Today we have a treat, a guest post from Rachel Sherriff who specialises in fertility acupuncture. Personally, I used acupuncture in my second IVF cycle, I was never sure if it helped or not, so hence why I was interested to read Rachel’s story….
I came to acupuncture through my own fertility journey when I had acupuncture throughout my last successful round of IVF and then again after my son was born to help with some health concerns. I found it so beneficial that I retrained to become an acupuncturist and set up The Fertility Suite, based in Oxted, Surrey. We support many couples on the path to parenthood which can look very different for everyone!
The science behind acupuncture for fertility
Acupuncture is one of those things that unless you have actually tried it, it can be hard to understand how it actually works. Acupuncture is rooted in both eastern medicine and science. Your body is one big electromagnetic field and it’s constantly sending messages from one part to another to make it function correctly. The nervous system is the main way it does this. When you insert an acupuncture needle into an acupuncture point you are affecting the local nervous system. This then sends a message to the Central Nervous System (your brain). From here, your brain sends signals to your body’s other systems, such as your digestive system, your reproductive system, and your endocrine system, which looks after your hormones.
Let’s simplify that, I often liken acupuncture to a tube map. In acupuncture, we talk about meridians which are different pathways used to connect different parts of the body. These pathways could be the different tube lines and the acupuncture points are the stations. They are areas where different meridians meet and cross and things can get stuck or not move properly.
What conditions can acupuncture affect from a fertility perspective?
Acupuncture has been shown to improve blood flow to the uterus and pelvic cavity and reduce pain in conditions such as endometriosis or painful periods. For fertility, it works on something called the hypothalamic pituitary ovarian axis which is the communication between your brain and your ovaries. This means we can help to affect your hormone balance and therefore your overall reproductive health. Studies have also shown that when acupuncture was used alongside an IVF cycle, there was a 50% increase in the live birth rate!
Even if you have unexplained infertility or are not sure what is causing your fertility issues, acupuncture can help address underlying issues. This is because your practitioner will also diagnose you using your symptoms and the subtle clues your body gives us.
How do we diagnose in Chinese Medicine?
Our practitioners are masters at observing your body, we will take your pulse, look at your tongue and feel certain areas of your body. For example, for fertility, we will always feel your lower abdomen. When we look at your body we are checking for temperature changes in different areas, areas of tension or pain, and looking at the colour of your skin. We then use all of the information your body has given us and combine it with the information we have from a Western medicine perspective and formulate a bespoke treatment plan for you.
An acupuncturist will select acupuncture points to use based on what they want to tell your body to do and actually your body is doing all the work we are just nudging it to do what we think it needs to do.
What to expect at a fertility acupuncture appointment
We will usually talk for around 40 minutes at your first appointment as there will be lots of questions we want to ask, we then move on to the diagnostics and you will get to relax on the couch. Once we have decided on a treatment plan, we will talk you through the process of acupuncture. It normally involves inserting between 6 -16 or so needles in different parts of your body, these are very fine thin needles and are pain-free. You may feel a heavy dull sensation and start to relax.
Once the needles are all set we will wrap you up as much as we can with blankets to keep you warm and then let you relax for around 20 minutes. We tend to play relaxing music and you can also wear an eye mask to allow you to completely switch off and rest.
After the appointment, we would advise that you take it fairly easy, with no strenuous exercise, heavy meals, or alcohol. You may feel a little tired but normally after a good sleep, most women feel more energised the next day.
How often should I come for acupuncture to optimise my fertility?
We recommend weekly treatments over a three-month period. This is because it takes three months for your eggs to be recruited and matured before they are ovulated. Therefore, acupuncture over three months gives you the most benefit if you are trying to conceive naturally or harvesting your eggs. We do however see the best improvements in patients who attend weekly sessions. As a minimum, we recommend once in each part of your cycle. Our packages take these time frames into account so we can give you the best chance of success!
How do I get started?
We offer fertility acupuncture packages to support natural fertility, IVF, recurrent miscarriage, and unexplained infertility. Once you have decided which package would be best for you, make the initial payment and then choose a day & time for your initial consultation. We also offer individual sessions if you would prefer. If you want to have a chat before you commit then you can book a free fifteen-minute call with us. If you are not based in Surrey but would still like to benefit from our fertility expertise then we also offer online consultations.