If you have had difficulty in conceiving then you will be keen to give yourself the best chance of becoming pregnant possible. You will have probably looked into making changes to your life that will help, such as improving your diet, keeping at your optimal weight and reducing unnecessary stress. You may have also looked into using treatments such as acupuncture and are not sure what this involves. You might have many questions, such as will it hurt? Will it be expensive? Well I can say that most women do not find acupuncture painful, and I try to keep the cost down as much as possible so that acupuncture is affordable to most couples. Another common question relates to how many treatments will be needed. The answer is that there is no fixed or optimal number of treatments as every woman is unique and is on her own personal fertility journey.
Like most changes you will be making to improve your chances of conceiving, the earlier you start the better. You need to give your body a chance to change. It takes 3 months for your eggs to mature, so making changes to improve your egg quality over that period of time will give you the feeling that you have tried your best and given yourself the best chance possible of becoming pregnant.
From my own experience of working with women who are trying to conceive, I suggest a series of weekly treatments which are spaced out to fortnightly and then monthly as progress is made. This progress may be physical and emotional in nature. You may see a change in your periods, with them settling into a regular cycle with less period pain, or it could be positive changes to your digestion or sleep. As treatment progresses, you may feel less anxious and more positive not only about trying to conceive but about life in general.
If the woman is planning on using assisted reproduction technology, such as IUI or IVF, we would try to time the acupuncture treatments to optimise her chances of falling pregnant. This might mean scheduling a session before egg collection and as close to embryo transfer as possible. Some women really appreciate coming along for some acupuncture during the difficult two-week waiting period to see whether they have conceived, and we can focus on selecting acupuncture points to calm the mind and keep you on an emotional even keel.
A review of studies looking into how acupuncture is used to support patients undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) was published in February this year in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine and it showed that two or three acupuncture sessions performed on or around the day of embryo transfer are insufficient interventions to improve IVF birth outcomes but do provide a significant reduction in IVF-related stress. The evidence does suggest that several acupuncture sessions can improve endometrial thickness, reduce stress, and improve patient satisfaction. They go on to point out that observational studies showed that more acupuncture sessions are associated with increases in clinical pregnancy and live birth rates.
The common problems of trying to assess acupuncture in the same way we assess the effectiveness of a pill are mentioned by the authors of this review, namely that we don’t have a realistic placebo in the same way we can use ‘pretend’ pills. They also call for more studies into technique and the optimal number of sessions. For me, there needs to be explicit mention of the skill and experience of the acupuncturists working in these studies and recognition that as every woman is different, there is unlikely to be a ‘one size fits all’ treatment protocol or technique.
If you would like to talk about how acupuncture might help you in your fertility journey then feel free to get in touch. My telephone number is 07815 097473 and you can email me on Rachel@racheledney.co.uk.
Just a bit about me: I have a degree in biological sciences and worked for 15 years writing training materials for doctors on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry. I decided to retrain as an acupuncturist after experiencing for myself the profound impact acupuncture can have in helping a person get well and stay well. I trained in London and was awarded a Licentiate in Acupuncture in 2005. I continued my postgraduate studies at the College of Traditional Acupuncture in Leamington Spa, and have received specialized training in fertility acupuncture.
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