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Complementary Therapies

Acupuncture ‘doubles the chances of getting pregnant through IVF’

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Acupuncture 'doubles the chances of getting pregnant through IVF'

A recent British trial using acupuncture alongside IVF has demonstrated that acupuncture more than doubles women’s chances of having a baby. There has been a suggestion that acupuncture should be offered on the NHS to support IVF cycles. I would fully support this, although my suggestion would be that it is acupuncture administered by practitioners who have undertaken a full 3 year training, rather than those who have done a minimal training in dry needle technique.

In the recent trial; 71 women received acupuncture and IVF, 21 of these became pregnant. Compared to 6 of the 69 in the IVF only group. Of course, critics will say “there was no placebo and the study was small and therefore not significant’. But this will not deter women from seeking acupuncture.

As acupuncturists we have known that acupuncture increases the chances of IVF and optimizing natural fertility for a long time; 14 years ago the Paulus (2002) study demonstrated excellent results. And couples have been flocking to acupuncturists ever since. The paper published in Fertility and Sterility; demonstrated a 42.5% pregnancy rate in the acupuncture and IVF group verses a 26.3% success rate in the IVF group.

Acupuncture is one of the oldest treatments in existence with a long recorded history of efficacy. Of course trials are difficult and expensive to run and it is not easy to find a suitable placebo for acupuncture. It is not like popping a pill. Researchers have struggled to find a placebo that does not create a change in the body in a similar way to acupuncture. Trials are expensive to run and, unlike drugs companies who have huge budgets and make a lot of profit, no one stands to profit that much from promoting acupuncture. This is the conflict within medicine and it is only the couples that suffer if they are not offered effective treatments that are easy to administer, do no harm and are relatively inexpensive.

I totally disagree with peddling treatments that do not work or give patients false hope. I am as angered as the pro-scientists about websites claiming that they cure everything from headaches to breast cancer.

One of my personal frustrations has been that, to date, all the research has been focused on before and after embryo transfer (though this recent study gave 4 not 2 treatment). 14 years later why are we still asking the same question? I would love to see the researchers look outside of this tiny window and extend their research question; ‘If acupuncture can do this during IVF then what can it do outside of IVF to optimize’.

Emma Cannon Clinic – IVF SUPPORT

In my clinic, we find we have the best results when acupuncture is administered throughout the IVF cycle. Our experience has demonstrated that this may improve the growth of the follicles, helping to balance growth on each ovary. Help to prepare the endometrium so that the correct thickness is achieved. Acupuncture can also reduce discomfort, constipation and bloating around egg collection; helping to prepare the body for transfer.

An additional benefit is that patients report feeling calmer and more relaxed, releasing endorphins.

We also use acupuncture as preparation for IVF, or in between failed IVF cycles. Men too can benefit from using acupuncture prior to and during IVF, particularly if there is male factor infertility or they have high stress levels. Many men enjoy being involved in the process and find acupuncture helps them relax.

5 Other reasons to use acupuncture

  1. To help support you in losing weight or stopping smoking
  2. To support you in early pregnancy, particularly following IVF
  3. To manage bloating, constipation and digestive issues
  4. To help alleviate stress and calm the mind
  5. For patients with unexplained infertility or immune issues

We have a long way to go in order to design trials that can measure the efficacy of acupuncture. It is also important to remember that many procedures used in medicine, have also not been rigorously tested. Early pregnancy scanning is one of these.

Acupuncture has the longest recorded record of safe and effective treatment than any other procedure. However, the evidence is growing and couples will vote with their feet. As one open minded IVF consultant said to me last week; “why wouldn’t you use acupuncture alongside IVF”.

