Get Pregnant + Improve IVF Success With Acupuncture
It may seem pretty wild that becoming a human porcupine can help put a baby in your belly but it's becoming more and more scientifically recognized that acupuncture improves fertility and pregnancy outcomes.
[Keep in mind studies only get researched/published when there's money to fund it. Government grants, non-profits or large companies doing research & development are often the ones who fund research projects. Until recently there wasn't much interest in researching acupuncture but the more our society looks towards natural, pharma-free methods of healing, the more this type of research will hopefully explored!]
So I'm sure you may be wondering...
how in the heck do those little Stabby McStabberson's help you make a baby?
Our bod's are designed to stay in balance via homeostasis. They are designed to heal, repair and regenerate. Our modern lifestyles are full of unnatural habits and foods that throw us out-of-balance with our internal and external environments and create an environment that is not ideal for healing.
Acupuncture helps support the body's homeostatic abilities by getting us into a state where we can heal and grow (it's called the parasympathetic or rest + digest). When you're in a stressed fight-flight-freeze state (aka sympathetic), your body's focus is on survival: the blood flow goes away from your vital organs and to your muscles in preparation to run or fight, not to digest food or heal the inflammation in your gut or brain.
We live in a society that applauds "busy-ness" and multi-tasking. It's worn like a badge of honor. We stay up late scrolling the 'gram and eat fast, processed foods because we don't make the time to make our own meals.
-1/4 of American's report having sleep issues
(sleep is when our bod's do most internal repair)
-3/4 report digestive issues
("you are what you digest" is the new "you are what you eat"
'Digestion' = turning food into energy
Crap food = Poor energy
Poor digestion = Poor energy production)
-3/4 report having severe stress that affects their health
(many people use alcohol, weed or pharmaceuticals to help manage this stress)
No wonder 1 in 8 couples are having trouble getting pregnant!
Our bodies are run down and out-of-whack! So now imagine that on top of trying to internally heal and repair the repercussions of modern day life, your body is also trying to create a whole 'nother being!
Our goal with acupuncture is to get your body running like the well-oiled machine it's designed to be in order to create, nourish and maintain a new life. That's why each individual has a unique treatment plan when it comes to acupuncture. We assess what is happening within YOUR body and rebalance whatever is off-kilter.
Acupuncture has been shown to work in a few different ways:
1. Calms the nervous system
TTC is stressful AF! So is the IVF process. Many say that ttc is one of the most stressful events of their life. Stress can lead to a decline in blood flow to the uterus and ovaries. Acupuncture down-regulates or calms the nervous system which then causes blood vessels to dilate (see below). Research shows that when needles are placed in the skin, the body releases its own natural pain killers (endorphins). Endorphins are responsible for the relaxed feeling one gets after a session. It causes your muscles to relax, your breathing to slow, and your mind to calm... and let's be real, we can all use a little calm these days!
2. Improves blood flow to the ovaries and the uterus.
Blood is our nourishing life force. It contains all the necessary materials for us to heal, move and grow. One of our first orders of business is to be sure your reproductive organs are gettin' enough juice. If it ain't movin' and flowin' like it should, we may experience irregular periods, cramps, clots, and other things that complicate our ability to get pregnant. Increased ovarian blood flow can also help with response to fertility medications. Increased uterine blood flow ensures a thick uterine lining and sets up an ideal environment for implantation. Better response, better eggs, better lining. BOOM!
3. Relaxes uterine spasms.
This is important since lowered uterine contraction frequency during IVF embryo transfer time is correlated with improved pregnancy rates.
4. Regulates hormones
Hormones play an integral role in a variety of functions in your body, including metabolism, sleep-wake cycles, and..... reproduction. Hormone imbalances account for around 30% of women requiring IVF.
Growing a human involves a very specific cascade or domino effect of chemical reactions within the bod <imagine a Rube Goldberg mechanism>. If one part of this is off, baby-makin' doesn't occur or fails. This is why your doctor frequently tests your hormone levels to make sure they are where they need to be.
Research shows that acupuncture:
Regulates the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Ovarian axis which is crucial to regulating the menstrual cycle
Reduces elevated Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) which, when elevated, indicates the ovaries are not working correctly
Reduces hormones that interfere with ovulation like Testosterone and Inhibin B for those with PCOS
By regulating reproductive hormones, acupuncture can regulate your menstrual cycle, ensure your uterine lining is nourished and prepped for implantation and regulate ovulation if it is irregular or absent.
5. Decreases Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is an altered metabolic process that can have damaging affects on both the menstrual cycle and ovulation. When your body is insulin resistant it doesn't metabolize the blood sugar appropriately. This can lead to high blood sugar and an increase in hormones like testosterone that can cause irregular periods and may halt ovulation completely. A 2013 study led by Dr. Stener-Victorin found that acupuncture decreased insulin resistance, thereby decreasing androgens, regulating hormone balance, and increasing ovulation.
