Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, dietary therapy, and moxibustion have been helping individuals and couples conceive and have healthy pregnancies for thousands of years. Acupuncture and its accompanying modalities are used to treat infertility extensively, including regulating menstrual cycles, promoting ovulation, improving egg and embryo quality, and treating conditions that can impede getting pregnant such as endometriosis, PCOS, ovarian reserve issues, stress, anxiety, and more. By aligning and balancing the nervous system, we help to promote an overall sense of well-being. Fertility hormones such as progesterone are restored, too.
In addition to supporting you during your IUI or IVF cycle, acupuncture and Chinese herbs are used to support those with threatened or recurrent miscarriages due to their beneficial effects on hormone levels.
How It Works
Acupuncture helps to increase blood flow to the uterus and ovaries; thicken the uterine lining; manage endometriosis lesions and symptoms, lessen inflammation; and improve the likelihood of implantation.
Precisely placed needles help to regulate the Hypothalamic Pituitary Ovarian axis, which allows fertility hormones such as progesterone to be restored. This also makes acupuncture a potential supportive treatment for threatened or recurrent miscarriages (RPL) due to its beneficial effects on hormone levels. Acupuncture has been found in many studies to improve live birth outcomes due to the stimulation of specific body points and increases in beneficial blood and hormonal flow. It is also reported to provide additional positive benefits such as increases in emotional coping abilities.
As with all acupuncture, the brain is triggered to release endorphins that help to align and balance the nervous system and promote an overall sense of well-being. So, while there are clear measurable benefits to increasing your chances of conceiving with Chinese medicine, most patients also report a reduction in stress levels and anxiety, which we know are tied directly to some conception issues.
IVF, IUI, and FET
For patients undergoing In Vitro Fertility (IVF), acupuncture treatment leading up to your retrieval is intended to balance your hormones and increase nourishing blood flow to your uterus and ovaries. Many studies have demonstrated the benefits of combining acupuncture with your IVF treatment and Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) cycles as an effective complementary treatment.
Sperm and eggs both take about 90 days to develop. For this reason, we recommend that both men and women begin their acupuncture for fertility protocol approximately three months in advance of any planned fertility treatment. Before you begin IVF especially, we encourage you to get comfortable with us at weekly sessions, at least three months in advance. In this way, we can partner to create a customized treatment plan that will also incorporate dietary recommendations and lifestyle changes. Our goal is to improve your health before you begin treatments and also to work together to positively affect your IVF experience and outcome. While every patient’s plan is customized, we generally recommend acupuncture twice a week during the stimulation phase of your IVF. It is common to strategically time sessions before the retrieval, before and after embryo transfer, and a week following the transfer. Acupuncture can also be used to assist with the development of the egg and the uterine lining while on Clomid or Letrozole. With IUI, weekly acupuncture sessions are also recommended, timing one session close to the IUI. For Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) cycles, weekly acupuncture is recommended with sessions timed before and after embryo transfer.
Elevated FSH, Immunological Factors, and Luteal Phase defects are three other prominent conditions that affect fertility.
The follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in the body “tells” the ovaries to produce more follicles. However, sometimes the ovaries just stop making follicles. Even though more FSH is being produced, follicles are not. Additionally, as women age, FSH can become elevated. So, high FSH levels become a common indicator of infertility. As we know, acupuncture is great at regulating hormone levels by increasing blood flow to the ovaries, brain, and meridians in the body that connect the two. This helps regulate the production of follicles, thereby lowering FSH levels.
Autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly sees its own tissue as an enemy invader and tries to destroy it. As such, autoimmune conditions can create a poor environment for conception. However, these imbalances in your body’s energy can be treated with regular acupuncture to decrease the body’s autoimmune responses. In the case of fertility, acupuncture improves circulatory function and hormonal balance, which helps boost the strength of your ovaries and enables the uterus to grow a thick lining for implantation. And managing the autoimmune conditions can create a more hospitable environment for pregnancy.
Luteal Phase Defect
Luteal Phase Defect (LPD) is when your progesterone is low after ovulation. When this occurs, the uterine lining does not thicken as it should during this phase of the menstrual cycle and an egg is unable to attach to the wall. The uterine lining thickens as a response to the hormone, progesterone, being released during the luteal phase. LPD occurs if your body does not produce enough or any progesterone, or if your uterus does not respond to the progesterone being released. Once again, acupuncture increases blood flow throughout the body, including in the ovaries, to balance the regulation of hormones in the body, ensuring that progesterone is naturally released.