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Complementary Therapies

Conception Is A Natural Process

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Conception Natural Process

Mike Berkley was the first acupuncturist in the United States to specialise in the care and treatment of infertility. He has been treating individuals for 21 years. Mike is known and well respected by reproductive endocrinologists, gynaecologists and acupuncturists throughout the world. He has lectured extensively; is a member of, and certified by the American Board of Oriental Medicine, the NCCAOM as well as the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. He sees patients from St. Barnabus, NYU, Weill Cornell, The Sher Institute, Batzofin Fertility Services, Columbia Presbyterian, RMA, New hope, Neway and numerous other prestigious reproductive medical centres in New York City, New Jersey and Long Island. He has an extensive knowledge of acupuncture, herbal medicine and Western reproductive medicine.

He is the Founder and Director, The Berkley Centre for Reproductive Medicine. Here he gives his candid views on the importance of acupuncture and herbal medicine in the fertility process.

Conception, pregnancy and birth need to be viewed as a process.

Process
Conception, pregnancy and birth need to be viewed as a process. One definition of the process is, “a series of actions, changes, or functions bringing about a result”. In my view, any natural process is better in every way than an artificial one. A good example is cooking. There is the process of cooking which is a slow, mindful act and there is microwave cooking which is basically a non-participatory act without natural process. There is no relationship between the chef and the outcome of the meal. Which meal tastes better? Just as important, which is healthier to eat?

The process of conception is quite complicated and requires the perfect balance and function of many components all working in a coordinated and harmonious fashion. Sperm must be attracted to the egg, it must find it and then it must penetrate it. Both egg and sperm are required to be of the highest quality. The lining must have qualitative integrity. The embryo must find the lining and must be able to penetrate it. The placenta must develop and nourish the developing foetus and rid the foetus of waste matter. The placenta must protect the foetus from immunological attack. The cytokines, proteins, immune function, blood flow, glycoproteins, hormones must all be in balance and not under or over functioning. There must be the absence of pathological mitigators which can contribute to infertility or promote miscarriage. Each and every player in the orchestra of conception must be in tune. One sour note and pregnancy will not occur, or miscarriage will ensue.

A viable conception, pregnancy and birth all follow this distinct process.

Chinese medicine which consists mainly of acupuncture and herbal medicine does not work by adding to that which is deficient or reducing that which is in excess; Western medicine is good at that. For example, a common practice in treating a deficiency syndrome, i.e., hypothyroidism is to ADD Synthroid. Or a common method at reducing excess insulin is by prescribing Metformin. These medicines which add, suppress or reduce have changed the face of civilization. Without the intervention of Western medicine and surgery our life-span would probably not exceed 40 years of age and eight million babies would not have been born as a result of IVF. How many couples, however, have remained childless even though they have undergone multiple IVFs? I am guessing more than six million.

Here is why: Just as a microwave oven can cook a meal, IVF can create a baby. But, as the microwave does not supplant the relationship between the chef and the food and the process of creating a meal, IVF cannot, in all its glory, in all cases, replace the natural process which is necessary to occur for conception and a take-home-baby to ensue.

Western Medicine

The alternative
Acupuncture and herbal medicine are essentially used to create a state as close to homeostasis as possible. Homeostasis is when everything in the body and mind work perfectly. Obviously, this is not attainable. But, acupuncture and herbs attempt this and through their intervention a greater state of systemic and psycho-emotional health can be, and invariably is, achieved. This is why in many cases, acupuncture and herbs work to help one achieve pregnancy when IVF fails.

I believe the greater one’s physical and psycho-emotional health is, the more likely they will be able to conceive and deliver.

Based upon twenty-one years of clinical experience in the field of infertility it is my professional opinion that the best-case scenario for the infertile patient is to utilize Western medicine in conjunction with acupuncture and herbal medicine. The reason for this is quite simple. When the reproductive endocrinologist retrieves eggs and fertilizes them with sperm the resulting embryo is as good as its constituent components; the egg and sperm. Most IVFs that fail, do so because of poor egg quality and/or poor sperm quality. The reproductive endocrinologist invariably cannot improve egg or sperm quality; acupuncture and herbs invariably can.

