on their unique symptoms and experience of endometriosis.

The most common TCM imbalances that are found in endometriosis are:

  • Blood stasis
  • Qi stagnation
  • Spleen Qi deficiency
  • Damp heat stagnation and stasis
  • Kidney Yang deficiency

While these terms may sound unusual or exotic, they are just names for clusters of symptoms and provide guidance for the development of an acupuncture treatment plan.

Acupuncture for Pain

The main reason women with endometriosis seek out acupuncture is to help with pain management before or during their menstrual cycles, or during ovulation.   Acupuncture has been recognized for it’s ability to manage different types of pain by organizations around the world, include the World Health Organization (WHO).

Acupuncture has many different positive effects on pain – it improves local and systemic blood flow, decreases inflammation, decreases stress, regulate the production of prostaglandins and promotes production of endorphins, substances which alter our perception to pain.

It is also a safe and painless procedure that can be used on the vast majority of women without any negative side effects.

Acupuncture for Fertility

Acupuncture for endometriosisHalf of all women presenting at fertility clinics are diagnosed with varying degrees of endometriosis. For these women, treatment options are limited because of the potential negative outcomes on fertility that can result from hormonal treatments (and hysterectomy!)

The most common prescription for pain management with endometriosis is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These NSAIDs may provide some women with adequate pain relief, but others may continue to suffer. For women trying to conceive with endometriosis they pose an additional concern – NSAID use has been associated with luteinized unruptured follicle (LUF) syndrome – a condition where the follicle does not rupture to release an egg at ovulation.  The pain management provided by acupuncture does not interfere with normal ovulation and can preserve fertility better than NSAID use.

Acupuncture also has it’s own benefits for improving fertility. It enhances blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, decreases stress and supports hormone balance. You can read more about the use of acupuncture for fertility in this article.

Beyond Acupuncture

Naturopathic Doctors are licensed to provide acupuncture in Ontario under their ND license. The benefit of seeing an ND for your endometriosis is the holistic approach they take to health care. Your ND will individualize a treatment for specifically you that may include dietary recommendations, herbal remedies, nutritional supplements, and lifestyle modifications in addition to acupuncture. You can also learn more about the naturopathic approach to endometriosis in the articles The Endometriosis Diet, Endometriosis and the Immune System, Understanding Endometriosis and Endometriosis and Infertility, or if you are ready to get started today, you can book an initial consultation and start on your road to better health.

References

Hudson, Tori. Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008.

Lauersen, Niels H and Bouchez, Collette. Getting Pregnant. New York: Fireside, 2000.

Lewis, Randine. The Infertility Cure. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2004.

Acupuncture for pain in endometriosis. Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries [Internet]. 2011.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

 

 

Male Infertility

So much emphasis is placed on the treatment of female infertility – but with up to 40% of infertile couples struggling with male infertility it’s time for men to understand how they can improve their chances of becoming fathers.

Understanding Male Infertility

The most common causes of male infertility are sperm-related factors.  Low sperm counts, low sperm mobility or a high number of abnormal can all cause difficulty in achieving pregnancy with your partner.

There are many ways in which sperm can be damaged – medical treatments for cancer, childhood illnesses, environmental and lifestyle factors and poor diet can all contribute to unhealthy sperm.  But luckily most of these factors can be modified, restoring your fertility and improving your overall health.

Environmental Factors Affecting Male Fertility

Household Cleaners

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that levels of pollutants are three to five times higher in homes than they are outdoors.  Terrifying isn’t it?  The chemicals found in household cleaners can have negative cumulative effects on sperm production.  Switching to all natural cleaning agents is a good first step towards achieving your fertility goals, and a great step towards preparing your home for a baby.

Extreme Temperatures

Reproductive disorders are one of the top ten work-related disorders for both men and women.  Dangerously high temperatures associated with certain vocations are especially damaging to male fertility.  High temperatures impact the development of sperm and can impact sperm counts, motility and number of normal sperm for up to 3 months past the time of exposure.

Lifestyle Factors Affecting Male Fertility

male struggling infertilitySmoking

Sperm are very sensitive to oxidative damage and smoking is a major cause of oxidative damage in the human body.  Smoking (cigarettes, cigars, marijuana) can all lead to decreases in sperm count, motility and increase the number of abnormal sperm.

