Acupuncture for Fertility when using Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
So, you’ve been trying to conceive and it hasn’t happened for you yet. You are on the ART treadmill and looking at the success rates. Perhaps someone has mentioned to you that they had Acupuncture and they felt that it really helped them, or perhaps you are just looking for something to increase your chances. The good news is that studies show that acupuncture can increase your chances of pregnancy when undergoing IVF, ICSI or IUI.
Going through IUI, IVF or ICSI can be a very stressful time, due to the waiting to find out results, as well as dealing with side effects from the medications. One of the hardest parts of the process is not knowing what is going to happen between embryo transfer (ET) and doing a pregnancy test. Here are some things that can help.
Exercise for fertility
Exercise is essential for good circulation but avoid exercise that causes strain on your abdomen or back, or excessively tiring exercise that raises core body temperature significantly. Walking is great, especially if it is somewhere that you find uplifting. Swimming can be good if done in a warm pool, I would recommend leaving cold water swimming for other times in your life. Yoga can also be wonderful especially when tailored to the time of your cycle (more energetic during your follicular phase and more restful during your luteal phase.) Rest is imperitive for regenerating blood and restoring vital energy levels but only once your circulation is good. Try and find the right balance for you between exercise and rest.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, one of the main factors for achieving a successful established pregnancy is ‘warmth in the uterus’. For this reason, avoid eating excessively cold food or drinks. Swimming in cold water is best avoided. Wear warm clothes, especially around the abdomen if the weather is cold.
Avoid excess heat for fertility
For fertility, as well as avoiding cold, it is also important to avoid anything that will significantly raise the body temperature such as: excessively hot baths, showers or saunas. Warm baths and showers and some gentle warmth on your abdomen can be a good idea, especially if you feel chilled, as long as any heat packs or hot water bottles are not too hot. Moxa heat packs are great if your lower abdomen feels cool to touch.
Nutrition for fertility
In order to give your body the best chance to have balanced hormones for fertility, it requires a good supply of the right nutrients. These come from a healthy, balanced diet. As much as possible eat nourishing warming plain fresh foods that are as seasonal, local and organic as possible. Avoid eating excessively cold or dry foods, especially in the winter. Don’t eat too much late at night. Make sure to maintain a good protein intake. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
Acupuncture for fertility
Acupuncture has been shown to increase live birth rates. I recommend acupuncture treatment for 3 months before starting ART/IUI/IVF/ICSI as this is the length of time it takes for an egg to mature and be released. Acupuncture helps by encouraging circulation of blood to the reproductive organs. Acupuncture has also been repeatedly shown to benefit implantation rates during IVF and ICSI cycles, so long as there is good preparation during the 3 months leading up to treatment and at the right times during the IVF or ICSI cycle.
Medical testing for fertility
As a Fertility Support Trained Acupuncturist, I can signpost you to medical tests to help explain “unexplained infertility”. As an independent fertility specialist, I undertake regular CPD (at least 15 hours per year relating to fertility) to keep up to date with the latest tests and techniques. In particular, I encourage investigation into male fertility as I frequently see that finding a problem and fixing it then allows the couple to fall pregnant either naturally or using IVF or ICSI after multiple failures. Other areas I often recommend looking into include thyroid health, reproductive immunology, endometriosis investigation and clotting disorders.
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Valerie Salt is an Acupuncturist and Naturopath specialising in male and female fertility and hormone health. She is based in Henleaze, Bristol. She has completed advanced training in Fertility and is proud to be a Fertility Support Trained Acupuncturist.