6. Promote Ovulation
By regulating reproductive hormones and by decreasing insulin resistance, acupuncture is able to promote and regulate ovulation.
What acupuncture does in a nutshell is: OPTIMIZES YOUR BODY'S NATURAL FUNCTIONALITY aka makes shit work like it's supposed to.
If you're planning on getting pregnant or starting IVF/IUI, I recommend to incorporate healthier habits (and acupuncture) SIX MONTHS before you conceive.
WHOA. Six months??
I know, I know, stay with me sister (or brother)! I know you'd like to get pregnant right meow and the pregnancy waiting game can be INCREDIBLY frustrating.
Imagine this though, an egg takes 90 days (3 months) to mature before ovulation, which means what you put into and how you treat your body for the 3+ months prior to it maturing has a HOOGE effect on the quality of that egg-o!
If you've struggled with fertility in the past, then you KNOW how important egg quality is. We want to give your body the best chance at conception and if the terrain within the body isn't right, you can experience challenges with conceiving, implantation or even staying pregnant. That's why we wanna be a BAMF when it comes to our health to make sure our eggs are top-notch, grade A quality baby-makers.
In addition to that, it usually takes 3+ months to regulate an irregular period, reduce symptoms of PCOS, endometriosis, or other conditions that can complicate getting + staying pregnant. My treatment protocols for women's health and fertility include a combination of acupuncture, herbs, cold laser, supplements, and/or lifestyle changes.
Six months is IDEAL.
Three months is do-able.
We want to make this a warm, welcoming place to grow a baby. Imagine it like getting your home ready for guests to come and stay. We wanna get things cleaned up, fixed up and in tip-top shape before the lil' munchkin stays for a few semesters abroad (in-broad? heh heh).
I'll be honest though -- most women that come into my office don't have six months. They often don't have three months. They've generally already been trying for awhile and are ready to have that baby yesterday.
But whatever timeline we are presented with, acupuncture can still help.
acu is still beneficial if you've already started your ivf cycle
If you've found yourself here, I'm sure you've gone down or are currently in a rabbit hole of what you can do to improve your pregnancy or IVF success rate. When we look at the research for improving IVF success with acupuncture, it can be a little confusing.
In some studies, acupuncture performed on the day of the embryo transfer improved pregnancy rates (when compared to a control), while in other studies, investigators saw no difference in pregnancy rates.
How can we explain this?
Good scientific studies are designed to be controlled in order to get reproducible outcomes. The problem with putting these parameters on acupuncture is that each person's body and problem is different and using the same treatment on everyone (which proves for a good study but not good for individual health) prevents us from getting the results we would in a real life acupuncture clinic. Read more about the limitations of the scientific method on acupuncture here.
In addition to that, I think most studies are based around the wrong “dosage” of acupuncture. Just like the right dose of medicine is required to relieve pain or stimulate your ovaries, so is the correct dosage of acupuncture. I always tell my patients it's not a one-hit-wonder and although it can be helpful to do it just for the transfer, I would recommend starting much, much earlier if possible.
In this study, they looked at five years of data on women who:
A) did IVF alone (no acupuncture)
B) added acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer
C) had acupuncture during their IVF cycles, around 13 - 15 sessions
Group C, the women with multiple acupuncture sessions were twice as likely to have a baby compared to group A, those who had no acupuncture at all.
Group C was also 60% more likely to have a successful pregnancy when compared with group B, the women who just had two acupuncture treatments on the day of embryo transfer.
Acupuncture improved the outcomes of both B and C but the key to group C's increased success rate was that they received more treatment.
Like I said above, no matter where you are in your journey, acu can still help! You will still be increasing your chances even if you're only able to get acupuncture pre and post transfer.
But if you haven't started the process and are just thinking about it, the more time you have to prepare your body, the better your outcome will be.
It's still beneficial once you get pregnant
Once you get preggo, you obviously want to stay preggo (well for 9 months anyways). Acupuncture helps maintain that nice, cozy womb for the babe to grow in. It also helps treat morning sickness, back pain, swelling, and constipation. This is a time when most pharmaceuticals (pain/anti-inflammatory meds) are frowned upon so acupuncture is a heaven-sent, safe and side-effect-free treatment modality! It is also shown to help reduce labor time and complications.
It's even beneficial post-pregnancy to help reduce post-partum symptoms
The birthing process requires a lot of Qi (aka "energy or life force" -- PUUUUUUUSHHHH -- yeah, that's gonna take a lotta energy!) and blood loss. These are the two "substances" we work with most in Chinese medicine as they provide the energy and nourishment that our body requires to be alive.
