Acupuncture West London is a fully certified member of the Acupuncture Fertility Network (AFN). Membership to the AFN indicates a particular interest in the treatment of fertility with traditional acupuncture. All AFN practitioners have completed postgraduate-level training in gynaecology with a specific emphasis on training to support assisted protocols. AFN membership denotes a commitment to ongoing postgraduate study in the areas of fertility and gynaecology, working to maintain an understanding of all current treatment protocols.
WHAT DO OUR PATIENTS THINK?
“I’ve been seeing Ben for the last few months for fertility issues. I’m really happy with my sessions. As well as feeling relaxed after every session, my cycle has become much more regular and less painful. It’s even helped my digestion. Really amazed with the results.”
ACUPUNCTURE FOR FERTILITY & IN SUPPORT OF ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY (ART)
FERTILITY IN THE UK:
According to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), approximately 15% (1 in 7) of UK couples are currently affected by fertility problems. NICE defines ‘a fertility problem’ as a couple not being able to fall pregnant after two years of having regular unprotected sexual intercourse.
There are two basic categories of infertility:
- primary infertility – couples who have not previously conceived a child naturally, and
- secondary infertility – couples who have already conceived naturally but are struggling to conceive again.
CAUSES OF INFERTILITY:
According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and NICE, the primary causes of infertility within the UK are as follows:
(A) Female factors (32.5%).
- endometriosis (2.9%)
- multiple factors (5.9%)
- ovulatory disorders (8.9-25%)
- tubal damage or defects (15.3-20%)
- uterine disorders (0.4%)
- other (1.1%)
(B) Male Factors (30-32%)
(C) Multiple Male and Female Factors (10.8%)
(D) Unexplained infertility (no identifiable male or female cause) (23.1-25%)
With research suggesting that fertility problems are on the increase, more and more couples are turning to Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART) in an attempt to aid conception – the most common being IVF (In-Vitro Fertilisation) and ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection). However, success rates are highly variable.
IVF SUCCESS RATES:
According to statistics published by the NHS, IVF success rates are as follows:
- 29% for women under 35
- 23% for women aged 35 to 37
- 15% for women aged 38 to 39
- 9% for women aged 40 to 42
- 3% for women aged 43 to 44
- 2% for women aged over 44
However, research shows that acupuncture may improve the chances of conception by as much as 65%. Within this context, however, it is vital to highlight two key issues:
- several trials have also reported that acupuncture does not affect IVF success rates, and
- One must recognise that treatment within a Chinese medicine context focuses on the individual and is not a one-size-fits-all approach to medicine. It is impossible, therefore, to measure the efficacy of acupuncture within the western research model. Treatment must always be specific to each individual. With this in mind, results are unlikely to be repeatable using set treatment protocols.
FERTILITY AND CHINESE MEDICINE:
Within Chinese medicine, fertility is reliant on our Pre-Natal Essence, known as Jing, and Post-Natal Qi. As the root of Yin and Yang within the body, the Kidneys contain our Jing. Jing is considered to be the densest physical matter within the human body. Furthermore, it is said to be the material basis for the physical body. Jing is Yin in nature, which means that it nourishes, fuels, and cools the body. It is believed to be the carrier of our heritage (similar to DNA). Within this context, we are born with Jing; it is present at the time of our conception and is inherited directly from our parents and ancestors. Finally, it is vital for fertility and reproduction.
In contrast, our Post-Natal Essence comes from the food that we eat (Gu Qi) and the air that we breath (Da Qi). These are dependent on our lifestyles and are maintained by leading a life of moderation and balance. In Chinese medicine, these functions are governed by the Spleen and Lung, respectively. It is the job of Post-Natal Qi to support our Jing so that it doesn’t become depleted.
The quality of one’s Jing directly impacts one’s fertility. Furthermore, Jing becomes depleted as a part of the ageing process. Finally, the production of semen, in the man, and menstrual blood (or pregnancy), in the woman, are believed to place the most significant strains on our Jing.
With this in mind, the approach to acupuncture treatment should always be to support Jing and to build Post-Natal Qi and blood (Xue).
ACUPUNCTURE FOR FERTILITY:
Within a western context, the immediate aim of treatment should be to regulate your menstrual cycle and to address any underlying conditions such as the following:
- amenorrhoea (no menses)
- dysmenorrhoea (painful menstruation, typically involving abdominal cramps)
- endometriosis (a condition whereby endometrial tissue starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes)
- fibroids (abnormal benign growths that develop in or on a woman’s uterus)
- menorrhagia (menstrual periods with abnormally heavy or prolonged bleeding)
- metrorrhagia (bleeding at irregular intervals, particularly between menstrual periods)
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – PCOS (failure to ovulate or infrequent ovulation that leads to irregular or absent periods)
Understandably, this can take time, so we recommend that one seeks treatment at least three months before beginning any ART intervention. Treatment also looks to achieve the following goals:
- improve blood flow to the uterus
- reduce and manage stress levels
- mitigate and manage side effects from any medication
ACUPUNCTURE & ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY (ART):
As above, research shows that acupuncture may improve the chances of conception via IVF by as much as 65%. As Chinese medicine practitioners, we always endeavour to treat each patient’s unique constitutional requirements. However, we additionally incorporate research and evidence-based protocols pre and post embryo transfer; for example, the Paulus protocol.
The Paulus Protocol is a standardised acupuncture protocol used frequently in support of IVF patients. Research has shown that acupuncture treatments occurring either side of an embryo transfer may improve implantation success rates by as much as 60% – a 16.2% increase in a resulting pregnancy when compared to no intervention whatsoever.
When should I have acupuncture pre and post embryo transfer (ET)?
Due to the nature of ETs, it is often challenging to schedule appointments in advance. However, there is room for flexibility. Research suggests that acupuncture may be implemented up to twenty-four hours pre-ET and within forty-eight hours post-ET.
Can acupuncture help me?
The medical community’s research and opinion on acupuncture is mixed and often controversial. However, there is much high-quality research suggesting that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of fertility.
For the most up-to-date research and evidence on the efficacy of acupuncture, please visit the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) website.