Fertility & Pregnancy
How Can Acupuncture Help With Fertility?
Acupuncture can potentially increase the blood flow to the reproductive organs, potentially thickening the endometrial lining & subsequently increasing the chances of embryo implantation.
Further studies show that acupuncture can increase egg production & quality which could increase the chance of fertilisation.
Trying to conceive can be a very stressful period for some couples & acupuncture may help to regulate cortisol, serotonin & dopamine levels, as well as the sympathetic & parasympathetic nervous systems, reducing our stress response.
Acupuncture may be an effective & recommended adjunct to help work alongside IVF. It is suggested that regular acupuncture in the lead up to IVF is an excellent way to treat your body’s underlying conditions, as well as combat the negative effects that you experience due to the medication. Having acupuncture before & after embryo transfer is highly recommended (and known as the Paulus Protocol). A British Medical Journal meta-analysis of Paulus’ original study came up with an increase in success rates of 65%
How Can Acupuncture Help During Pregnancy?
Massage during pregnancy does have its benefits; however, many conditions that routinely crop up during pregnancy would benefit further from acupuncture. Acupuncture, when provided by a trained practitioner, may give relief for a range of pregnancy related conditions:
Morning sickness / hyperemesis gravidarum
High/low blood pressure
Migraine and headache
Pelvic pain / Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD)
Nausea & vomiting
Commonly experienced by women in early pregnancy; the prevalence rates are 50-80% for nausea, & 50% for vomiting & retching. The symptoms are most common in the first trimester, between 6 & 12 weeks, but can continue to 20 weeks & last longer than this in up to 20% of women. If vomiting is intractable, it can be associated with weight loss, dehydration & electrolyte imbalances, & may lead to hospitalisation. The symptoms are thought to be associated with rising levels of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) or oestrogens. Women experiencing nausea & vomiting during pregnancy can suffer considerable physical & psychological effects.
Research is currently inconclusive but for me, I've seen some remarkable improvements within clinic whilst using acupuncture.
Acupuncture To Turn Breech Babies
An adjunct technique to acupuncture called moxibustion has been used for many centuries to help turn breech babies. A herb called mugwort is compacted into a cigar shaped stick, one end of which is lit & it is slowly smouldered directly above an acupuncture point on the little toe. Research is currently underway, but previous scientific studies have found promising results for the turning of breech babies, somewhere in the region of 80% success rate.
Acupuncture & Labour
Acupuncture can be used to potentially help to induce labour in overdue pregnancies. Ideally started a few weeks prior to the due date to get the body ready, acupuncture can be gradually increased in intensity after the mother has passed her due date & then only with the consent of the obstetric team in charge of the birth. This ensures that all medical factors are taken into account & that the appropriate facilities are in place if the treatment is successful in encouraging the natural process to start. Acupuncture treatment may occasionally have a very rapid effect, but generally speaking it may take at least a few days to work.
During labour, acupuncture may be used for pain relief & to boost the mother's energy if the labour is a long one. Acupuncture may also be used to restart labour if it has slowed down or if contractions have stopped.
After the Birth
Acupuncture is used by new mothers to increase energy levels, to promote healing, & to combat the 'baby blues'. It may also be helpful in treating mastitis.