It is well recognised that in the UK, 1 in 7 couples have trouble conceiving. What this doesn’t share is the heartbreak and strain this puts on couples and individuals. At One Acupuncture® each person is treated as one whole person and we seek to understand and address what is out of balance that has led to these issues. Often it is the woman who first comes for treatment and together we can discuss if it would also benefit both partners. Sometimes there is a simple reason, for example lack of ovulation. However, fertility is complex and more often than not, it is a case of improving multiple aspects, by addressing the whole.
Why One Acupuncture®
The power of Acupuncture to support fertility was what attracted Alison to study East Asian Medicine in the first place and remains very close to her heart. Helping patients become parents is a humbling and rewarding experience and Alison would love to share this with you. She has studied extensively[link to CPD section here] on this area with leading international experts and also lectured on Fertility (natural and assisted) for many years at a leading UK Acupuncture College.
As part of her commitment to increase awareness and improve clinical practice, Alison created and is chair of ACT Berkshire, a regional network of Traditional Acupuncture professionals with special interest and post-graduate training in Fertility & Pregnancy.
What you receive
- Dedicated one-to-one care with a safe space to share your story and review of your complete medical and personal history, so together we can identify likely causes and areas to work on together
- A full Chinese-Medicine based diagnosis -of your total health and also how it relates to your fertility
- Unique treatment plan, tailored at every treatment to how you are
- Personal tutorial on Basal Body Temperature (BBT) charting and other important cycle indictors (women) and ongoing support
- Diet and lifestyle advice based on your diagnosis
- Free access to the clinics lending library of fertility-related books
- Self-support: advice on energy exercises, self-massage, acupressure
- Access to medicinal mushrooms and other supplements, if advised
- Optional cross-referral to trusted other therapists and fertility clinics, if appropriate
- Membership of a Facebook group (secret) with access to articles and online support and advice
- It takes two
- We appreciate that both partners may not want treatment. We work with you to identify ways the person not having treatment can also improve their fertility health. To encourage both partners to
- person not having treatment can also improve their fertility health. To encourage both partners to have treatment, especially where this is recommended, the second partner receives a 10% discount.
How we Treat
Alison takes a complete health history, makes observations and creates your individual East Asian Medicine-based diagnosis which is the foundation of your treatment at One Acupuncture®. She integrates any information you have from a Western perspective, including understanding your Western “label” if any, results of Western blood and other tests.
Treatment makes best use of all the East Asian Medicine toolsare her disposal [link to what we do section] to help balance your body and mind. This includes not only Traditional Acupuncture, but also Tui Na (Chinese Massage) often focusing on the abdominal area for women and the application of heating herbs (moxa). For women, she pays particular interest in the menstrual cycle and she is an expert on Charting (Basal Body Temperature). If this is appropriate for you, she will guide you through this useful technique.
Many years ago, Alison trained in Fertility with Prof. Dr. Yuning Wu from Beijing and when Alison lectures on Fertility to Acupuncture students she always concludes with a quote from Prof. Wu “first the beautiful period, then maybe, a beautiful baby”.
For men, sperm quality and libido are important focus areas for treatment. Sex drive and intimacy for both partners can be an unfortunate casualty when conceiving is less than straightforward. Getting back into balance in your relationship is an important part of treatment.
For both partners, stress and anxietyreduction is a common and wonderful overall consequence of treatment at One Acupuncture® and of course, there is increasing evidence (and we know this in ourselves to be true) that stress can adversely affect both our health and relationships in general and fertility specifically. Alison often quotes “you can have sex hormones (e.g. eostrogen, progesterone, testosterone) or stress hormones (e.g. cortisol), but it’s difficult to have both”, as they both have a common precursor master hormone (pregnenolone) and the body chooses whether to make more sex or stress hormones depending on environment and other triggers.
How can Acupuncture help ?
- From a Western perspective, clinical research shows that acupuncture may benefit fertility by:
- regulating the menstrual cycle
- improving the lining of the uterus (womb)
- regulating fertility hormones -stress and other factors can causehormonal imbalances that can negatively impact fertility.
- increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs
- counteracting the effects of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- improving sperm count, motility and quality
From an East Asian Medicine point of view, moving stagnant Qi and Blood, replenishing the body’s natural fluids, and improving flow and balance through the body are all thought to enhance the quality of sperm and egg and to optimise the environment for conception and implantation to take place.
Balancing and optimising these physical factors, while important, is not the whole picture. Emotional and mental health play an important role and are part of the whole you that is addressed in treatment. Many patients are pleasantly surprised at the holistic effect of Acupuncture and how much better they feel in themselves.
