Fertility Enhancement:
Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Assisted Reproductive Technology Support:
IVF, IUI, ICSI

It is estimated that 30-40% of women have difficulty in conceiving. The definition of infertility is the inability to conceive after a year of unprotected intercourse in women under 35, or after six months in women 35 or over, or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term. Also included are diagnosed problems of anovulation, tubal blockage, low sperm count, etc.

A diagnosis of infertility is not a diagnosis of sterility. While about 15% of all couples are infertile, only 1% is sterile (meaning that conception is physically ruled out). Of the couples that seek help, more than half can eventually conceive a child.

If you fall under any of the following you may want to seek specialized reproductive assistance:

Regular unprotected intercourse with no pregnancy for a year
Trying to conceive for at least 6 months when 35 years of age or older
Irregular or difficult menstrual cycles
A history of pelvic pain, infections, uterine fibroids, cysts, endometriosis
Abdominal or reproductive surgery
Two or more miscarriages

Male problems that may alert you to a problem may include:

Low sperm count, motility, morphology
Prostatitis, urinary infections
Reproductive surgery

Methods of Impregnation:

The following is a list, from preferred to less preferred, of methods of impregnation:

Sexual intercourse
Artificial insemination
Fresh sperm preferred over frozen.

For a variety of reasons, predominately social and environmental, concerns surrounding the difficulty in conceiving have risen in recent years. Many women and couples are seeking the assistance of reproductive endocrinologists. This is encouraged.

Acupuncture and traditional oriental herbal medicine have had many years of success in assisting fertility. As a stand alone modality, acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas have had great success in treating difficult conception. Current studies in the US and Europe are yielding very promising results ("Acupuncture Has Fertility Boosting Benefits").

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine incorporate thousands of years of clinical study, observation, and treatment of difficult conception. In the last 40 years with the introduction of Traditional Chinese Medicine into Europe and North America, we have seen an exponential increase in interest and studies pointing to the efficacy of this medicine in treating a variety of imbalances/illnesses ranging from depression to chronic and acute pain to infertility.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine can assist conception in the following ways:

 

ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLGY & CHINESE MEDICINE

An increasing number of women and men are currently seeking fertility enhancement with Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), inter-uterine insemination (IUI), and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). These sophisticated medical technologies have opened up new possibilities for thousands of couples facing infertility. These modern therapies may be significantly enhanced when combined with acupuncture and herbal medicines.

A study presented in "Highlights in Fertility and Sterility" (Vol. 77, No. 4, April 2002) indicated that pregnancy rates for women undergoing IVF increased from 26% to 42% with only 2 acupuncture treatments at the time of transfer (Acupuncture Before and After Embryo Transfer Results in Higher Pregnancy Rates).

The May, 2006, issue of the medical journal "Fertility and Sterility", presents several new studies that confirm the efficacy of acupuncture as an aid to IVF and IUI.

Additionally there are a number of recent studies that support the effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of male infertility factor (Research on Male Factor Infertility & Acupuncure).

Acupuncture and herbs can help throughout the IVF cycle:

Regardless of the method of impregnation, or the imbalance/pathology involved (with the exception of a complete lack of eggs or tubal blockage), acupuncture and oriental herbal medicine can significantly improve the chances of conception. Whether in conjunction with Western medicine or by itself, Traditional Chinese Medicine can appreciably enhance fertility.

What Is the Protocol for Enhancing Fertility?

Although there is no one protocol for everyone, a generic scenario is possible. Whether one is using acupuncture and herbal medicine alone to enhance conception, or in conjunction with ART:

For the woman this generally involves 4 5 treatments per month along with herbal formulas, if the client chooses, that are usually taken twice a day. This is a three to four month process, but may take longer depending on the imbalances involved. During this time acupuncture and herbal formulas are used to regulate and smooth the menstrual cycle, improve the function of the ovaries, increase blood flow to the uterus, regulate the hormones to produce a larger number of follicles and to address imbalances such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, stress, and high FSH. Changes in diet and supplements (vitamins, minerals, EFAs) may be suggested.

For the male a three to four month course of acupuncture, 2 to 4 times per month, and herbs is also recommended. Given that it takes approximately 90 days to "make" new sperm, this is a reasonable time span. Issues such as sperm quality, quantity, motility, morphology, and stress will be addressed at this time.

How Do I Prepare For These Acupuncture and Herbal Treatments?

Western medical tests yield valuable information. While they are not necessary, they are recommended before your first appointment.

For the female, fertility tests may be requested of your GYN (laparoscopy or endometrial biopsies are not recommended unless deemed necessary by your MD).

Females are also encouraged to take and plot their basal temperature over a few months period and/or use other forms of monitoring ovulation.

For the male, sperm tests may be requested of your MD.

Both males and females are also encouraged to be tested for STD's (sexually transmitted diseases).

You will be asked to fill out a comprehensive intake form before your first appointment. This intake form will be e-mailed to you upon request.

What is the Cost of These Treatments?

The initial intake, including one acupuncture treatment, is $100. This initial intake takes about 2.5 - 3 hours, and both partners are highly encouraged to attend.

Follow-up, and on-going acupuncture treatments, are $60/session. If the client requires 2 treatments in one week, a 25% discount is offered.

Herbal formulas average $45 - $90/month.

If one is under the care of the Ottawa Fertility Centre and doing ART, two on-site acupuncture treatments immediately pre- and post-transfer are offered at a fee of $250. These are the two acupuncture treatments cited in the German study (Acupuncture Before and After Embryo Transfer Results in Higher Pregnancy Rates).

If you would like to pursue this form of treatment, please contact Calvindale Smith (cdalesmith@calvindale.com) or Margaret Ozols (mozols@sympatico.ca) at the Riverside Acupuncture and Wellness Centre. We are professional Oriental Medical practitioners with a special interest in fertility enhancement. We work as a team using TCM as the primary modality to address difficult conception, or as affiliates of the Ottawa Fertility Clinic (www.conceive.ca) for those using Assisted Reproductive Therapy.

You may also want to visit the following web sites:
www.acupuncturecenter.com
www.nycacupuncture.com

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Calvindale Smith, BA, MSc, DOM
Doctor of Oriental Medicine (USA)
Riverside Acupuncture and Wellness Centre
2211 Riverside Dr., Suite 106
Ottawa, ON K1H 7X5
613-232-5888
cdalesmith@calvindale.com

Margaret Ozols
B.Sc., B.Ed., M.Ac., NCCAOM
Riverside Acupuncture & Wellness Centre
2211 Riverside Dr., Suite 106
Ottawa, ON K1H 7X5
613-612-4325
mozols@sympatico.ca