Acupuncture for Women’s Health & Infertility

Acupuncture for infertility, acupuncture for hormone imbalance, acupuncture for menopause

 

“Women’s Health” means anything related to the health of systems that are unique to women because of our ability to reproduce; basically our reproductive organs and the hormonal cycles related to menstruation  and the ceasing of menstruation, or menopause.  Many woman ask, “But if my hormones are out of balance, then how can Chinese medicine help?”  That’s a great question! Read on to find out more about how we work with all these issues. (For info specifically related to menstruation, see my gynecology page.)

Acupuncture for Infertility

I decided to become a specialist in infertility after years of noting that many of my patients coming to me for separate issues — who also informed me that they had been trying unsuccessfully for a year or more to get pregnant — would suddenly becoming pregnant shortly after starting acupuncture treatment. I have since gone on to study under some of the leading Chinese Medicine infertility specialists, am a Fellow of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM), and infertility cases make up a large and successful portion of my practice.

How does Chinese Medicine work for infertility?

Fertility is not just related to having good ovarian reserve, although that is one of the most important issues we address and improve, especially in older women. It also depends on hormone regulation, because correct levels of estrogen and progesterone mean ovulation is occurring, the cervical and fallopian tube mucous is suitable for smooth motility of sperm and egg, there is good endometrial thickness, and high likeliness of successful implantation in the uterus.  Stress is also a huge component, because when we’re stressed, hormone signaling from the pituitary to the ovaries to bring ovulation can be impaired; and everything tenses up and gets blocked, which can impair both the release of the egg from the follicle, as well as the egg’s flow through the fallopian tubes. These are just a few of the many aspects that are addressed and corrected with acupuncture and herbs. Research continues to show that Chinese medicine dramatically improves egg quality and responsiveness to hormone stimulation, which is especially important in women over 35.

If there are issues with sperm count or motility, acupuncture and herbs work very well for this also.

I have women start taking their basal body temperature throughout the month so we can observe subtle changes in cycle that give us important clues into where their imbalances lie which are contributing to the problem.  I also have her monitor other changes (such as cervical mucous) through the month which indicate to me her state of balance between yin, yang, (correlated with estrogen and progesterone among other things) and other components that when balanced should result in easy pregnancy and a healthy pregnancy and birth.  As the months of treatment go by, we witness improvement in all the markers we are monitoring.  Often, a woman that has a spotty history of ovulation will very quickly, even in the first few months, begin to ovulate naturally.

In my experience, it takes an average of 3 to 6 months of regular treatment before conception.  Each woman will be evaluated individually, and in some cases will be asked to bring in any diagnostic bloodwork or imaging that she has had done. We will fit these lab results into her Chinese Medical diagnosis and watch for them to improve over the cycles of treatment. Generally, once we can get the menstrual cycle to normalize, with signs that egg quality and quantity have improved, cervical and fallopian mucous is healthy, and there’s a good endometrial lining; conception and a healthy pregnancy are the natural outcomes. For women with recurrent miscarriage or PCOS with no or very weak and rare signs of ovulation, we still see good results, but the treatment must typically be longer and requires patience! A very thorough evaluation to ask all these questions will be done at your first visit, and a treatment plan created that is customized to fit your cycles and history. In some cases I will recommend that a woman NOT attempt pregnancy for a time so we can improve her egg quality, hormones, and endometrium, thus decreasing her risk of miscarriage.

If it is necessary, I will also address nutrition, as this can be a crucial part of treatment as well.  Often women don’t realize it, but the foods they’re eating could be creating so much stagnation, blockage, or weakness in their system, that they’re preventing conception from being able to occur.

If after Chinese medical treatment a woman still needs to resort to ART, all is not lost, as typically a woman who may have been a poor responder to drug stimulation in the past now responds much better, needs lower dosages of drugs, and has less side effects; allowing her to tolerate the western treatment options much better and increasing her chances of success, thereby decreasing the time, cost, and stress involved with multiple ART cycles. A woman who would have had much poorer egg quality before treatment is now poised to have better eggs collected that will develop into better and more viable embryos.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs not only help with successful results, but with the stress and anxiety that go along with this delicate health issue.  And because it helps to actually resolve the underlying causes of the infertility as opposed to just circumnavigating them, the prospective mother is poised to be at her best when the little one does come along, instead of being frazzled and unbalanced from invasive and stressful procedures.

Acupuncture for hormone imbalance

Acupuncture has a regulatory effect on the body.  We call it “balancing”. Studies have shown that when hormonal blood panels were taken before and after a course of acupuncture, they improved or even completely balanced themselves out. It is common for women to come to their first appointment with their irregular hormonal test results, and have those improve on retesting as the months of treatment go by.  Like everything related to actual healing, if she’s looking for an instant, or “bulldozer” effect, acupuncture is not going to be the answer. It takes time for body to “reset” itself when we’re working naturally.  Luckily, in the meantime as she’s improving she can expect to experience better energy, moods, sleep, more regular and/or less painful cycles; and just in general an improvement to the symptoms that brought her in.  You do not have to be completely “balanced” or healed to start feeling noticeable results.

The good news is, while “imbalanced hormones” may be what brings a woman in, as an acupuncturist I’m not just interested in resolving symptoms, but in resolving the underlying imbalances that were causing the symptoms, so that those same imbalances can’t progress further over time and turn into other worse symptoms or diseases.  So we’re working not only on resolution of symptoms, but on prevention.

To schedule an appointment to deal with any women’s heath issue, click here: online scheduling

Acupuncture for menopause

Some women report that one day they simply stopped bleeding. There were no hot flashes, mood swings, nights of insomnia, etc. That is a woman with her yin and yang in balance.  Unfortunately, most of us are not that balanced, and stress, nutrition, and our general state of health are going to determine what menopause is like for us.  Acupuncture and herbal medicines work to harmonize our systems, balancing the female qualities (yin) which cool and calm us down and nourish us, with the masculine qualities (yang) which warm us up and energize us.  When these two are in harmony, we have good energy throughout the day, we are not fatigued or restless or too hot or cold, and when night comes we can settle down and sleep peacefully. Menopause is a classic period of life where our Yin reaches critical levels of depletion (being a female quality, and waning as we age), so we tend to lack the Yin qualities, which would otherwise keep us cool and calm.  This is a simplification of a complex imbalance, but an example of how we work with the body to restore balance.

Herbs are especially great for replenishing “depleted” conditions such as this. While acupuncture works well to move and stimulate stuck, tense, blocked energy; herbs really excel in replacing what is gone, such as yin in menopausal situations. It is common for a woman to come for a series of acupuncture treatment right at the beginning, to start herbs, and then to back off on the acupuncture as her symptoms improve or resolve but then stay on herbs ongoingly through the transition of menopause, only coming in for regular “tune up” treatments or for short herb refill consultations to get her herbs represcribed.

As with every case, in  my practice this woman would also be getting any other issues addressed/resolved, such as digestive complains, migraines, etc.