Acupuncture and IVF Part I: Keep the Blood Moving

If you are female, there are thousands of primordial or dormant follicles inside your ovaries, which have been there since you were a fetus.  Some of these are recruited during each menstrual cycle, and start to grow.  These are called antral follicles.  One antral follicle becomes the primary follicle, and matures to a size of about 21 mm, while the others waste away.  The primary follicle gets ejected into the fallopian tubes at ovulation, where it may be fertilized by sperm.

The optimal time to begin acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments is at least 3 months before you begin any Western interventions.  This is because it takes at least 3 months for an egg to come to full maturity.  Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can have a positive effect on the quality and function of these follicles while they are developing and maturing. 

The outer casing of the primary follicle goes through changes, which form the corpus luteum.  The corpus luteum produces progesterone.  This progesterone helps the fertilized follicle (now an ovum) to stay implanted in the uterine wall, and start to grow.  If there is no fertilization, then the drop in progesterone (and other hormones) that occurs during menstruation makes the corpus luteum break down and get eliminated.

This blood flow in and out of the ovary is very important, and it’s something we work on with Chinese medicine and acupuncture.  The follicles, corpus luteum and ovum must all receive proper blood flow and exchange of nutrients, and there must be complete removal of wastes from the ovary during each cycle.  If your Yin is depleted (and blood is a component of Yin), then the fluids in your body have become dry and stagnant, and this entire process gets gunked up.  Basically, you need an oil and filter change!

Common side effects of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) medications such as Clomid and FSH stimulating medications include headaches, ovarian cysts, nausea, gastrointestinal distress, bleeding, and heat sensations.  In Chinese medicine terms, these artificial hormones cause heat and qi stagnation (and they deplete Yin).  Ironically, the majority of women with fertility problems—especially older women—are already deficient in Yin (and, therefore blood).  Western fertility treatments do not address this underlying Yin deficiency.  Even when the treatment results in a successful pregnancy, the patient is often left drained and depleted—and, prone to future health problems.

With acupuncture, we can move Qi to reduce stagnation and prevent the build-up of heat in the body.  We can nourish the Yin to balance the build-up of Yang caused by the hormone injections.  Combining acupuncture with Western hormone treatments is a proven way to get fewer side effects and smoother, faster results in your fertility journey.

We used to think only women had a “biological time clock” ticking.  Men, it was thought, continued to be reproductive power houses until about age 70, when there would be a 15-20% increased rate of miscarriage in their younger female partners.  It turns out that as men age, their semen quality (if not quantity) changes, such that they lose between 15-50% potency in their sperm as they age between 20 and 40.

By receiving acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine for a few months (as well as dietary and lifestyle consultation), men can improve the quality and motility of their sperm, before trying to get their partner pregnant.  In short, a healthy mom and dad will lead to a smoother fertility journey, and healthier offspring.