Is acupuncture the answer to your fertility problems?
Practiced for over 2,000 years in Chinese Medicine to address pain, illness, and imbalance in the body and mind, acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles at specific points around the body.
All its modalities, which also include cupping, Gua-sha, auricular acupuncture and moxa, looks to address and treat the root cause of what’s going on with the individual.
There are many benefits; as it’s a holistic treatment, it can help with any underlying issues you didn’t know about, like stress, anxiety, indigestion or insomnia, even if you’re coming in for a painful lower back or migraines. It gives a general sense of calm and wellbeing, with incredible results after just a few sessions.
It also has proven effects on fertility, with clinical studies showing IVF patients who have undertaken an acupuncture plan going on to have a healthy pregnancy past 12 weeks of gestation. In the past, there has been a question mark over the results but now medical bodies and IVF clinics are recommending acupuncture to their patients.
As 1 in 7 couples in the UK will having trouble conceiving, it’s a positive step in both Western and Eastern practices working together for a positive change to people’s lives.
We spoke to acupuncturist Rebecca Mathiszig Lee to find out more about the way it can aid fertility…
HOW CAN ACUPUNCTURE HELP IF YOU’RE TRYING FOR A BABY?
Working alongside fertility naturally or supporting IVF, acupuncture helps to regulate menstruation in a woman by getting the body on an regular cycle and addressing painful, heavy, sporadic or missing periods, which can be linked to polycystic ovaries or endometriosis.
These are physical factors that affect a woman’s fertility and her path to getting pregnant, but it also treats emotional wellbeing too. Dealing with miscarriages and fertility hardships can cause huge impact on the anxiety and stress levels. As we believe mind, body and spirit are interlinked, it is important they are all addressed.
WHAT DOES A SESSION INVOLVE?
It starts with an initial consultation that focuses on getting to know you; your main complaint, as well as all other areas of your life, like diet, lifestyle, digestion, medical history, periods (in women) and your emotions. We also note the quality of your hair, skin and nails, before finally taking a tongue (which shows us what is happening inside the body’s organs) and pulse reading for further diagnosis.
We’ll then put together a diagnosis and treatment plan, explaining what we’re looking to address from a Chinese medicine perspective and how much treatment we’d anticipate you needing.
Next, it is time for your needle nap! Needles will be placed in the body and, rather than being a scary experience, you should feel a sense of deep relaxation. You might even drop off.
The needles are left in for around 20-30 minutes, after which you may feel rejuvenated and relaxed.
It’s worth bearing in mind acupuncture has a cumulative effect and we encourage patients to come back to ensure the benefits are felt. That’s why a treatment plan with your practitioner is a good guide to find out regularity and price details for your recommended course before committing.
The only way fertility sessions vary is, if you are planning IVF, the acupuncturist will want to discuss the process and for you to start treatments three months prior to undergoing the acupuncture. But we would welcome you into the clinic whenever worked with you.
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HOW SOON AFTER ARE YOU LIKELY TO SEE THE EFFECTS?
Depending on what is presenting with you at the time of treatment, some clients can see a difference in emotional state almost instantly. Others, if the treatment is aiming to address regulating the cycle or helping with something like endometriosis, can take up to six months. Everyone is different but, whether you present with a chronic or acute condition, a treatment plan will give a realistic idea on what and when to expect to see changes.
WHEN SHOULD IT BE BOOKED – BEFORE YOU START TRYING FOR A BABY OR DURING? AND SHOULD YOU HAVE THE TREATMENT AT A PARTICULAR TIME IN YOUR CYCLE?
Everyone’s circumstances are different, but we would recommend a good two-three months before trying for a baby to get you and your body in the best possible condition from the start.
Some may enjoy coming for treatment once a month for a couple of years before they’re planning to start to keep everything ‘topped up’ and regulated.
You will benefit initially from weekly treatments — up to six ideally. Again, every patient is different; some don’t have a period, some don’t know their period day and some track their cycles on an app so know the hour it will start!
Whichever bracket you fit within, it is best to see a practitioner for the initial consultation and treatment, and a personalised treatment plan will follow.
ARE THERE FERTILITY BENEFITS FOR MEN?
Absolutely. As the old saying goes, it takes two! Acupuncture can increasing sperm count and motility, as well as the emotional factor. In Chinese Medicine, herbs are highly recommended for male fertility so it may benefit to working with a Chinese herbalist.
There will also be recommended diet and lifestyle changes for both you and partner, with herbs or supplements to aid the process.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Private acupuncturist treatments can range from £50-£110 per session in London, though there are many £20-£50 per session multi-bed clinics where you can have access to affordable acupuncture if you’re on a budget — which can understandably be the case if you’re receiving it alongside IVF.
Rebecca Mathiszig Lee is a licensed and traditional Chinese medicine trained acupuncturist, member of the British Acupuncture Council. She practices from a clinic in Clerkenwell and at a multi-bed acupuncture clinic, 15 Mount Pleasant, with her acupuncturist partner Drea Campos-Little.