The ancient wisdom of Acupuncture for women’s health
Chinese Medicine recognises women’s particular health issues and has been treating them for about two thousand years. Increasingly, Western medical science recognises the role that Chinese Medicine can play in our health and as a result Acupuncture is widely used not only in private acupuncture clinics such as my own, but also in conventional medical settings around the world, such as the more progressive fertility clinics and maternity hospitals.
Acupuncture – The natural way to improve your fertility, manage your pregnancy, and thrive through menopause
Most women – in fact most people – don’t want to resort to medical treatment to manage their health unless they really have to, and this is especially true when they are trying to conceive, manage their pregnancy, or manage menopausal symptoms. There are many good reasons to take this approach, and also it just makes sense to get your body to work as well as it can, naturally, before resorting to interventions or drugs. Fortunately, Acupuncture can help women do just that.
How does Acupuncture help fertility, pregnancy and menopause?
Acupuncture is thought to have substantial effects on the reproductive through several mechanisms. Broadly, the hypothesis is that Acupuncture modulates endogenous regulatory systems, including the sympathetic nervous system, the endocrine system, and the neuroendocrine system. More specifically, research suggests that it –
- inhibits the sympathetic nervous system via the endorphin system (reduces effects of stress on the reproductive system)
- regulates FSH, LH and androgens via the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (stimulates the ovaries, increases follicle numbers and oestrogen levels, induces ovulation, moderates fluctuations that cause menopausal symptoms)
- increases blood flow to the ovaries, controls hyperglycaemia, reduces cortisol levels (moderates endocrine disorders such as PCOS)
- exerts an inhibitory effect on uterine spasms, promoting uterine blood flow and therefore improving endometrial receptivity (reduces period pains, improves endometrial condition and thickness, relaxes spasms in the uterus associated with stress and Artificial Reproductive Technologies)
(See a summary of the research here)
How much Acupuncture treatment will be needed?
As a rough guideline:
- If you are trying to conceive naturally you should be expected to be treated for up to 6 months.
- If you are using Acupuncture to support IVF, IUI, ICSI then you should ideally seek Acupuncture treatment 3 months before starting and continue treatment until a successful outcome.
- If you are experiencing problems during pregnancy, these might resolve very quickly, or may need ongoing treatment until delivery.
- If you are going through the menopause, you may need anything from a handful of treatments to ongoing treatment, or a series or courses, until you are safely on the other side of the transition.
The benefits of Acupuncture for infertility, pregnancy and menopause:
- Acupuncture is a proven treatment for the hormonal fluctuations that cause a host of problems including infertility, PMT, painful periods, irregular periods, headaches, menopausal mood swings, insomnia and hot flushes.
- Acupuncture is proven to improve the success rates of IVF.
- consultation includes advice on lifestyle, diet and nutritional supplements
- Acupuncture works with your constitution, menstrual cycle, or life stage, and helps you to manage your health naturally, rather than over-riding it with drugs.
- Acupuncture is natural, drug free, low risk, has no side effects, and is safe when trying to conceive, while pregnant or breast feeding
- Acupuncture can eliminate or reduce your need for medication, and ease the side effects of any drugs that are necessary
- if you have health insurance your Acupuncture treatments will normally be recognised and you will receive reimbursement for some or all of your treatments
The disadvantages of Acupuncture for infertility, pregnancy and menopause:
- while individual treatment costs are comparable with other therapies and visits to GPs, these can mount up over a longer course of treatment
- if you don’t like needles, this is not the treatment for you
- it can be time consuming to attend for one or more treatments per week
What kinds of fertility, pregnancy and menopausal problems can be treated effectively with Acupuncture?
- severe PMT
- irregular or problematic periods
- unexplained infertility
- pregnant and experiencing problems like back pain or sciatica
- pregnant, approaching delivery date, and hoping to have a ‘good’ labour experience
- breeched baby
- Polycystic Ovary Syndromeor Endometriosis
- undergoing IVF, ICSI or IUI
- experiencing hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, forgetfulness and poor energy in association with perimenopause and menopause
Why you should consider Root & Branch Acupuncture for infertility treatment
One of the most common reasons for young women seeking Acupuncture treatment is for help to conceive. My approach to treatment is to combine the western understanding of what constitutes a fertile and ovulatory menstrual cycle, and combine this with a Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis. So, I teach clients how to understand their cycle using Basal Body Temperature recording. Taking your BBT is much more accurate than ovulation kits in predicting your particular ‘fertile window’, and being aware of this window has been proven to halve the time it takes normal, healthy couples to conceive, which can be over 12 months. Moreover, although there are plenty ‘Apps’ on the market that claim to show your fertile window, not all are accurate. Lastly, you’ll need to understand the factors within your control that can affect your fertility and inhibit conception. Therefore, as part of your consultation and treatment I will teach you:
- How to accurately record your basal body temperatures (BBT) in order to understand your cycle
- The most important signs that indicate your fertile window
- How to understand whether your cycle is actually fertile and ovulatory, or if there is a problem.
If a problem with your cycle is identified, you should expect to be treated for up to 6 months in order to address the problem. If your cycle is generally healthy, I may recommend a course of treatment to address other aspects of your health in order to optimise your wellbeing. For example, stress may be adversely affecting your health and contributing to so-called ‘unexplained infertility’.
If you or your partner face particular problems and are undergoing IVF, ICSI or IUI, (Assisted Reproductive Technologies), I will tailor what Acupuncture has to offer to support your particular needs in the best way possible. Importantly, Acupuncture has been proven to significantly increase the chances of a successful IVF outcome.
Broadly, whatever your problem, my aim is to help you optimise your reproductive health. This means:
- discussing your diet, stress levels and lifestyle, and reviewing these in the context of not only Chinese medicine but also the latest western research and health advice. Recommendations on suitable supplements for you and your partner will be made if necessary.
- understanding your medical history and any treatments or tests that you have had.
Contact Mairi Caughey
Dip Ac, CAc, Lic Ac (Nanjing), Dip TCM Obstetrics and Gynaecology (Acupuncture)