We all have problems with our health from time to time, but when we're trying to conceive it can be extremely beneficial or even crucial to gain extra support to establish optimum physical and emotional wellbeing and create ideal conditions for a healthy pregnancy.
As well as a large number of scientific studies confirming the effectiveness of acupuncture as an aid to fertility, it has received a lot of positive press in recent years, quoting celebrities such as Kate Winslet, Mariah Carey and Davina McCall as looking to acupuncture for help with conceiving and throughout pregnancy.
Here's a handy overview of how it can help both men and women in terms of making babies.
Common reasons for seeking fertility support with acupuncture
Menstrual and gynaecological difficulties including:
- PCO (polycystic ovaries) or PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
- irregular periods
- absence of menses and/or ovulation
- low libido
- recurrent miscarriage
Men's health issues such as:
- low sperm count
- poor sperm mobility
- erectile dysfunction
- libido problems
Assistance with IVF treatment:
- regulation of ovulation and menstrual cycle
- support on either side of embryo transfer
- creation of optimum conditions for successful embryo implantation
- management of side effects from hormone therapy and medication
- alleviation of anxiety and/or stress
How and why acupuncture can help
Chinese Medicine looks at all aspects of health and wellbeing as well as the main condition compelling someone to come for treatment; this means that all environmental, physiological and psychological factors influencing reproductive health will be addressed and treated alongside targeting any other specific issues.
There are many aspects of our physiology that contribute to the ability to conceive and promote healthy pregnancy. In Chinese Medical (CM) theory, the Kidneys play a major role in conception, pregnancy and foetal development; they are the foundation of our physical constitution and also have a huge bearing on the health of our sexual and reproductive organs. Additionally, in CM theory, they are significantly depleted by stress*. Therefore, supporting the Kidneys, alongside any other relevant systems and conditions, is incredibly useful when addressing fertility issues.
As well as individually tailored treatment programmes for specific health needs, diet and lifestyle advice may be given to support the process. Treatment will normally aim to:
- improve the health of the lower abdomen including sexual and reproductive organs
- balance hormones and support the endocrine system**
- regulate the menstrual cycle
- calm the mind and ease stress and anxiety
- strengthen the Kidneys
- act as a support to any medical treatment including IVF
- establish optimum conditions for embryo implantation and pregnancy
- address any issues with sperm count and mobility
* also, in modern medicine we know that the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys, are responsible for the production of adrenalin and corticosteroids (the hormones produced during stressful periods), these adversely affect the balance of other hormones including those responsible for ovulation, menstruation and sperm production
** the collection of glands that secrete hormones - including the ovaries and testes
A few practical things that can improve fertility
- get a good night's sleep - studies have found that sleep 'debt' can adversely affect our endocrine system which in turn has a knock-on effect on our ability to conceive - aiming for 7-8 hours a night is best (for more information on studies conducted see these articles in the Lancet and the Huffington Post)
- practice meditation or mindfulness - this can be hugely beneficial for reducing stress and improving sleep - both key in regulating hormones - to download my free relaxing meditation see the sign-up box on my homepage
- eat your greens - eating plenty of vegetables, especially dark green veg (these are high in iron and folic acid) and dark purple berries (these are high in antioxidants) along with protein (preferably organic meat, fish and pulses / legumes) are very useful for supporting the optimal conditions for conception and pregnancy
- eliminate or significantly reduce toxins - alcohol, caffeine, refined sugar and nicotine can have a detrimental impact on your hormonal balance
- incorporate exercise into your life - get moving as often as you can throughout your week doing activities such as yoga, tai chi, qigong, dancing, walking and swimming - this can help to reduce stress, improve your overall health, build up your energy reserves and help you get a good night's sleep