Perhaps even more troubling are the impacts of the offspring of smokers – babies whose father’s smoked have a 33% increase in the risk of developing childhood cancer.

Alcohol Consumption

In preparing for fatherhood, it is recommended that men avoid alcohol, or limit their consumption.  As little as four drinks per day can significantly lower sperm counts and damage sperm.

Avoid MSG and Other Food Additives

Monosodium glutamate, or MSG is a common food additive. It is found in many packaged prepared foods to “enhance natural flavours”.  However, MSG is damaging to male fertility, decreasing his chances of achieving a pregnancy with his partner by up to 50%.

Boxers or Briefs?

Extreme temperatures may be damaging to sperm production, but wearing tight-fitting briefs over boxers doesn’t seem to make any difference at all.  A study comparing scrotal temperatures of men wearing boxers or briefs found no difference in temperature – meaning you can wear whichever you are most comfortable with.

Diet and Nutrition for Male Fertility

There are many nutrients that are involved in sperm production, as well as in maintaining the health of the sperm.  Deficiencies in any one of these nutrients can negatively impact fertility and should be treated as soon as possible to prevent further struggles with infertility.

While a nutritious diet is the cornerstone of health, using appropriate vitamin and mineral supplements can allow you to fine-tune your fertility.  Speak to a qualified Naturopathic Doctor before beginning any of these supplements to make sure they are appropriate for you.

male infertilityFolic Acid

This vitamin is not just for female fertility.  Folic acid concentrations of semen are associated with sperm count.  It acts an antioxidant and is needed by all rapidly dividing cells – including sperm.  With less than 64% of men getting their recommended daily amount (400mcg) this is a common nutrient factor in male infertility.  Good food sources include beans, green leafy vegetables and sunflower seeds.

Vitamin A

Essential to sperm production, a deficiency in vitamin A has been directly linked to infertility in men.  If a deficiency exists, supplementation can improve sperm counts – it won’t help if you aren’t deficient.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an important antioxidant and is necessary for the health of sperm.  A low vitamin C intake is associated with an increased number of abnormal sperm.  Supplementation can effectively raise vitamin C levels in the semen and improve sperm counts, motility and decrease the number of abnormal sperm.

Zinc

Known as the “manhood” mineral, zinc is naturally secreted by the prostate and is found in semen.  Even a slight deficiency in zinc has been found to lower testosterone levels and result in low sperm count and decreased motility.  The worst part is that 79% of men are consuming less than the daily recommended amount of zinc (11mg).  Good food sources are nuts and whole grains.  But be cautious with supplements – taking too much zinc can be toxic to sperm and result in infertility.  Taking zinc with folic acid has also been shown to be more effective compared to taking either in isolation.

L-Carnitine

Made in the body from amino acids, men who take supplements of L-carnitine can significantly increase their partner’s rate of pregnancy.  L-carnitine doesn’t increase sperm counts, but it can increase motility and increase the number of normal sperm.  L-carnitine also serves as an energy source for sperm, allowing them to survive long enough to find and fertilize an egg.

N-Acetyl Cysteine and Selenium

Functioning as antioxidants, these nutrients are often used in combination to protect sperm from the damaging effects of free radicals.  When taken appropriately they can also enhance sperm count and other measures of sperm health.  The best part is that these nutrients have no adverse effects and are safe for almost all men.

Botanicals and Acupuncture for Male Infertility

overcome male infertilityThere are many different botanical (herbal) medicines that can improve male fertility.  Antioxidant herbs, libido-enhancing herbs, immunomodulators, and adaptogens can all be used when indicated to support infertility.  It is important to take botanicals only as directed and to work with a Naturopathic Doctor to understand which botanical medicines are safe and effective for you.

Acupuncture can also be used in the treatment of male infertility to remove obstacles to health and restore balance to the whole body.  Several Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnoses can lead to male infertility – a Kidney Essence deficiency, a Damp Heat accumulation or a Blood and Qi stagnation.  Talk with your Naturopathic Doctor to understand if acupuncture is a useful treatment for you.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Fertility and Chinese Medicine

Any person who has struggled with fertility is familiar with terms like “luteal phase defect”, “premature ovarian failure”, “polycystic ovarian syndrome” and “unexplained fertility”.  Not many are familiar with “Liver Qi stagnation” or “Kidney Yang deficiency”.  But these terms may be the key to your fertility struggle and may be the diagnosis that unlocks your body’s imbalance and allows for pregnancy to occur.

