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Acupuncture and Lifestyle to support fertility

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Feb 3 2016 11:58AM

Our acupuncturist with a special interest in women's health and fertility, Philippa Summers, explores how acupuncture and lifestyle can help support fertility.

Having a baby should be the most natural thing in the world but for many people it is not always that simple. It can be very stressful and create feelings of desperation and despair but there are things that you can do to help.

Acupuncture comes from a Daoist tradition, taking into account the whole picture in a balanced way and finding a path through to improved health. A look at diet and lifestyle issues can help to identify positive changes that will support you and your partner. It can play a pivotal role in helping conception and supporting your fertility, including during IVF.

Although you are born with all your eggs, the final maturation stage takes 3-6 months. For sperm, maturation takes around 3 months. The environment in which they mature has an impact on their quality, which in turn can impact on all stages of fertility from ovulation, conception, implantation to pregnancy and ultimately the health of your baby. Good preparation can make all the difference, so make positive changes and seek help sooner rather than later.

A Healthy Lifestyle

Firstly, a healthy lifestyle for both men and women is vital to enhancing your fertility in both natural and assisted cycles. It is based around moderate exercise, a nourishing wholefood diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and avoidance of substances that affect ovulation and egg and sperm quality like alcohol, nicotine and environmental toxins some of which are commonly found in household products and cosmetics. Body weight is also important, even being a few points above or below normal BMI (19-25) can reduce your fertility.

Taking time to relax and switch off will help to activate the more nourishing and nurturing ‘rest and digest’ aspects of your metabolism. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices can be particularly effective at helping with stress but pursuing hobbies and leisure activities that you find enjoyable can also help. Your lifestyle is important but these ideals also need to be balanced by not giving yourself a hard time when they are hard to achieve.

Acupuncture and Fertility

Acupuncture is particularly effective in fertility healthcare because it has few or no side effects and improves your overall health. It doesn’t replace the medicines and surgery that may be needed in certain cases but it can certainly play an important role.

Research has established that one of the effects of acupuncture is to help with stress by releasing endorphins. This has a cascade of beneficial effects throughout the body, similar to the effects of deep relaxation and exercise. In the realm of fertility, acupuncture helps to regulate reproductive hormones and improves blood flow generally, including to the ovaries and uterus, helping to ensure they are well nourished.

Acupuncture is believed to support ovulation by helping to regulate reproductive hormones. It may also improve the thickness and evenness of the uterine lining which assists with implantation of the embryo and its subsequent nourishment and survival. Acupuncture can also help to counteract the effects of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) by reducing the number of ovarian cysts, stimulating ovulation and helping to regulate the menstrual cycle.

Acupuncture and IVF

For those of you embarking on IVF treatment, acupuncture may help to positively influence the process and the outcome. Treatment can be aimed at improving the number and quality of your eggs during the stimulation phase, helping to achieve a healthy uterine lining in preparation for implantation and reducing stress. Acupuncture around the time of embryo transfer can help you to feel relaxed and may help the embryo to implant successfully by reducing uterine contractions. There are other stages in the IVF process where, for some women, acupuncture may be beneficial and it may also help to deal with some of the side effects of the medication used.

IVF can be a demanding rollercoaster of a journey, often with little time for emotional support at the IVF clinic appointments, although clinics do now offer counselling. Acupuncture sessions allow time for you to share your experience from your perspective and to feel supported through the various stages. As well as the brilliant team at West Norwood who offer massage and osteopathy, I can also refer you to leading fertility specialists in nutrition and hypnotherapy if you wish.

Next Steps

Everyone is different so if you would like to find out more about how acupuncture may be able to help you, just call me or drop me an email (details below).

Sources of information you may find useful:

The British Acupuncture Council the leading regulatory body for acupuncture in the UK.

The Acupuncture Fertility Network information on how acupuncture can help fertility.

The Infertility Network UK a charitable organisation with a website that contains a wealth of reliable easily accessible information including advice on diet and lifestyle.

The Essential Fertility Guide (2015) by Robert Winston, Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College, provides an overview of investigative tests and treatment options. He particularly cautions against undergoing IVF and other assisted methods without first undergoing tests to identify any potential issues and the most appropriate treatment for you.

It Starts with an Egg: How the Science of Egg Quality can help you get pregnant naturally, prevent miscarriage and improve your chances at IVF, Rebbecca Fett (2014). Very well researched book that may be of particular interest to older women with declining egg quality.

Philippa is at West Norwood Therapies on Tuesday and Friday mornings

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