Blood
I saw a thirty four year old patient today. She has conceived three times with intercourse only to miscarry each time. She did get pregnant and delivered a baby as a result of insemination. She then had one subsequent failed IVF treatment. Now her doctor has recommended donor egg with IVF. The patient has cold hands and feet, a pale complexion, low energy and gets dizzy. Obviously, she has poor hemodynamics.

Blood is what carries FSH and LH from the brain to the ovaries; blood nourishes the endometrial lining; blood carries oxygen, electrolytes and nutrition to the entire reproductive system and removes waste matter from the reproductive environment. When cells die which they constantly do, they are ‘eaten’ up by macrophages. If the immune function is not functioning normally and debris is not removed, the outer layer of the dead cells breach and the internal toxic substance circulates within the ovarian milieu causing degradation in ovarian/egg quality. Acupuncture and herbal medicine increase blood flow; as a result, this can in many instances, improve the health and function of the target tissue: ovaries and endometrial lining.

Why are you not using acupuncture and herbs?
It is difficult for me to understand why all infertile patients don’t include acupuncture and herbal medicine in their protocols. Why would they not? There has been so much research elucidating the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of infertility that acupuncture is no longer referred to as ‘alternative’ medicine but rather ‘complementary’ medicine. Herbs have a three thousand year history of positive clinical outcomes.

Herb safety
Regarding the safety profile of herbs, I have this to say: there are at least one million hospitalizations per year in America alone which occur as a result of adverse reactions to Western medicine. Many of these hospitalizations result in death. This does not happen with herbal medicine.

It is ironic, therefore, that many (but no longer all!) doctors don’t want their patients on herbs because “they don’t know what’s in them”. Do you know what’s in Lupron? Or Gonal F? Did you know that ovarian hyperstimulation even from Clomid can be fatal?

Don’t misunderstand, I am 100% pro IUI, IVF and donor egg IVF protocols. But to not partake of a modality with proven results which may change the course from a negative outcome to a positive one especially in the patient who has had multiple IUI/IVF failures is a clinical error.

More information can be found on Mike Berkely’s website.

 

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Complementary Therapies

How Chinese Medicine helped me start a family

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Chinese Medicine helped me start a family

A growing body of evidence support the role of traditional Chinese Medicine in the treatment.

After two years of struggling to conceive naturally, Ms Tran decided go for Chinese Medicine to help conceive. She felt it was taking longer than she anticipated, and she was fed up with take drugs or injections. She said “I did lot of research and studied through the internet on Chinese medicine. GinSen is my no. one choice as my friend’s recommendation. At age 32, I was having lots of pressure for have a baby.”

Ms Tran attended the first consultation in GinSen Clinic on October 2015. “GinSen’s expert team are very professional and experienced, I was comfortable with their consultation, believe me that they gave me such confident and hope. I took their advice, started a 3 month treatment plan combining Acupuncture and Herbal Tea. I agreed with their analysis, they identified my condition straight away, and my infertility was due to a Yang deficiency of Spleen and Kidney” She said.

After the treatments, Ms Tran felt her energy level was increased, her hands and feet were warmer and other symptoms were dispelled. She felt so much better after her treatment. In March 2016, She was pregnant, the baby was born in November 2016. “I am so joyful with my baby” She told us”.

Ms Tran is one of the many helped by GinSen. GinSen has been using finest herbal medicine and Acupuncture to focus to treat women‘s infertility due to FSH high, MH low, Fallopian Tube Blockage, PCOS, Age problems and IVF Support. Founded by Practitioner Li Hua Li, GinSen bases it fertility treatment on Yin and Yang theory of balance.

In Chinese medicine, the primary goal for restoring fertile health is to balance the yin and yang of the body. In respect to fertility, the yin aspect includes blood, fluids and substance. The yang energy stimulates ovulation. In TCM, doctors believe that acupuncture can enhance Qi (The vital Energy), balance the blood deficiencies, promote blood circulation, stimulate the activity of reproductive organs. Another popular recommendation is herbal tea, formulas are prescribed that combine several herbs which will have a multi effect within the body – by addressing any underlying imbalances or deficiencies.

