Acupuncture Recommendations for Fertility Treatment
From the desk of Jessica L. Molleur, Lic.Ac., DNBAO...
In the past two weeks, I've been writing about acupuncture, fertility, IVF, and some of the findings in research. Hopefully, the research links have provided a starting point for fertility and IVF patients trying to figure out the best way to include acupuncture into their fertility protocols. Many of you have emailed me to say that they have showed the data to their endocrinologists or acupuncturists to help improve outcomes!
Similar to research studies done on singular vitamins, the true effects of acupuncture are difficult to study and measure in a vacuum. As I discussed the past couple of weeks, 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.
In the wise words of William Bruce Cameron (although some attribute this quote to Albert Einstein):
Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted.
And that is exactly where we stand currently with the research on acupuncture. As a practitioner of integrative medicine, part of my job is to look at the research and incorporate this into what I know to be clinically effective in my own practice and those before me. In this case, acupuncture dates back about 2,000 years so one could say that the clinical data is more significant than any other form of modern medicine. In contrast to the past two weeks, I thought I would summarize my recommendations for fertility treatment and acupuncture outside of the research.
In general, I recommend 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 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. Feel free to email me at email@example.com to find an acupuncturist in your area. 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.
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. In addition to looking at a patient 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 also want to ensure that nothing has been overlooked. For example, many patients are told that their Vitamin D levels are normal. When I review the lab work, I often find that while the labs are normal, they are not optimal for fertility. As a result, 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 can provide the same level of care for you.
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). Acupuncture treatments typically last one hour. Research has shown that 12 treatments incorporating holistic care such as exercise, supplements, nutrition, Chinese herbs, and stress levels also improve live birth outcomes. It's important that your acupuncturist help you with other tools that will improve your outcome.
What's the take home message? If you’ve been trying to get pregnant naturally without success, consider acupuncture to increase your rates of fertility. Having said all of the above, don’t forget about male partners. 40% infertility is due to women, 40% to men, and 20% is attributed to both or unknown factors. Acupuncture is effective for men as well. 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.