Gone are the days of IVF becoming the only option for those over 40 or those with blocked tubes, low sperm or other mechanical conditions, as more and more couples of a younger age in their twenties and early thirties with a diagnosis of infertility and unexplained infertility coming into my clinics.
IVF and assisted conception is fast becoming the norm for those with a diagnosis of infertility or not falling pregnant within 12 months of continuous trying.
Assisted reproductive treatments such as IUI, IVF and ICSI all try and help the process of fertilisation and is often the only chance some couples have to be able to conceive and have a family, but should in my opinion be considered the last option and not the first consideration.
Assisted treatment can be very harsh on a women’s body as hormones are manipulated which can produce similar effects as menopause with processes such as down regulation as well as stimulating ovaries for multiple follicles to develop and there is limited research to see the long term affects are of assisted treatment.
However, I should note that some couples IVF or assisted procedures are the only hope of ever having a child, but there is so much you can do to help yourself with natural treatments that can help increase your egg and sperm quality as well as help alongside conventional assisted reproductive procedures along the way.
Patients often ask what they can do to help leading up to an IVF cycle. This should be no different then preparing your body for pregnancy a natural way and good preparation can make all the difference to help improve egg and sperm quality leading up to the cycle to increase your chances of a successful outcome.
The British Medical Journal published a review in 2008 outlining the effects of acupuncture alone during fertility treatment and found that genuine acupuncture had increased women’s chances of pregnancy by 65% through assisted reproductive treatments such as IVF. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the needles unblock energy (or chi) and increase blood flow to promote a state of balance in the body. According to Western doctors, the needles stimulate the nervous system to release chemicals that help alleviate pain and promote healing. (MRIs even show that acupuncture has an effect in the brain.) Where fertility is concerned, acupuncture helps improve blood supply to reproductive organs, stimulate hormones, regulate ovulation, and decrease stress — all of which is seen to help increase your chances of getting pregnant. For this reason, acupuncture is one of the most popular researched natural fertility treatments recommended by clinicians in the field of reproductive medicine for both men and women.
For men, and certainly for those patients I treat with a fertility issue, treatment has shown an increase in sperm quality and count. Acupuncture can be a fertility treatment used alone for natural treatment for fertility or it can be part of a holistic treatment plan alongside IVF treatment.
Eating a fertility diet in preparation for pregnancy and to boost fertility is one of the most powerful health changes you can make. Numerous studies have shown that specific changes to the diet can improve fertility, prevent recurrent miscarriage and support a healthy pregnancy which is why every fertility specialist advocates folate supplements in preparation to any fertility treatment.
Nutrition plays a big role when it comes to having a healthy body and reproductive system. The building blocks for cellular function are found in the foods we eat. Antioxidants, which help to protect the egg and sperm from free radicals, can be found in a variety of food such as fruits and vegetables. Just as nutrients in food can be helpful for fertility, there are some foods and chemicals added to foods that can have an adverse effect to your health.
I use a combination of western and traditional Chinese medicine understanding of nutritional that take a holistic and individual approach to add and avoid certain foods to balance your body based upon your medical Chinese diagnosis that is specific to your health needs, but as a general rule a variety of good sourced food rich in nutrients is key.
Acupuncture treatment during this stage can help assist the process of stimulation and help follicular development. Many of our patients report an increase in follicular development after acupuncture treatment within 24 hours after having scans so for some patients this method is favourable, however for those patients who have a tendency or diagnosis of PCOS I personally would refrain from assisting the stimulation process as you are likely to have an increase in follicular stimulation which is why it is important your practitioner is experienced as a specialist in fertility acupuncture as well as understanding of western medical IVF approaches to complement the treatment and your body state.
Acupuncture can be very affective after egg collection to help reduce any discomfort and swelling that you may have from the procedure. Remember that egg collection is an invasive and operative procedure and some can experience some discomfort. Acupuncture points are selected by the practitioner to help reduce the swelling and encourage your tissue repair responses within the body that can aid towards a better outcome and your day of transfer.
Acupuncture on the day of transfer is considered the most important of all acupuncture treatments during the IVF cycle, as research has shown that acupuncture on the day of transfer can increase your pregnancy outcomes significantly especially if treatment is carried out on site of the IVF unit which is something that I encourage if the clinic has these services, however if your clinic doesn’t offer this unique service then acupuncture just before and after treatment with a local acupuncturist can certainly help.
Two Week Wait
This time has got to be the most stressful time as this is the time you’re likely to feel alone as the time leading up the transfer seems to be constant with scans and appointments and then suddenly it would feel that your support has gone. However, I recommend treatment during the two week wait to help implantation further as well as reduce any anxiety and stress leading up to the pregnancy test date.
Using therapies in combination of each other can really make the difference to help improve fertility, which with the knowledge of western medicine as well as natural medical approaches I have seen great outcomes. The important element is to try and improve your egg or sperm quality as well as seeking good skills of a fertility practitioner for both western and natural medicine. My eldest patient treated using a combination of natural and western medical approaches is 47 years, even though current research would suggest that her eggs were too old. However, with focus and good clinical knowledge of conventional and integrative approaches the impossible can be possible.
Contact Michelle Mulliss to find out how you can improve or enhance your fertility health.