A great many people like to think of this stage as the “fun” part of trying for a baby! However, for a lot of soon-to-be parents, this phase can be the most challenging and frustrating part of the baby-making cycle.
There are, of course, various reasons as to why oftentimes couples find themselves feeling stressed and overwhelmed while trying to conceive. It could be that they simply have not fallen pregnant as quickly as they would have imagined, and become nervous as they start to wonder “what is wrong with them.” For some, they could be contending with reproductive difficulties such as irregular cycles, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or clinically-diagnosed infertility (female or male-oriented). For others, it could be a mad-dash against the clock, having felt that perhaps they have waited a bit too long in starting a family. For many, couples can become stressed-out about being stressed-out, sometimes even slipping into anxiety and depression along the way.
Although we now live in a society that promotes instantaneous gratification, conception has remained virtually intact as one of life’s greatest surprises. What is so important to remember and to believe in full-heartedly, is that the body does truly know when the body is ready. The very best thing we can do in trying for a baby is to trust in the process, to have faith and to maintain a positive outlook on life.
How can acupuncture increase my chances of becoming pregnant?
Research suggests that one of the mechanisms of how acupuncture works is by its effects on the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in the brain. The hypothalamus regulates stress hormones as well as the sex hormones, establishing a reasonable argument that high levels of stress would make it more difficult to conceive. Prolonged use of contraceptives also work by affecting this hypothalamic-pituitary axis by chemical castration, causing a total shut-down of the hormones that need to be secreted in order to ovulate. By stimulating this axis, acupuncture can reduce stress that hinders pregnancy, regulate the menstrual cycle and ensure that proper ovulation is occurring.
Acupuncture also works by treating pre-existing conditions that can make it difficult to become pregnant, such as irregular cycles, endometriosis, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Mental and emotional challenges such as high stress, anxiety and depression can be successfully treated with acupuncture as well, ensuring easier conception and a healthy start for both mom and baby.
Existing studies were reviewed by researchers at the New York Weill Cornell Medical Centre, providing supportive evidence that acupuncture and the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine helps:
- improve uterine arterial blood flow, which thereby increases the chances of a fertilized egg implanting
- reduce stress hormones that can inhibit or interfere with ovulation
- normalize hormones that regulate ovulation, ensuring that an egg is released every menstrual cycle. This is especially important for women with irregular cycles trying to conceive.
- improve ovulation in women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).
- improve pregnancy rates in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF)
- lower FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) levels by improving the condition of the ovaries
Also of interest, a German study of 160 women found that receiving acupuncture before and after embryo transfer (within a 24 hr time-frame) had a significantly higher pregnancy rate (42.5% compared to 26% of the women who did not have acupuncture) for women undergoing IVF treatments.
What about the Men?
It is highly recommended for men to be involved in increasing the chances of conception, whether or not they have been previously diagnosed with any reproductive challenges. Acupuncture can help:
- increase sperm production (both quantity and quality)
- increase sperm motility
- with absence of semen or ejaculate
What is involved in a typical plan of treatment?
As we are dealing with hormonal function and monthly menstrual cycles, it can take up to 3 months of 1-2 weekly treatments to see measureable results, though many patients do see results sooner.
The typical plan of treatment described above is the optimum plan of treatment, implemented to provide the highest rate of success based on the most recent studies and research available. At a minimum, acupuncture should be received post-period and at ovulation to ensure positive results and a higher success rate. A good acupuncturist will always work with you and your family to establish a plan of treatment specifically designed to support you along your journey towards one of life’s greatest gifts.
Stay tuned for Part Two of Acupuncture for Pregnancy Series: Part Two: Pregnancy (3 Trimesters) and Labor
If you have any questions or would like to book a consultation, please contact Heather Bracken