The Diagnosis of Infertility with TCM

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views health as a state of balance between all of the systems of the body.  In terms of fertility there are four organ systems – Kidney, Spleen, Heart and Liver that, when unbalanced, can lead to infertility.

In addition to the organ systems, there are four vital substances – Yin, Yang, Qi and Blood that can become deficient, excessive or stagnant and create a state of unbalance that may manifest as infertility.

All TCM treatments for fertility are founded upon restoring balance and health to these organ systems and vital substances.

Common TCM Diagnoses for Infertility

TCM diagnoses are made by Naturopathic Doctors after a thorough physical examination and comprehensive intake.  Naturopaths who use TCM in the treatment of fertility will also look at your tongue and take your TCM pulses to both diagnose your TCM pattern and to monitor treatment.

The terminology used in TCM diagnosis may be unfamiliar to you.  They are a different way of looking at patterns in your body.  Toronto Naturopath infertilityWhile Western medicine may say you have low progesterone, a TCM diagnosis may say you are lacking in Kidney Yang.  It’s a different way of saying similar things – a different perspective on your health and fertility.

While a comprehensive intake is necessary for proper diagnosis, some of the most common TCM imbalances leading to infertility are:

Liver Qi Stagnation 

The movement of Qi through the Liver is necessary for both ovulation and menstruation to occur.

Women with Liver Qi stagnation often experience symptoms of imbalance both at ovulation (bloating, irritability, breast tenderness) and at menstruation (premenstrual breast tenderness, irritability, anger, painful periods).

This pattern is often seen in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and in women with long menstrual cycles.

Spleen Qi Deficiency

In TCM Spleen Qi manages the second half of the menstrual cycle (the luteal phase).  Together with the Kidney Yang, the Spleen Qi allows for buildup of the endometrial lining and supports progesterone production.

Women with Spleen Qi deficiency typically have low energy, cravings for sugar or breads, poor circulation and may experience spotting before their periods, menstrual cramps and fatigue during their periods.

A Spleen Qi deficiency pattern is common in women with luteal phase defect.

Kidney Yang DeficiencyToronto Naturopath treating infertility

Kidney Yang works together with the Spleen Qi to control the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.  Kidney Yang supports the production of progesterone and maintains an elevated body temperature after ovulation.

Women with Kidney Yang deficiency experience symptoms of coldness – cold feet or hands or an intolerance to cold.  They may have menstrual cramps that feel better with use of a heating pad.

Kidney Yang deficiency often occurs with a Spleen Qi deficiency and is common in women with a luteal phase defect and in women with a prolonged follicular phase or long menstrual cycle (greater than 30 days).

Kidney Yin Deficiency

While Kidney Yang and Spleen Qi control the luteal phase, Kidney Yin controls the follicular phase (the first half of the menstrual cycle, while the egg is developing prior to ovulation).  Kidney Yin also controls production of cervical mucus and opening of the cervix during ovulation.

Women with Kidney Yin deficiency may experience night sweats, hot flashes and have little or no midcycle cervical mucus.  They may not experience any significant symptoms around their period.

Kidney Yin deficiency often occurs with shortened follicular phases, prolonged follicular phases and in elevated FSH and low estrogen states.  Amenorrhea (absence of menses) is also often indicative of a Kidney Yin deficiency.

There are many other TCM imbalances that can contribute to infertility.  The ones listed above are by far the most common but other imbalances may include:

    • Blood stasis
    • Blood deficiency
    • Heart deficiency
    • Excess Heat

Treating a TCM Imbalance

Once you have received a TCM diagnosis from your Naturopathic Doctor you embark on a journey of rebalancing your body to support your fertility.  Whether you are using natural therapies exclusively, or working with a reproductive endocrinologist or assisted reproductive therapies (IVF or IUI) you can begin making changes to balance your systems and improve your chances of pregnancy.

I use a four-step program to help women rebalance their bodies and support their fertility.Infertility naturopathic medicine Toronto 

Step One: Appropriate diagnosis of imbalances and develop a plan for harmonizing your systems and balancing your energy

Step Two: Lifestyle and dietary changes to support balance in your systems.  In TCM certain foods and activities have specific properties.  You can use food, exercise, relaxation techniques, yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong and more to increase energy to your Kidneys, boost your Spleen Qi or clear Liver stagnation.

