Female subfertility

In most couples who are trying for a baby, over 80% will conceive within 12 months.  However, 1 in 7 heterosexual couples in the UK have fertility problems, of which 25% are due to ovulation disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome, 25% are unexplained and 20% due to blocked or scarring of fallopian tubes frequently caused by pelvic infection, pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis (NICE 2013). 

what can be done about subfertility? 

Your gynaecologist or reproductive endocrinologist may offer treatments or medications to help address any underlying causes for delayed conception.  For example you may be offered medication to help you ovulate if you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and are not having any periods; or in the case of endometriosis, laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery may be advised to remove the tissue.  An increasing number of women are also advised to consider acupuncture when trying to conceive naturally.  In 2002, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report reviewing controlled clinical trials of acupuncture for various health concerns and listed over 40 conditions which acupuncture could help with, recommending it for both female and male infertility.  

Acupuncture is particularly helpful if you experience irregular ovulation, pre-menstrual symptoms or if you feel that stress and anxiety could be a significant contributing factor to subfertility.  Clinical studies have suggested that acupuncture and certain herbs can help by:

  • regulating the menstrual cycle and stimulating ovulation (Johansson 2013)
  • helping to rebalance hormones such as FSH, LH, progesterone, insulin and testosterone (Kort 2014, Akdogan 2007)
  • improving egg quality
  • increasing the blood flow to the ovaries and uterus (Chang 2002)
  • improving thickness and quality of the endometrial lining 
  • relieving stress-related dysfunction 
  • improving success of IVF or ICSI (Paulus 2002, Westergaard 2006)

A German study published by the National Library of Medicine in April 2002 concluded that acupuncture can increase a couple's chance of conception when used in conjunction with conventional infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). In this study, 160 participants were divided into two groups, both receiving standard IVF procedure but with one group also receiving acupuncture before and after implantation. The standard IVF group had a 26.3% pregnancy rate whilst the IVF plus acupuncture group showed a 42.5% success rate.

what is typically recommended in chinese medicine?

Our treatments are personalised to your needs and will always consider the stage at which you are experiencing delayed conception.  

If you have been trying for 3-12 months are with no pre-existing gynaecological problems, one consultation and treatment may be sufficient as a fertility health-check to make sure you're doing the right things to support yourself at this early stage.  If you have been recently diagnosed with a gynaecological condition such as PCOS or endometriosis or are considering undergoing IVF/ICSI, we see the best results for patients who undergo regular monthly or fortnightly treatments and who can benefit from having treatments that are focused at key points of their cycles.

We are frequently approached by women who wish to find out more about what we do so if you'd like to find out more about acupuncture and Chinese medicine, please take advantage of our complimentary initial telephone consultation.          


References

Chang R, Chung PH, Rosenwaks Z. Role of acupuncture in the treatment of female infertility. Fertil Steril. 2002 Dec;78(6):1149-53. Review.

Paulus WE, Zhang M, Strehler E, El-Danasouri I, Sterzik K. Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertil Steril. 2002 Apr;77(4):721-4.

Westergaard LG, Mao Q, Krogslund M, Sandrini S, Lenz S, Grinsted J. Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial. Fertil Steril. 2006 May;85(5):1341-6. Epub 2006 Apr 5.

World Health Organization. Acupuncture : review and analysis of reports on controlled clinical trials. 2002. Geneva. Available from: http://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/42414#sthash.7l3dQ5tN.dpuf. Last accessed August 2015.
Posted by Lily Lai.