Infertility, TCM takes the position that high quality eggs and sperm will result from a well – established supply of blood and energy. Used in both men and women, TCM can be used on its ownor increasingly in combination with Western assisted fertility procedure. In recent years, the use of TCM is enjoying growing popularity as couples seek to enhance their fertility using natural methods. News of positive experiences and successful outcomes are spreading as natural, holistic alternatives to conventional medical fertility enhancement (IVF) are sought.

In 2000, a British Medical Association survey showed that around half of doctors had prescribed acupuncture in the Uk. In 2016, A British study found that rates of success were twice as high among those having the alternative therapy. The study involved 160 couples suffering from fertility problems. Half were assigned to have four sessions of acupuncture during their IVF cycle. One year on, those who under went the ancient practice, involving fine needles, had achieved pregnancy rates of 46.2 per cent. Among those who had not, pregnancy rates were just 21.7 per cent. Trial researchers have urged the NHS to offer the treatment routinely to all fertility patients. This study shows a statistically significant difference. But some experts are hold opinions that the weakness of the study is that the placebo effect can’t be controlled.

Over the past 17 years, GinSen clinics have succeed in helping fertility patients aged between 20-48 years: since 2006, the clinic has achieved an average fertility success rate of more than 55 per cent in the over-40 age group, treating both medically explained and unexplained fertility problems.

With its proven tracking record, GinSen feels it can stay confidence to help more people in the future.

Find Out More at: ginsen-london.com or 0207 751 5606

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Complementary Therapies

It’s Time To Get Fertile – Nourish and balance your body ready for baby making by Emma Cannon

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Fertility Diet Nutrition

Best-selling author, fertility expert and regular Fertility Road magazine contributor Emma Cannon took time out of her busy schedule to talk about the inspiration for her new book FERTILE Nourish And Balance Your Body Ready For Baby Making.

What’s inside Fertile

The Fertile Cleanse: Perfect for Springtime – if you are trying for a baby right now or perhaps about to undergo IVF. A seven-day menu plan, together with unique wellbeing rituals including oil pulling, ‘fish and chips’ bath, dry skin brushing and hot and cold showers.

The Menstrual Tonic: 7 day simple self-care and eating plan for women of any stage of life to encourage engagement and awareness of the monthly cycle.

The Menstrual Optimisation Plan: 28 day plan for women with regular periods to help engage with and understand their menstrual cycle. Includes appropriate food groups that work for each stage of the cycle.

The Body-Mind-Gut Programme: 7 day menu plan for balancing digestive weakness. Ideal for IBS sufferers or general digestive disturbances that may be compromising fertility.

Planting Seeds Meditation: A lovely meditation designed to nourish and grow ideas and visions using seeds and the soil of your garden.

Fertile Eggs: Emma’s lifestyle and nutritional recommendations for women in their thirties wishing to optimise egg quality of for those having fertility treatment and wanting to improve their chances.

Miscarriage: Looking at causes and support with a ‘Self-healing exercise’.

Male Fertility: Fascinating facts about sperm with a tool box of ‘male booster’ recipes and foods.

IVF Support: How to prepare and support yourself during IVF with a soothing, nurturing menu planner, sleep tips and emotional preparation and energy improvement strategies.

Let’s get Fertile…

TONE – What led you to specialise in treating couples with fertility problems?

EMMA – It happened quite by chance about 20 years ago, women started coming to me because their friend who had got pregnant after seeing me or their GP sent them. Word spread and I got my nickname the Baby Maker.

TONE – With four books under your belt what was the inspiration for your new book Fertile?

EMMA – People who loved my other books kept asking me for more recipes so I teamed up with Victoria Wells who is a Nutritionist specialising in female and male fertility. I was getting concerned that women were taking their health and food advice from social media. The book is based on a combination of research, Chinese medicine dietary energetics and my years of experience.

TONE – How is Fertile different to your previous books?

EMMA – Quite a lot although the foundations are the same; for example the bits people really love like the self-assessment have been updated and this time I really lay things out with full menu plans.