Step Three: Balance the energetic meridians through acupuncture.  A series of acupuncture sessions can balance the organ systems and support smooth flow of Blood and Qi to the reproductive organs and throughout the body.

Step Four: Correct imbalances and increase chances of pregnancy through herbs.  Herbs are natural energetic substances that can gently and effectively correct imbalances and optimize fertility.

If you have been struggling with infertility and are interested in another approach, a Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis may be a good place for you to start.  Bring balance back to your body and book an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor who is knowledgeable about TCM in fertility today.

For further reading, I highly recommend The Infertility Cure by Dr. Randine Lewis.  A fantastic overview of the TCM approach to fertility with sections on each of the imbalances associated with fertility.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Photo credits:

Evan Leeson via Compfight

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Felix Schmidt via Compfight

Six Natural Treatments for Menopause

Menopause is the natural transition out of the childbearing years of a woman’s life.  So why is this natural transition often treated with synthetic hormones that have increase your risk for stroke, pulmonary embolism, coronary artery disease and breast cancer?

Symptoms of menopause begin for most women between 46-55 years of age and can persist for 2-20 years (8 years is average).  With the risks associated with synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) more and more women are looking for natural alternatives.  Learn more about six of the top recommended natural treatments for menopause and how they may help you transition smoothly through menopause.

Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa)

Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa)

Black cohosh is one of the most important and popular natural remedies for menopause.  Several large studies have found that daily use of black cohosh for a minimum of 8 weeks improved symptoms of menopause including hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, insomnia, mood swings, irritability and vaginal dryness.

Black cohosh is often self-prescribed but should be used under supervision of a Naturopathic Doctor.  Studies suggest that the effectiveness of black cohosh can be increased by combining it with other natural treatments.

Isoflavones

Isoflavones are compounds found in plants that have estrogen-like actions in humans.  They are also known as “phytoestrogens”.  Clinical studies have shown that isoflavones can reduce symptoms of hot flashes and vaginal dryness in menopause.

Additionally some isoflavones (particularly those in soy) are also effective preventative agents for certain types of cancer, including breast cancer.  Isoflavones also protect the body against heart disease, increase good (HDL) cholesterol, decrease bad (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides, and help prevent osteoporosis.

Isoflavones are most commonly found in combination with other phytoestrogens.  A diet high in soy may also provide a significant amount of isoflavones, especially if fermented soy products like natto or miso are consumed.  Do not take soy based isoflavones, or consume a high soy diet if you have a history of thyroid disease.

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Red clover (Trifolium pratense)

Red clover is a popular phytoestrogen supplement for management of menopausal symptoms.  It is most effective for hot flashes and night sweats.  It contains isoflavones so also has many of the same benefits listed above (decreasing bad cholesterol, prevention of osteoporosis).

There are multiple drug-herb interactions for red clover, so it should only be taken under supervision by a Naturopathic Doctor.  Red clover interacts with blood thinners and antivirals and may not be appropriate if you are taking these medications.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C and citrus bioflavonoids are known to improve the integrity of blood vessels and promote healthy blood flow.  This has been shown in preliminary studies to improve symptoms of hot flashes.  Vitamin C is also incredibly safe and can be taken in food form.  Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, papaya, bell pepper, strawberries, cauliflower and dark green leafy vegetables.

Exercise

Exercise should be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle during the menopausal transition and beyond.  A list of some of the benefits of exercise in menopause are listed below.  Exercise has been demonstrated in clinical studies to improve quality of life in menopausal symptoms, and decreases the frequency and severity of hot flashes.  A combination of weight bearing and aerobic exercise at least 3.5 hours per week is recommended for women in menopause and postmenopausal women.

Health Benefits of Regular Exercise in Menopause           

  • Relief from hot flashes
  • Decreased bone loss
  • Improved cardiovascular function and circulation
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased cholesterol levels
  • Increased self-esteem, mood, endurance and energy levels

Acupuncture

The natural menopause treatment that has been getting the most media attention is acupuncture.  Acupuncture, when individually tailored to a woman’s menopausal symptoms can be extremely effective in decreasing discomfort and relieving symptoms.  A range of 6 to 12 sessions over an 8 to 12 week period should be used to determine if acupuncture will be effective.

