One of my great pleasures as an acupuncturist and practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is helping women experience the joys of pregnancy and motherhood. Most of my patients have had several failures with IUI or IVF and turn to acupuncture after months or years of. This is especially true for women who suffer with multiple miscarriages. One of the most common issues that cause these fertility problems is weak ovarian reserve. This is very common with women who are 35 years of age or older and these patients form the bulk of my acupuncture fertility practice.
Recently I had the opportunity to treat a 40 year old woman whom I will call Lucy who had been unable to conceive and had been diagnosed by her fertility specialist with poor ovarian reserve and poor quality eggs. She had 2 previously failed IVF cycles, which caused her to have more stress since insurance would cover just one more attempt with IVF.
I met with Lucy and after a lengthy intake and examination, including the TCM diagnostic methods of feeling the pulse, looking at the tongue, palpating acupuncture meridians and assessing her emotional state I understood that Lucy needed nourishment for her Yin or essence, support for her vital energy or Qi, and more free movement of her blood. In acupuncture and TCM practice these substances are essential to promote follicular development or fertile eggs. I had Lucy come for acupuncture twice a week for 2 months focusing on the kidney, spleen, and liver meridians. In addition to acupuncture a change to a natural, whole foods diet and specific supplements were added as well.
There are several highly effective Chinese herbal formulas that I recommended Lucy begin: each one is specifically formulated for different phases of her menstrual cycle. One supplement I had her add to her regimen was CoQ 10. This is a powerful antioxidant which is actually produced in the body. It helps the cells produce ATP, which is essential to all cellular function and particularly can improve ovarian function. As we age our CoQ10 levels decline and may lead to low ovarian reserve. Another supplement I advised Lucy to take is myoinositol. This is a member of the vitamin B complex. Myoinositol is found in the follicular fluid of the egg, which means low MI fluid equals poor egg quality. Studies have shown patients treated with myoinositol prior to IVF have responded more positively to ovarian stimulation drugs. DHEA is another powerful hormone stimulator that can enhance ovarian production and improve egg quality.
Lucy greatly enjoyed her acupuncture treatments, often describing them as relaxing and giving her a sense of calm and peace. This led her to think more positively about her prospects for getting pregnant with IVF. After two months of acupuncture treatment and using the herbs and supplements Lucy was able to produce several viable embryos, one of which was implanted and has resulted in a successful pregnancy. She also has several frozen embryos that she may use at a later date when she is ready to add to her family. Lucy continues to come for acupuncture as it is very helpful to promote a healthy, relaxed pregnancy and natural childbirth.
By Punita Jhangiani, L. Ac.,
Diplomate, American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine
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