TONE – Surely there’s only so much you can write about on this subject?

EMMA – I never run out of material. I could sit down and write another book tomorrow. I think because I have such an eclectic view of fertility and come at it from so many angles there is always something to say. There is still so much we do not fully understand about the body. Never trust anyone that has it all sewn up and acts like they are in full possession of the facts. It is very unlikely that they do.

TONE – Fertility or infertility. Which do you prefer and why?

EMMA – Fertile! I like to talk about fertile in its widest meaning. It is such a positive word and one that means so much more than just having babies. To be fertile is to be rich in resources, abundant and prolific.

But if we are talking scientifically then I think there is infertile and subfertile.

Infertility: tubal pathology, menstrual cycle disorders, severe semen abnormality.

Sub-fertility: mild/moderate semen abnormalities, ovarian ageing, infrequent or badly timed sex, mild/mod endometriosis etc.

TONE – We get a lof of emails about the benefits of complimentary therapies like acupuncture and if they actually work. What would you say to anyone who’s unsure?

EMMA – Acupuncture is part of an ancient system of medicine – Chinese Medicine – it is one of the oldest and best continuously documented forms of medicine there is. Far older than western medicine. It is also backed up by research. It can’t be compared to something like reflexology – which although can be effective lacks research and recorded documented history of efficacy. So for me the question was far to open ended.

I feel that Chinese medicine and acupuncture are in their own category and the way in which I use the in clinic is very much in an integrated way. Combining the best of western medicine, evidence based acupuncture, nutrition and other techniques like mindfulness.

Not everything can be measured using science as it’s starting point but acupuncture, at least, compared to other treatments has attempted to run trials and produce evidence. This makes it a far more plausible treatment than many others especially in the field of fertility.

I think this is a common mistake that people make “complementary therapies work” “complementary therapies don’t work”

It’s rather like saying

“all children are nice”

“all children are not nice”

Impossible to generalise.

TONE – There’s no denying that IVF works. So why would someone who’s never tried acupuncture before try it?

EMMA – Research. Word of mouth. Its long history of efficacy.

I would have to argue with you on your first point. IVF works in some people some of the time. It is NOT a fertility cure all. When it works it is nothing short of a miracle, when it doesn’t it is invasive, expensive and heart breaking.

With all these things it is not one or the other. No one is saying that you should do acupuncture instead of IVF. It is about knowing when someone needs IVF and when they may have a small window to try other things. This is what we need to get across. Acupuncture is very different from IVF and it works in an entirely different way but it can support it. Acupuncture is also just a small part of an over all approach that we offer in our clinic. It is by no means a standalone and I always use it in conjunction with good medical supervision, lifestyle advice and cutting edge diagnostics. I work with like minded medics who acknowledge that sometimes there is a window of opportunity to try other things like acupuncture before moving on to stronger medicine – surgery or drugs etc.

TONE – When couples come into to see you what support if any do you offer their male partners?

EMMA – We offer diagnostic testing; semen analysis, DNA fragmentation testing and referral on to a specialist where needed. We also offer nutritional support and of course acupuncture.

TONE – Would you consider writing a book about male infertility in future?

EMMA – Yes but publishers always tell me men wont buy it. Maybe women would buy it?

TONE – Secondary infertility is on the rise what do you put that down to?

EMMA – Age, complications caused by birth, lack of sex.

TONE – What are your views on IVF being offered as a first solution to the problem?

EMMA – What problem – for the whole of infertility and subfertility – no that is not how it works. IVF should be used when it is the most likely treatment to solve the problem, not just as a matter of course. Even the most ardent IVF supporter would say the same thing.

TONE – Fertility is still a taboo subject. Do you encourage your clients to be open and discuss this as part of their treatment with family and friends?

EMMA – That is personal. Some people are very open about it which is great. Some are much more private. That is a matter for them; I encourage them to be open with me, after that its up to them who, how and what they wish to discuss.

