Current statistics show that 20% of couples planning for a baby experience trouble conceiving, on top of this miscarriage rates number nearly 1 in 4 and 1 in 6 couples seek specialist help in trying for a child. In 25% of cases, no medical reason can be found for infertility.

It’s against this background that the use of assisted reproductive techniques (ART) is steadily rising. ART is the collective term for fertility treatments that include IVF, ICSI and IUI.

In recent years more and more women have chosen to include acupuncture to increase their chances of conception and the latest research shows that this is an effective strategy.

Acupuncture and IVF

Acupuncture prior to and during IVF treatment can help improve imbalances in health, strengthen the immune system and support the emotions. This allows the body to cope and tolerate tests, drug protocols and IVF procedures.

The constitutional health of the parents around the time of conception is passed on to your child; TCM has always taught that acupuncture can strengthen this genetic inheritance.

What is fertility, infertility and sub-fertility?

Normal fertility is the product of a finely orchestrated delivery of hormonal messengers which switch on and switch off physiological processes, the end result of which is conception.

Infertility is currently defined as ‘trying for a baby for 12 months without success’.

Although the word infertility has a very final ring to it, it’s more accurate to describe the problems that many people face as being due to sub-fertility, which in simple terms means that the reproductive system is functioning below par. This is where a programme of pre-conceptual care to optimise your health before conception can help.

Who do we see for help with Fertility?

Couples who have no fertility complications, but would like to provide the best possible start for their children.

Couples with either diagnosed and unexplained fertility issues.

Couples who have been trying to conceive for a while without success.

You may be using procedures such as IVF, ICSI or IUI who wish to improve their chances of successful conception.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) & Fertility

Orthodox fertility investigations have discovered that in 25% of cases, no medical reason can be found for infertility. The Chinese perspective provides an expanded understanding of the problem and potential solutions.

The aim of pre-conceptual care with TCM is to help you conceive naturally. Chinese medicine refers to the 12-month pregnancy, recognizing that it takes the strong shen (essence or spirit) of both parents to make a healthy baby. When we are not balanced or in harmony there will be blockages to fertility.

Many studies carried out in both China and the West show how effective Traditional Chinese Medicine can be at correcting reproductive health issues.

Acupuncture treatment prior to and in tandem with IVF

Couples who have no fertility complications, but would like to provide the best possible start for their children.

Couples with either diagnosed and unexplained fertility issues.

Couples who have been trying to conceive for a while without success.

You may be using procedures such as IVF, ICSI or IUI who wish to improve their chances of successful conception.

Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer increases success rates

A recent study in Germany (Shulan, Lifang Liang) has shown that acupuncture before and after embryo transfer improved the success rates of IVF to up to 70% compared to those not having acupuncture. This protocol was aimed at relaxing the uterus by calming the nervous system and optimising endometrial receptivity. As well as the benefits mentioned above, the treatment aims to calm the emotions and alleviate stress.

The most recent research, reported in the Daily Mail (23.09.08), looked at 13 studies carried out worldwide, involving more than 2,000 IVF patients who combined acupuncture with their fertility treatment.

The research was led by Dr Ying Cheong (2008), from the reproductive medicine unit at the University of Southampton and the city’s Princess Anne Hospital, and concluded that ‘acupuncture around the time of embryo transfer achieves a higher live birth rate of 35 per cent compared with 22 per cent without active acupuncture’.

The research also found that, while the chances of the embryo implanting successfully – resulting in successful pregnancy – increased significantly if a woman had acupuncture around the same time as the transfer, there was no benefit if the treatment took place a few days later.

Dr Cheong said: ‘Our research is good news because it shows that acupuncture can help with fertility in patients undergoing IVF.

‘We show that acupuncture, performed at the right stage, can have significant benefit. A woman who does so has a much greater chance of having a live birth than a woman who doesn’t have acupuncture.’

What else will we talk to you about?

While there can be many reasons behind infertility, there is also a growing awareness of measures we can take to help the situation ourselves.

Fertility awareness, nutrition, emotional stability and lifestyle choices are key factors in boosting fertility and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. These are all issues which are addressed alongside the provision of acupuncture whenever it’s appropriate to do so.

Simple adjustments to our lives can have a major affect on our body and the optimum functioning of all the bodies systems, including our ability to produce healthy eggs and sperm, which means an easier conception, a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby.