1. Conceiving Ain't Easy.
Many of the women I see in my fertility practice are perplexed by the irony that they've spent so many years of their lives trying to avoid pregnancy and now, when they want to get pregnant, can't seem to conceive. They are often surprised to learn that in their 20s they only have a 20 to 25 percent chance of pregnancy each month. At 30, the chance of becoming pregnant in a given month drops to around 15 percent and by 35, the likelihood is less than 10 percent in a given month. A lot of lifestyle factors contribute to your ability to conceive including your weight, your exposure to environmental toxins (a.k.a. hormone disruptors), your diet, your sleep, and how well you manage stress. Though my patients come to my practice with the ultimate goal of becoming pregnant, my immediate treatment goal is to restore whole health. Once we've established a foundation of whole body health, women often find conception occurs effortlessly.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Whether dreams of starting a family are in your near future or are a ways off, it's never too early to start cultivating a lifestyle that nurtures whole health, for you and your future. If you're not sure how to get started, let's talk!
2. Fertility Issues are Common. If You are Having Difficulty, You are not Alone.
One in eight women experiences infertility, defined as the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after 12 months of trying to conceive. If you are over the age of 35, the time of trying to conceive is reduced to 6 months. The silver lining in this statistic is that if you are experiencing fertility issues you are not alone.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: If you are having difficulty conceiving, you may find comfort in joining a local or online support group, such as RESOLVE, where you can connect with others who are going through the same challenges, frustrations, and disappointments, as well as foster hope and agency to find resolution. Support groups offer the opportunity to decrease your sense of isolation, express negative emotions, develop effective coping skills, and enhance self-esteem. Not only do they provide a supportive community, but a 2000 study found that those who attended RESOLVE support groups had higher pregnancy rates than women who didn’t attend a support group.
3. Fertility is Not Binary. Fertility is on a Continuum.
I don’t like using the word “infertility” because it gives the impression that fertility is something you either have or you don’t, when in reality fertility is on a continuum, in which you can be less fertile or more fertile. When I begin working with a woman (it's almost always women whom seek treatment for fertility), I explain that there are certain markers throughout a menstrual cycle that indicate fertile potential. An optimally fertile cycle is 28 days long with ovulation* occurring on cycle day 14, at which time there is notable clear, stretchy cervical fluid present which helps the sperm reach the egg. Menstruation occurs for 4 days without pain, PMS, clotting, or spotting. In clinical practice, I’ve observed that the more closely a woman’s cycle reflects this cycle, the more likely she is to conceive naturally.
*Ovulation is a part of the female menstrual cycle whereby an egg is released from the ovary, and travels down the fallopian tube where it may be met and fertilized by a sperm.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Cultivate curiosity about your cycle. Take note of how long it is (from the first day of your period to the first day of your following period); how many days of bleeding you experience; any symptoms you experience throughout your cycle, especially premenstrually, during your period, and around ovulation. Note any discharge, including texture, color, and timing (at which point in your cycle do you notice it?). In addition, I find Basal Body Temperature* charts to be very effective tools for tracking and quantifying your progress, and empowering women to become more attuned to their bodies.
*For more information on Basal Body Temperature charting, click here.
4. Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine Can Help.
Stress, if left unmanaged, can significantly hinder your ability to conceive. Not only can chronic stress disrupt the production and regulation of sex hormones critical to reproduction, it can also cause constriction of blood vessels that supply the ovaries and uterus. Acupuncture can help restore the delicate balance between stress and sex hormones, facilitating ovulation and implantation. It can also promote circulation to the ovaries and uterus, improving egg quality and thickness of the uterine lining, and creating a more favorable environment for egg development, ovulation, and embryo implantation. In addition to being effective tools for increasing natural conception, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have been shown in numerous studies to increase the success rates of IVF by 40-50%.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Find an acupuncturist, preferably one who prescribes herbs, and who also specializes in fertility. RESOLVE and FABORM are two great resources to help you find reproductive specialists in your area. As a reproductive acupuncture specialist I take an integrative approach to fertility, combining biomedical and Eastern medical knowledge to inform clinical practice. This includes a thorough consultation in which we discuss your fertility journey and overall health, as well as the results of blood tests and any IUI or IVF cycles. Based on our conversation, I will develop an individualized acupuncture and herbal medicine protocol in addition to offering dietary and lifestyle modifications to address underlying imbalances affecting your fertility. Working together we will improve your overall health to significantly increase your chances of conceiving.
5. Acupuncture Doesn't Just Treat Infertility. It Can Prevent it!
By the time most of my patients come to see me they have already been trying to conceive for months or even years, and many have been given the daunting diagnosis of “infertility.” While acupuncture is an effective treatment for “infertility,” many couples could potentially avoid significant distress if they began receiving acupuncture treatment as soon as they have decided they are ready to conceive (or ideally 3 months before they begin trying to conceive). Preconception care helps to regulate any hormone imbalances or irregularities in the menstrual cycle and to optimize your overall health, facilitating faster conception rates and decreased risk of miscarriage.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: If you are considering becoming pregnant, start your preconception care now to prime your body for a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby.
To learn more about how acupuncture and herbal medicine can help you conceive and deliver a healthy baby, click here.
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