TONE – We hear it a lot.. Stop trying and it will happen. Do you subscribe to that thought or believe it’s insensitive to tell a women to stop trying?

EMMA – I would never be so glib – but there is some truth that for some couples when they relax or let go of the obsession and anxiety then they conceive. Anxiety is a fertility killer. Make no mistake about it. I don’t tell women to stop trying I help them find ways to manage anxiety and sometimes this involves focusing on other things and yes sometimes in some people this works. But not if anxiety wasn’t the issues in the first place.

TONE – We’ve seen couples who have had numerous IVF cycles which have failed only to fall pregnant naturally at a later stage. Some say it’s because of the fertility drugs they’ve taken which ultimately have helped. Is this something you’ve come across and what are you thoughts on it?

EMMA – Of course this happens all the time. We will never really know why this is. Perhaps the IVF drugs stimulate the system. Perhaps its mental/emotional as above – letting go. Perhaps its just coincidence.

Many people who have IVF are not infertile they are sub-fertile (or perhaps impatient) so perhaps they never needed IVF at all. But we see this all the time in clinic.

TONE – If you could offer one piece of advice to anyone struggling to get pregnant. What would it be?

EMMA – Take time out to rest and nourish yourself. So many people are overworked and strung out. Don’t let go of life in pursuit of a baby; it is important to live a life of enjoyment and full of joy.

TONE – Many CCG’s are cutting back on fertility treatments. Do you think couples will turn to more alternative treatments if they cannot afford IVF?

EMMA – Quite possibly.

TONE – Do you treat fertility as a disease?

EMMA – Infertility is often classed as a disease. Sub-fertility is not, but just because people are not ill it does not mean they do not suffer.

TONE – Do you think fertility apps are helpful to people trying to get pregnant?

EMMA – Like anything, it can go both ways. I think it can make women too fixated and cause anxiety but equally, it can help women understand their cycle. Often women who use these apps have less sex as they think they can pinpoint ovulation and by doing so reduce their sex lives to 2-3 times a month. This is not helpful as it is far better to have regular sex throughout the month.

TONE – Do you think couples have lost the art of making babies naturally? For example taking time as a couple, having date nights and so on?

EMMA – Yes, in some not all case this is true. I tell couples all the time ‘if you want to have a baby you need to prioritise sex’. People will change their diet, do yoga, go for treatment, do exercise. But sometimes doing all these things just add to the problem as there is no time to fit in sex as they are spending so much time trying to be healthy. It’s ironic.

TONE – On my wedding day someone approached me and said ‘When are you having kids!’ Do you think there is a lot of pressure for couples to start a family as soon as they are married?

EMMA – I’m sure this varies enormously depending on age, culture etc. People can be incredibly insensitive though.

TONE – What are your thoughts about couples who decide they don’t want any children.

EMMA – Good for them – the world is overpopulated and it’s a serious business bringing up children.

TONE – What are your thoughts on egg freezing?

EMMA – Great do it – if you do it early enough it can be part of a fertility preservation policy but I also think it can offer false hope. So address lifestyle issues and take care of your health as well. Putting off parenting may help us build a career but having children younger in life can have its benefits (if the opportunity is there of course).

TONE – What do you do to relax and unwind?

EMMA – Yoga, watch movies with my family, go to our caravan in South of France. I love to ski and of course, cook lovely food and share it with friends and family.

TONE – What’s one thing no one knows about you?

EMMA – I hate broccoli!

TONE – What was the last book you read?

EMMA – I recently re-read A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. It’s a great book and I love the title – the title sums up fertility for me: A FINE BALANCE and as an acupuncturist, I am all about helping my patients find the right balance for them. Sometimes this is enough and sometimes they need stronger medicine. I am a realist.

Thank so much Emma for your inspiring and sometimes unique insights into fertility issues and I’m sure our readers will appreciate your honest and thoughtful outlook on fertility, food and body in your new book Fertile. Click here to purchase your copy of Fertile by Emma Cannon

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