by David Derdiger, L.Ac.
A common reason cis-female patients seek out an acupuncturist is because they heard from a friend help how it helped them get pregnant. Practitioners of Chinese medicine have been using acupuncture, herbs, and dietary recommendations to assist women with their fertility for over two thousand years, long before the advent of interventions such as pharmaceuticals, IUI, and IVF.
These results are achieved by harmonizing a cis-female patient’s natural menstrual cycle. A harmonious cycle is one that proceeds regularly, without too many or too few days between menses, menstrual bleeding that is neither excessive nor scant, with little to no menstrual cramping, and no accompanying symptoms such as headaches, digestive upset, major mood swings, premenstrual breast tenderness, and significant menstrual clotting.
Something unique to Chinese medicine is the idea that having regular, timely menses without accompanying symptoms is the main indicator of fertility, and so the main treatment strategy for natural fertility support is cycle regulation. Typically, if a patient’s cycle is in disharmony, it will take on average 2-3 menstrual cycles to reestablish harmony using Chinese medicine. This is because hormonal cycles in the body are tightly regulated and slow to change, which can be frustrating when attempting to change for the better, yet is important when those cycles are harmonious.
While this article is about menstrual cycle regulation and how it relates to female fertility, don’t forget that in at least half of infertility cases issues in the male reproductive system are a major or contributing cause, so men should remember to seek care as well.
Consider the methods of traditional Chinese medicine before turning to pharmaceuticals or evaluation by a reproductive endocrinologist. If your plan already involves utilizing assisted reproductive technology (ART), regulating the menstrual cycle (ideally for 2-3 months) before beginning that process can strengthen outcomes by improving egg quality and circulation to the reproductive organs. Even if you’ve already begun the ART process, and are about to undergo a frozen embryo transfer, a recent study shows that individualized acupuncture, pre and post embryo transfer, is significantly associated with higher implantation and clinical pregnancy rates.
David Derdiger, L.Ac.
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