What we Treat
Up to a third of couples who haven’t conceived in a year are given this unsatisfactory label. However, not all Western Fertility specialists have access to or use all “tests” and our understanding advances all the time. Patients who come to One Acupuncture with this diagnosis are often reassured that we will be able to give them an understanding of themselves and an East Asian Medicine diagnosis and provide reasons why they may be having issues. This then forms the basis of their treatment. A key tenet of One Acupuncture® is that “knowledge is power” and for these patients in particular this is an important gift.
Endometriosis & Fibroids
Endometriosis is a common condition, thought to affect 2 million women in the UK. Not all women with this diagnosis have trouble conceiving and many women with fertility issues are asymptomatic and may not have a diagnosis of endometriosis. It is commonly diagnosed with a technique called laparoscopy. It is caused by tissue that acts like womb-lining (endometrium) becoming stuck in other parts of the body including the ovaries. It can also become stuck in the womb (where it is called adenomysosis).
Fibroids are non-cancerous growths in the uterus (womb) and up to 1 in 3 women will have them at some point. They are often asymptomatic but can be the cause of up to a third of hysterectomies. Their presence is related to the hormone oestrogen.
Both these conditions are considered to be stagnation of Blood in East Asian medicine traditions. For health and fertility, Blood must flow well and be replenished. If Blood becomes stuck, then the signals to the body to make more Blood are diminished and over time a person can become Blood deficient, especially if there is regular heavy periods, which are caused by the backlog of Blood that can then overflow or flood. This is a serious disharmony and it is important it is addressed through treatment and dietary changes. Acupuncture is known to affect the female reproductive hormonal cascade.
Note: A capital “B” is used here as the term Blood is taken to mean more than the physical blood of Western Medicine terminology, but also includes an energetic as well as physical component.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCO/S)
Polycystic ovaries are fluid-filled immature follicles that may or may not release a mature egg. If there are signs and symptoms then this is called PCO Syndrome (PCOS), which is generally more severe. PCOS affects up to 10% of women and is the most common cause of anovulatory (lack of ovulation) and irregular ovulation fertility issues. It is thought to be related to hormonal and possibly insulin imbalance.
In East Asian Medicine, it is considered to be primarily stagnation of body fluids, which we call “Damp” or “Phlegm”. Often this is due to an underlying weakness in the body’s warming or Yang energy of both the digestion and also our Kidneys (which we consider to be the root of all fertility). A vicious cycle can develop where increasing levels of Damp further deplete a weakening system, which leads to more Damp. Breaking this cycle, encouraging the body to release excess stuck fluids and strengthening and warming the Yang are all important goals of treatment on the path to a fertile body.
Fallopian Tube Factors
Issues with the fallopian tubes may account for up to a third of all fertility issues. They are classified as either structural (perhaps due to damage from infection or procedures) or functional (e.g. stiffness or spasm) blockages. They may become totally blocked or partially damaged. A hydrosalpinx is when a fallopian tube is blocked with fluid.
At One Acupuncture®, treatment focuses on moving stagnation (including fluids and scar tissue) in the region of the fallopian tubes as well as releasing muscle tension and improving the smooth flow of Blood, fluids and Qi to the area.
This is a general term applied to many issues with the menstrual cycle. This includes irregular periods (often related to lack of or irregular ovulation), no periods (amenorrhea), painful (dysmenorrhea) and heavy periods (menorrhagia). Periods may be too long or too short or may also clots. You could even consider Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) within this category. Luteal Phase Defect (LPD) is when the second half of the menstrual cycle (the luteal phase) is less than 10 days and often is due to low levels of the hormone progesterone. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) can also cause menstrual problems. Any of these may contribute to a sub-optimal fertility profile
All of these issues show that there is an imbalance in the body, often in the hormonal cascade (called the “Hypo-Pituitary-Ovarian or HPO axis) that regulates the menstrual cycle and also fertility.
Acupuncture and East Asian Medicine techniques are used to increase the smooth flow of Blood and Qi to the ovaries and throughout the body. It also can balance the HPO hormonal axis to better allow the body to regulate hormone production which can then improve ovarian function and potentially egg quality. Having enough Yang (or warming) energy is also really important. In Chinese Medicine, the Kidneys are considered to be our batteries and the root of fertility, health and longevity. Between them there lies a wonderful acupuncture point called “The Fire of the Gate of Life”, which says it all really.