Ever hear someone say, "I've had _____ <migraines, back pain, ringing in the ears, urinary incontinence, constipation.... fill in the blank> ever since I had Henry/Becky/Marsha".
From a Chi Med point of view, that's because that massive Qi and blood loss during birth was never nourished or replaced and it is now causing lasting symptoms. This is why it's important to learn how to rest and rebuild your body post-bebe with acupuncture and other methods you can learn about in this book The First Forty Days.
The moral of today's story is that...
acupuncture is amazing for pregnancy
NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE IN YOUR JOURNEY!
and PS: You ain't the only one who should be getting poked....
IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO.
Guys can and should get acupuncture for fertility too! Sperm quality is JUST as important as egg quality and not only do they benefit from making the same dietary and lifestyle changes as the soon-to-be mamacita but using acupuncture can help turn their lil swimmer's into a Michael Phelps phenomenon!
A common misconception is that female infertility is much more common than male. In reality, the male factor matches the female factor as a cause for infertility. Each accounts for a little over 30% of cases, while the remaining 30% of cases are attributed to either a mix of male and female factors or simply chalked up to “unexplained infertility.”
<insert eyeroll - leaves you with some unanswered questions... doesn't it?>
Guys tend to be a bit more reluctant to talk about fertility issues but getting daddy on deck throughout the entire process really helps improve BOTH of your health and wellbeing -- which is so beneficial when bringing in a new VIP into your fam!
<For the guy's who are reading this I want to thank you and commend you for doing your part and researching into how to best build-a-baby. Often times, the research and responsibility is pawned off on the woman so I apologize for any messages directed at the mama's that don't include you. I SEE YOU THO!>
Recent research shows that even after three weeks of treatment there were statistically significant improvements in sperm count, quality and motility. I highly recommend that men start their acupuncture treatments at the absolute, very least two weeks before sperm collection/egg retrieval in order to maximize your efforts for conception.
[If you wanna learn more about how to improve sperm quality, read this awesome
If we workin' on the egg fit-ness, it makes sense that we get those sperms into Barry's boot camp as well.
Ways acu help Big Poppa's fertility:
<No, his 'poker' will not be poked. Needles are placed in regular acu points on the arms/legs/hands/feet/head just like the women>
1. Increase blood flow and regulation
Just like there are acu points that the direct flow down low on the ladies, we use similar points to send the flow to destination: testicles, which is where male fertility is generally obstructed. Lé balls need good blood flow to deliver nutrients and remove any bodily materials that can damage or block sperm while they mature. Blood also keeps the scrotal sack cool, which is necessary for the temp-sensitive sperm production process.
2. Reduce Stress
Despite being from Mars, men are still human and experience stress just as we all do. Life is stressful. And when we don't manage our stress well, well... it shows up in other ways whether physically or emotionally.
In addition to the normal life stressors, getting preggo can be a stressful time for both men and women. The relationship dynamics when going through this process can be challenging if your partner is stressed, you too are likely to also become stressed. Acupuncture helps both mama and papa stay calm cool and collected even when the world seems to be spinning off its rocker.
3. Regulate Hormones
Let's not forget that stress has a direct relationship to hormone production and balance.
Ladies tend to be more on top of knowing their hormones are out-of-whack because:
a) women are more likely to talk about/be proactive about internal health problems
b) our periods can be an indicator that shows when something is off
c) women's health issues tend to be more publicly discussed than men's
This doesn't mean that men don't experience hormone issues, they often just go undiagnosed and under the radar for longer.
Testosterone is the most well known "male" hormone and the one that is most frequently tested in men. It's not the only player when it comes to fertility but it's one that can play a huge part not just in fertility, but mood, the physical body and emotions too. While its role varies at different ages, a few of the general benefits of healthy testosterone levels include:
Plenty of energy
Healthy sex drive
Increased muscle mass
If we understand what healthy levels of testosterone look like, the signs of low testosterone are fairly predictable and can include:
Sugar metabolism issues
Low sex drive
Irritability or mood swings
Reduction of muscle mass
As you can see, having healthy levels of hormones are so important for life in general so:
MEN, if you are feeling off, I recommend you speak to your doctor to do some lab work AND find yourself a local acupuncturist.
Acupuncture is becoming more popular among fertility patients because it helps you become healthier and have a greater sense of overall wellbeing. It's like rebooting your computer and downloading the updates on your phone (minus the glitchy Apple problems).
It's a safe and relaxing process that provides you with a much needed time-out from your busy week. It's one of MY favorite forms of self-care because not only are you resting during the process but you are also fine tuning the inner workings of your health (mind, body and spirit).
I hope this post was insightful. If you have any questions feel free to email me or message me on instagram!
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