As with all natural therapies, the most effective approach is an integrative one.  Consultation with a qualified Naturopathic Doctor who can tailor a treatment plan to your symptoms, current health and lifestyle will allow you to reap all the benefits natural therapies have to offer.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

References

Osmers R, Friede M, Liske E, et al: Efficacy and safety of isopropanolic black cohosh extract for climacteric symptoms.  Obstet Gynecol  2005; 105:1074-1083

Wuttke W, Seidlova-Wuttke D, Gorkow C: The Cimicifuga preparation BNO 1055 vs. conjugated estrogens in a double-blind placebo-controlled study: Effects on menopause symptoms and bone markers.  Maturitas  2003; 44 (Suppl 1):S67-S77.

Tice JA, et al: Phytoestrogen supplements for the treatment of hot flashes: The Isoflavone Clover Extract (ICE) Study: A randomized controlled trial.  JAMA  2003; 290:207-214.

Wyon Y, et al: A comparison of acupuncture and oral estradiol treatment of vasomotor symptoms in postmenopausal women.  Climacteric  2004; 7:153-164.

Lindh-Astrand L, Nedstrand E, Wyon Y, Hammar M: Vasomotor symptoms and quality of life in previously sedentary postmenopausal women randomised to physical activity or estrogen therapy.  Maturitas  2004; 48:97-105.

Nachtigall L, La Grega L, Lee W, Fenichel R. The effects of isoflavones derived from red clover on vasomotor symptoms and endometrial thickness. In: Proceedings of the 9th International Menopause Society World Congress on the Menopause. Yokohama, Japan: 1999.

Acupuncture for Infertility

Canadian infertility rates are twice what they were twenty years ago.  Up to 16% of heterosexual couples in Canada have difficulty conceiving and are looking for help.  As more heterosexual and homosexual couples and single women seek out ways to fulfill their desire to have children use of assisted reproductive technology (ART) has increased substantially.  With the rise of ART, we are also seeing a rise in men and women seeking out natural ways to enhance fertility or to improve the success rates of ART.  Acupuncture is the most popular natural fertility treatment either alone or in combination with ART.

Acupuncture and ART

The past 20 years have seen an explosion in the number of research studies demonstrating impressive results when combining acupuncture with ART.  A 2002 study performed by Paulus and colleagues in Germany rocked the reproductive world when it showed that women who received acupuncture with in-vitro fertilization (IVF) had a 42.5% success rate, compared to a 26.3% success rate for those who did not get acupuncture.  Considering the cost of IVF (both financial and emotional) this impressive result got the attention of both fertility specialists and people with infertility.

Many further studies have confirmed what Paulus reported in 2002.  In 2006 a study found that acupuncture during the second half of the menstrual cycle more than doubled pregnancy rates (33.6% vs 15.6%) for women undergoing IVF or ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection – a type of IVF).  A second study in 2006 reported that acupuncture on the day of IVF embryo transfer (with acupuncture treatment administered both before and after the transfer) increased pregnancy rates from 26% to 39%.

These studies and many others like them demonstrate the profound impact acupuncture can have during assisted reproductive technology procedures.

Acupuncture and Female Infertility

Female factor infertility is implicated in half of all couples with difficulty conceiving.  There are many lifestyle, physical and hormonal issues that can lead to female fertility concerns.  Lack of ovulation, luteal phase defect, endometriosis, prolonged menstrual cycle, shortened menstrual cycle, polycystic ovarian syndrome, uterine fibroids, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, recurrent miscarriage, pelvic inflammatory disease and unexplained fertility can all be addressed with acupuncture treatment.

How can acupuncture do all these diverse things?  Acupuncture works on multiple systems in our body with widespread and diverse effects.  Some of the ways acupuncture impacts fertility include:

