Acupuncture for Infertility: Frequently Asked Questions
From the desk of Jessica L. Molleur, Lic.Ac., DNBAO...
The most common reason clients schedule their first acupuncture appointment in my Boston office is for infertility treatment. Acupuncture can be an important piece to the puzzle of infertility whether you are trying to conceive naturally or are already in the process of IVF cycles or another other assisted reproductive technology. Over the course of the past year, many of these blogs have been about the benefits of acupuncture for fertility, IVF, as well as many of the other women's health issues related to fertility such as endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome. In this year-end blog, I hope to answer some of the most commonly asked questions I hear before clients schedule an appointment.
What does the research say about acupuncture for fertility?
Similar to research studies done on singular vitamins, the true effect of acupuncture for fertility is difficult to study and measure in a vacuum. Acupuncture is not traditionally practiced as a singular treatment. Traditionally, acupuncture is incorporated together with other integrative therapies whether that be Chinese herbs, nutrition, or lifestyle modification. Additionally, acupuncture is customized according to each patient. Therefore by definition, a standardized acupuncture protocol repeated for every patient in a research study would be considered a less than optimal treatment design by most acupuncturists. However, there are many studies showing the benefits of acupuncture for improving ovulatory function as well as rates of live births following various courses of acupuncture before and after IVF treatment. If you want to start reading the research, begin with Lee Hullender Rubin's study on whole systems Traditional Chinese Medicine. Her research suggests that 12 treatments incorporating holistic care such as exercise, supplements, nutrition, Chinese herbs, and stress levels also improve live birth outcomes. You can access the research article here:
When should I begin acupuncture treatment for fertility?
As soon as you think there may be an issue! One of the comments I hear from patients over and over is: "I wish I knew about this earlier." This meaning various lifestyle recommendations that I am making regarding diet, supplementation, or even best practices when trying to conceive. I also hear: "I wish I started IVF before my first IVF cycle." In other words, don't wait to reach out for support whether that may be with an acupuncturist or another care provider.
How long will I need to come in for treatment?
Sometimes I only see patients before and after an embryo transfer. However, if I have the opportunity to work with clients for a longer period of time, I recommend that patients begin treatment at least three months before they begin IVF. If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, endometriosis, or another condition that may be related to their infertility, six months may be ideal depending on your health history. Research has showed that at least eight acupuncture treatments, in addition to sessions 24-hours before and 1 hour after an embryo transfer is ideal. Many patients seek out acupuncture after a failed or multiple failed cycles. If you fall into this category, schedule an acupuncture session as soon as possible. In other words: the sooner, the better.
What if I don't live in the Boston area?
Feel free to email me at email@example.com so that I can help you find an acupuncturist in your area. Additionally, many of the conversations that I have with my patients in the course of treatment address specific lifestyle modifications that have been shown in various research studies to affect fertility. I counsel many patients via phone and Skype so that they can get started as soon as possible to optimize their fertility.
How long should I plan to come in for my first appointment?
When patients come in to see me for infertility or a related women’s health condition, I spend almost two hours with them during their initial consult and I look at their total picture of health. An acupuncturist specializing in fertility should do the same. For example, your digestive and immune systems are considered an important part of fertility according to Chinese Medicine.
Do I need to bring anything with me?
I'll be reviewing your health history with you during our first session and prior to beginning your first acupuncture treatment. You can complete these forms in advance by visiting the details page and downloading the Acupuncture Health History form. In addition to analyzing your health history from an Eastern perspective, I also want to review recent lab values and tests so that I have an objective way of measuring what I am doing. I want to ensure that nothing has been overlooked. For example, many patients are told that their Vitamin D levels are normal. When I review lab work, I often find that while the labs are normal, they are not optimal for fertility.
How do I coordinate care with my other health care providers including my OBGYN or RE?
I typically work closely with my patient's endocrinologist or other health care providers so that we may coordinate care when possible. It's important that your providers are aware of any form of integrative care that you are receiving. Many times, I have an established relationship with the care provider or I will be able to communicate with them or their staff by phone or email.
How often should I come in for treatment?
This varies greatly based on your health history, other care you are currently receiving, as well as many other factors. Each treatment plan is customized according to the patient's health history so no one course of treatment is the same regardless of your age, diagnosis, or other related factors. In general, acupuncture treatments are usually scheduled on a weekly basis and sometimes twice weekly once various IVF protocols begin (e.g. the beginning of ovarian suppression with birth control pills or the period between an embryo retrieval and transfer).
I've read that certain chemicals can affect fertility and reproductive disorders such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome. Will you address this topic?
Yes! This is an important part of the counseling I do with patients. I take a very comprehensive look at ways to reduce chemical exposure related to fertility. This is one of the many topics I typically cover with patients within the first two weeks of scheduling their initial session.
What about men?
Don’t forget about male partners! 40% of infertility can be contributed to women, 40% to men, and 20% is attributed to both or unknown factors. Acupuncture is effective for men as well. Additionally, there are many lifestyle factors that affect sperm count as well as other parameters such as morphology and motility.
Is there anything else I need to know? What about my stress levels?
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant naturally without success, consider acupuncture to increase your rates of fertility. If you plan on using a form of assisted reproductive technologies to get pregnant such as ICSI, IUI or IVF: seriously consider acupuncture to improve your success rate. Trying to conceive with difficulty is an extremely difficult process physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. Acupuncture is one form of treatment that can help you optimize not only your pregnancy success but the health and well-being of your baby and yourself long-term.
Have more questions about acupuncture and infertility? Schedule a complimentary consult or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Jessica L. Molleur, Lic.Ac., DNBAO
Jessica L. Molleur is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, and massage therapist in Massachusetts and California. She first became interested in acupuncture as a soccer player searching for an alternative to knee surgery and discovered the many benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of California at Davis and a Master of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, CA. Jessica is a National Diplomate of Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine and Chinese Herbology through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). She is also a Diplomate of Acupuncture Orthopedics, a specialty certification held by fewer than 500 acupuncturists in the United States.
Jessica currently maintains a private acupuncture practice in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, which was awarded Best Acupuncture Center by Boston Magazine. Areas of specialty include women's health, pregnancy, infertility, pediatrics, and sports medicine. If you are interested in learning about the benefits of acupuncture for fertility and IVF, please visit the acupuncture + fertility page. New patients can book online to schedule any acupuncture service including a complimentary consult. Jessica also serves as a health care consultant for a number of integrative medical institutes. Her clients include IVF and infertility centers, functional medicine offices, orthopedic facilities, concierge practices, and green spas. Please contact OMBE for more information about these services.
Prior to her consulting work, Jessica founded an integrative health center in Boston. The eco-friendly center was one of the first twenty-five companies certified as a Sustainable Business Leader in Boston. During its ten-year tenure, the center provided services including acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, naturopathy, nutritional counseling, personal training, Pilates, and yoga. Studio offerings included mom and baby programming, Mongan Method Hypnobirthing, natural childbirth education and the Holistic Moms Network. The center was the recipient of several awards, including Mayor Menino's Green Business Award, a multiple recipient of Boston Business Journal's Best Workplace, Boston Magazine's Best of Boston Award for Massage Therapy as well as Best Eco-Friendly Massage, Eco-Beauty Bar, Nutritionist, Personal Trainer, Pilates, and Workout.