Auto-Immune (AI) Factors
This is still a controversial topic and many fertility clinics and specialists do not yet recognise the importance of a balanced immune system for conception and implantation to take place. Some clinics do now offer testing for AI factors, including Natural Killer cells (NK) and Anti-Sperm Antibodies (ASA).
Auto-Immune disorders occur either when the woman’s body attacks and destroys the sperm, when there is no natural suppression at the time of implantation or when the body over-reacts, producing small proteins called antibodies against self, so instead of attacking and disposing of foreign bodies (e.g. bacteria/viruses) the body effectively attacks self or in the case of fertility, the embryo. This can then trigger an immune response and the embryo is expelled or implantation is not secure and there can be early loss. For men, if their body overreacts to sperm these can be damaged or destroyed. This is an oversimplification of a beautiful and complex process in the body that needs to be finely tuned. Western Medicine may use steroids to suppress the immune system, but this is relatively unsophisticated as the body does need a functioning immune system for pregnancy to occur.
A core part of Acupuncture treatment is balancing the immune system as a whole and also reducing any inflammation which may causing a heightened immune response.
At One Acupuncture® as part of your unique diagnosis and treatment plan, Alison seeks to identify any likely AI issues which she can then address with treatment and advice as well as referral for specialist tests if required. Alison is trained in and can provide a personalised prescription of medicinal mushrooms, nature’s own immunomodulator food.
It is fair to say that most patients who approach the clinic for help with fertility are women, which is a shame as we know that up to half of all fertility issues are related to male factor. It does, after all, “take two”. Sadly, in the last fifty years, we know sperm count and quality have decreased by over 40%, possibly due to environmental toxins, stress and diet.
Male factor includes low sperm count, abnormal shape and size (morphology), low sperm motility, Auto-immune factors and issues with liquefaction and viscosity. There may have been physical trauma, past infection or exposure to environmental toxins including oestrogen or medications. It takes 100 days to complete a sperm cycle, so treatment is recommended for around to three months for optimal impact.
Acupuncture has been shown to increase the percentage and number of normal sperm. It can address some physical blockages, e.g. those caused by what we call Damp or Phlegm, which also can make the semen too viscose. The male hormonal cascade can also be balanced. East Asian Medicine treats the whole body, through improving Qi (energy) and ensuring smooth flow of Qi and body fluids around the body. By treating the man’s whole body health, it is anticipated that the sperm are of better overall “quality”. As it also treats the mind, stress and anxiety can also be addressed.
If patients are already at the point of having decided to pursue assisted techniques (most commonly IVF) then we ask you to come for regular treatment for at least one and up to three months prior to any IVF cycle. This is based on our understanding from the latest clinical research and also Alison’s own clinical experience. This gives Alison time to balance you and provide optimal support. Please do get in touch if you would like to find out more about this.
Acupuncture treatment is given at specific stages through the cycle, which we work out together. The focus of each treatment changes at each stage, but during the cycle we work to improve the flow of Qi and Blood in the womb and to support and de-stress during this critical time. Acupuncture treatment also seeks to mitigate the side-effects of the drugs taken during IVF.
The cancellation policy is waived for all patients undergoing IVF, so we can best time treatments with your cycle without adding any extra pressure.
Continued Professional Development (CPD) in Fertility
A summary of the professional postgraduate courses Alison has attended relating to Fertility. You can find a complete list of courses taken, here.
Course Title (lecturer)
Reproductive Autoimmunity (Advanced) (Naava Carmen)
Fertility in Older Women & Immune Disorders (Naava Carmen)
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) (Naava Carmen)
Acupuncture for Gynaecology and Fertility (Jani White)
Acupuncture for PCOS & Endometriosis (Jani White)
Male & Female Fertility (Jill Glover)
Fertility & Obstetric Clinical Skills (ACT Berkshire)
Eight Extra-Ordinary Vessels in Fertility (ACT Berkshire)
Eight Extra-Ordinary Vessels in Fertility (Jani White)
Acupuncture for Gynaecology and Fertility (Jani White)
The Treatment of Infertility by Chinese Medicine (Prof. Yuning Wu, Beijing)
Nourishing Foods for Fertility (Frances Turner)
You can watch a video clip produced by the British Acupuncture Council, with patients from One Acupuncture®, talking about how Traditional Acupuncture helped them.
Charities & Professional Bodies
Verity: A UK national PCOS Charity / Endometriosis UK / Fertility Friends
Fertility Network UK / Human Fertility & Embryology Authority / Resolve: (American) National Infertility Organisation