There are many other conditions that may affect the reproductive process such as PCOS, amenorrhea, endometriosis, irregular menses, ovarian cysts, and uterine fibroids. And then, of course, there is unexplained infertility. A diagnosis of unexplained infertility can be one of the most frustrating and difficult to receive. One of the many strengths of Chinese medicine is the ability to uncover the root cause and make subtle changes to balance the hormone production that can improve fertility, even when no abnormalities are detected. Acupuncture as a method has been proven effective at relieving these imbalances and Dr. Iona has extensive experience treating the full spectrum of fertility patients — from those just beginning their conception journey to those with multiple miscarriages.
The Male Factor
Acupuncture has been shown to play a positive role in male infertility, as well, which accounts for 40% of couples struggling to conceive. According to one study, “Traditional Chinese medicine combined with vitamins has significant efficacy in the treatment of male infertility with no increase in side effects.” Additional recent studies have shown that acupuncture can help improve sperm count, sperm motility, overall sperm health, and even correct some immune factors such as anti-sperm antibodies that can interfere with conception.
Our role always – but especially when it comes to fertility — is to offer gentle, complementary solutions that work synergistically with your doctor’s advice. While acupuncture is the main support, we also offer guidance for dietary changes and lifestyle recommendations, along with herbal and nutritional supplements to assist with sperm count, motility and morphology.
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“have been a patient of Michelle Iona for 9 years. She is a wealth of knowledge! My journey with Michelle began when I was trying to get pregnant. I was going through IVF treatments at the time I met Michelle. The IVF cycles were difficult and stressful. A friend of mine told me about trying acupuncture to help relieve stress during this challenging and emotional time. I made an appointment! It was the best decision I made. After 6 IVF cycles, I had my sweet daughter. I continue to have acupuncture with Michelle. She treats me for headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and anything else that needs some TLC. The office is warm and welcoming. The rooms are beautiful and clean. I look forward every time I walk into Healing Points. Thank you, Michelle…my friend!”Cindy W.
“My review is long overdue. Dr. Iona helped me so much in my second pregnancy. I could not get up from bed alone due to my lower back pain and knee pains. After the first session, I noticed a great improvement. I managed to get out of bed alone and had fewer knee pains. She treated me and helped me until the very end of my pregnancy. I have had little time to get back to her center and schedule an appointment but I have had it in my mind to make an appointment. Highly recommend!”Kim M.
“Dr Iona has been my saving grace from the start of my infertility journey to my current pregnancy. From the first time I met her, she was so supportive and welcoming. During my infertility treatment she made herself available to me giving me more appointments to assist in becoming pregnant. Dr Iona is knowledgeable, caring and so very passionate about her work. I look forward to my weekly sessions where she currently helps me with all my pregnancy symtoms. The office is very clean and staff very friendly. Appointments are easy to schedule with Saturday availability offered. I highly recommend Dr Iona if your looking to better your health or assist in a medical issue.”G. L.
“Michelle is absolutely wonderful. Not only is she incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to improving overall health through acupuncture and nutrition-focused tips, but she’s also a warm, welcoming, kind-hearted soul who makes you feel comfortable the minute you walk into her beautiful, clean office space. I started seeing her during my second pregnancy when everything was hurting and she helped me feel so much more comfortable during those last few months. Now I see her regularly to help with *all* the things motherhood hands us (stress, lack of sleep, low back pain from carrying a baby, etc. etc.) and without a doubt, I feel 100 times better after every treatment. With Michelle, it’s not just a walk in and walk out type of appointment—it’s an hour where I learn something new to improve my health, feel totally relaxed, and can walk away feeling energized and stress-free. Another bonus: she and her team make it so easy to schedule appointments (a small win that is hard to come by these days!). Can’t recommend her enough!”Jamie W.
“Dr. Michelle Iona is amazing! I went to her off a recommendation from another acupuncturist, Suffering with PCOS and trying to get pregnant for 2 years. I fully committed to weekly acupuncture coupled with her nutritional guidance and I’m happy to say I am currently 4 months pregnant! She is extremely easy to talk to, you can tell she really cares and provides a very well rounded approach with her treatment. If you are seeking to begin or continue acupuncture for any reason, I highly recommend Dr. Iona!”Lauren K