  1. Regulate the hormone cycle: Acupuncture can regulate and support a balanced hormone cycle with a regular 27-30 day cycle, good quality fertile mucus, pain free ovulation, minimal premenstrual symptoms and a pain free period with appropriate bleeding (colour, quantity, no clots).
  2. Regulate ovulation: Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Herbal therapies support ovulation occurring regularly on day 13 to 15 of a regular cycle, indicating that the egg is being released at its optimal developmental time.
  3. Increase blood flow to the uterus and ovaries: Acupuncture increases the blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, enhancing thickness and quality of the uterine lining, decreasing IVF failure and recurrent miscarriage. No medication currently exists that can increase blood flow to the uterus – acupuncture is the only intervention that has been shown to consistently have this effect.
  4. Enhance egg development: Clinically acupuncture has been shown to positively influence the integrity of eggs released – this may be due to increasing the blood supply to the developing follicles or by increasing the nutritional supply to the egg via the fluids that surround and nourish it.
  5. Enhance the internal environment of the fallopian tubes: Acupuncture aims to improve the elasticity and the secretions of the fallopian tubes, facilitating the passage of the fertilized egg into the uterus.
  6. Promote embryo implantation: Acupuncture used during IVF results in higher rates of viable pregnancy.  Additionally, acupuncture was found in a 2004 study by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine to lower miscarriage, reduce tubal pregnancy and increase live birth rate.
  7. Correct hormonal imbalances: Acupuncture can be used to influence hormonal secretion at the level of the pituitary, hypothalamus, thyroid, adrenals or ovaries.  Acupuncture can balance excess or deficient hormone levels and support a hormonal state that allows pregnancy to occur and proceed naturally.
  8. Decrease stress and enhance maternal health during fertility treatments and pregnancy: Stress is one of many factors that may negatively impact fertility.   Acupuncture treatments have been shown to decrease stress during fertility treatments and can support a balanced, healthy lifestyle for the mother.

Acupuncture and Male Infertility

Male factor infertility is also implicated in half of all infertile couples.  Male fertility requires three important features: adequate production of sperm in the testes, a clear path for sperm to travel through the seminal tract, and satisfactory delivery of the sperm to the waiting egg.  Low sperm count, poor sperm motility, poor sperm morphology (shape), anti-sperm antibodies, and low testosterone are all imbalances that may be addressed through acupuncture, usually in combination with nutritional and herbal supplements.

Acupuncture Treatments

Acupuncture treatments are tailored to your personal imbalance.  The timing and frequency of acupuncture sessions depends on your health and fertility concerns, your age, your menstrual cycle and your current state of balance/imbalance.  For women undergoing ART it is recommended in clinical studies that you begin having acupuncture a minimum of 8-12 weeks prior to IVF procedures.

Acupuncture points are selected based on clinically proven protocols (Paulus protocol, Stener-Victorin protocol), as well as points based on Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnoses and indications.  Your individual acupuncture point prescription may vary with your menstrual cycle, with different points being used based on the timing and length of your cycle.

For women undergoing IVF, your Naturopathic Doctor can accompany you on the day of embryo transfer to administer acupuncture before and after your procedure.  Discuss the option of on-site acupuncture with Dr. Watson in the weeks prior to your procedure.

Is Acupuncture Right for You?

The best way to determine if acupuncture is right for you is to have a consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor who is experienced in the treatment of fertility and proficient in acupuncture.  Dr. Lisa Watson offers free 15 minute consultations during which time you can ask questions regarding acupuncture and fertility and whether or not it would be recommended for you.

References

Betts D. The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth.  2006.

Dieterle, S., et al. Effect of acupuncture on the outcome of in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection: a randomized, prospective, controlled clinical study. Fertil Steril. 2006 May;85(5):1347- 51.

Gurfinkel E, et al. “Effects of acupuncture and moxa treatment in patients with semen abnormalities.” Asian J Androl. 2003 Dec;5(4):345-8.

Johnson D.  “Acupuncture prior to and at embryo transfer in an assisted conception unit – a case series.” Acupunct Med. 2006:24(1):23-28.

Kirkey S.  Infertility rates rising for Canadian couples.  Postmedia news.  February 15, 2012.  Accessed online May 22, 2012.  Available online at: http://www.canada.com/health/Infertility+rates+rising+Canadian+couples/6157547/story.html

Paulus WE, Zhang M, Strehler E, El-Danasouri I, Sterzik K. Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertil Steril 2002;77(4):721-4.

Stener-Victorin E, et al. “Use of acupuncture in female infertility and a summary of recent acupuncture studies related to embryo transfer. Acupunct Med. 2006 Dec;24(4):157-63. Review.

Westergaard. LG, et al. “Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial.” Fertil Steril. 2006 May;85(5):1341-6.

Zhang, M, et al. “Influence of acupuncture on idiopathic male infertility in assisted reproductive technology.” J Huazhong Univ Sci Technolog Med Sci. 2002;22(3):228-30.