I’ve been using acupuncture for fertility and pregnancy support with my patients for years. My success rate is fairly high – I like to joke that “I get girls pregnant like a boss!” – due in large part to a brilliant set of classes I had at OCOM, the #1 acupuncture school in the nation. We learned about all the different ways bodies can slip out of balance, and how to correct them. In the OB/GYN focused classes, we looked at how to coax the menstrual cycle back to regularity. We studied methods to encourage uterine wellness and the father’s vitality, too, increasing both sperm count and motility.* We learned how to support a pregnant woman’s body, and treat any pain she might have, without using the moving** points that could bring on a miscarriage. Of course, we learned the points we shouldn’t use with a pregnancy, and the one to bring on a “Precocious Baby” – that one you needle at the change of each trimester. As the due date approaches, we can turn a breech baby. We can even evict an overdue one – something that’s helped a few of my patients avoid a medical inducement.
But before we can worry about maintaining the health of a pregnancy, sometimes we have to use acupuncture for fertility to get us there. My patients have ranged from young, healthy women who were just eager to start their families, to older ladies who had endured unsuccessful IVF.
In 10 years of practice, I’ve only ever had two women fail to get pregnant. One turned out to have fallopian blockages. The other is still trying (after taking a year-long break), but has some complications we’re working with (UPDATE 2018: She’s now pregnant!) (SECOND UPDATE 2019: Look at this cute baby bear she made!)
Part of being a good practitioner is constant learning. I am taking a Continuing Education class now on acupuncture for fertility, and one of the big takeaways for me is how early you should start. I generally like a few months to even out the hormones and regulate the cycle, but this latest class pointed out something interesting about our eggs. They start to stir from their life-long slumber about 5 months before they are released. To truly give them the best blood flow and hormonal support, treatments should be ongoing during this ramp-up period.
“The dormant follicle is awakened from it’s primordial state of rest about 5 months before it will be selected for ovulation. It is at this time that the egg will start reacting with its environment. […] Hormone regulating factors in the ovary start to influence the content of the follicular fluid. Blood flow, nourishment and hormonal cues within the body influence the state of follicular fluid. Regulatory proteins, hormones and growth factors begin to appear about the time the egg starts to undergo division 3 months before it is released. If nourishment is poor, hormonal cues have been interrupted, or if the blood flow has been compromised the egg has less chance of being healthy. The egg’s health is determined during the growth phase when protein synthesis occurs.” Treatment of IVF and IUI with Acupuncture & Herbs, Sophie Butcher, LAc, FABORM
I’ve also learned a fantastic massage technique to shunt more bloodflow to the reproductive system. I can teach you this, so your partner can do it for you every day.
So… if you are looking to make a new human, think ahead. Stop smoking and drinking (yes, BOTH parents) a little earlier than expected. Clean up your diet so that egg gets all the vitamins and minerals it needs. And of course, if you need some help, acupuncture for fertility is a great option. It’s both less expensive and less invasive than IVF and IUI, and works beautifully to support those procedures if you do acupuncture with them.
I’d love to help you grow your family!
* The good news is that these points aren’t close to the genitalia. Men are often especially relieved to hear I only need access to the lower back, ankles, and ears.
**Chinese medicine considers most pain to be a form of energy (Qi) and/or blood stagnation. Points that move Qi and blood to clear that stagnation are extremely useful – but can be dangerous while carrying a child.