How Chinese Medicine Can Support IVF treatment
The successful use of Chinese medicine to assist IVF treatments is well known however most people don’t really understand how Chinese medicine, herbal medicine and acupuncture, can help in this process. I specialize in fertility and while most of my patients come for acupuncture to assist in getting pregnant, some do come to assist the process in combination with IVF. In fact acupuncture can assist in the success of any western fertility treatment.
How Acupuncture Works
Acupuncture first of all helps to generate Qi (movement) and blood. By doing this acupuncture can help to break up any stagnations or blockages in the body. With regard to fertility this would be in the uterus where acupuncture ensures healthy blood circulation in the area, which is essential to support life.
When a patient comes to me to assist with their IVF treatment I take a full case history, so I can create a picture of why, from a Chinese medicine viewpoint, she has failed to conceive. Once I make a diagnosis and establish the underlying causes of infertility, I am able to create a treatment plan. In doing this I may be able to help the couple get pregnant without them having to do IVF, at the very least I will be able to prepare the body for the upcoming mental and physical journey of IVF. The process is extremely taxing and should not be taken lightly.
Treating Not Just the Physical Body
In Switzerland, most of the IVF treatments done are agonist treatments, which is quite aggressive compared to the antagonist method. For this reason, another important area for me to treat is the mental and emotional aspect, which can become disturbed during these treatments, especially for women who have undergone more than one IVF cycle. More often than not, women do at least two treatments and I have even had women coming who are on their ninth cycle. IVF is successful at procuring eggs, creating embryos and transplanting eggs. But there is more to having a baby than fertilizing an egg and there is more to having a baby than becoming pregnant.
Treating Side Effects of the IVF Process
The drugs that are associated with IVF treatments can and do wreak havoc on the body. Firstly, a women injects, on a daily basis, drugs to cause the ovaries to form multiple follicles. A woman normally produces one, maybe two follicles in a cycle. During the IVF follicle stimulation phase, women produce anything from 8 to 15, which would be considered normal or even more follicles if overstimulated. Some women become very bloated and swollen in this time. Then to stop the ovulation of these follicles the women are thrown into a menopausal state. As you can imagine women may then show signs of menopause, with an inability to sleep, hot flushes, mood swings and decreased libido. Acupuncture can help in this phase to treat the side effects of the drugs and to help prepare the uterus for the egg transfer.
Preparing For IVF
Lifestyle and environmental factors should also be addressed when treating for infertility. These include alcohol, caffeine, environmental toxins, age, stress, weight and recreational drugs. Medical factors that play a role in infertility include PCOS, endometriosis, ovarian failure and tubal damage or obstruction and some infertility cannot be explained in western medical terms. All this is taken into consideration and from a Chinese medicine standpoint a diagnosis is made. If the patient has not started with the IVF drug protocols as yet I ask the patient to try acupuncture and Chinese herbs for three months, therefore three cycles. In this way I am able to treat the underlying condition and help prepare the body so that she may better support a fetus.
When to Get Treatment
Many women go for acupuncture treatment just before and just after the IVF transfer. I however do not like to treat only at this moment. If a women is not getting pregnant naturally then a proper TCM diagnosis needs to be made and a treatment plan created. The real success behind acupuncture is by using acupuncture points to help create and move Qi and Blood and bring balance to the body and by treating the underlying condition which may be primary, secondary or unexplained infertility. It is best to do at least three months of acupuncture and perhaps also herbal treatment before going through a IVF protocol.
Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, is a medical approach that sees the person as a whole and takes the physical, mental and emotional aspects of disease into consideration. In combination with IVF treatments it will greatly increase the success rate and treat any underlying imbalances.