My aim is to support women and men experiencing the emotional roller coaster of trying and failing to conceive which can be a devastating, agonising and often an isolating experience. It is worth bearing in mind that on average it takes women in the UK around seven months to conceive their first child. It can take much longer if either or both partners are over the age of 30. Also, it can be helpful to know that research shows that the fertile window is longer than the short one predicted by ovulation predictor kits - it can be up to five days around ovulation time. So, try not to give up too early on natural conception. An estimated one in six couples will experience fertility problems at some point. In 1 in 3 cases doctors reach a diagnosis of 'unexplained infertility'. There are many reasons for infertility and it is recommended to have a thorough check-up for both partners as to possible causes prior to considering acupuncture or herbal medicine.
The first thing to say, in cases where there is no obvious physical reason, is do try your best not to panic. There is hope (see first testimonial below). These days with women juggling diverse commitments, stress is recognised as a major causative factor of infertility.
Initial treatment for unexplained infertility is to help relieve the stress and anxiety and balance the menstrual cycle. Acupuncture is very effective in these areas. It can help resolve hormonal imbalances, regulate the cycle (amenorrhoea, menorraghia) and lengthen the luteal phase to give sufficient time for implantation to occur. It can also boost ovulation in cycles where there is no ovulation.
Headaches, painful periods, PMT, endometriosis all indicate imbalances that need to be addressed so as to optimise chances of a successful natural conception. Treatment can nourish the uterus and make the eggs, endometrium and cervical mucus healthier and stronger. It can also help with polycystic ovaries and recurrent miscarriage.
These days, sadly, men produce around 50% less sperm than their fathers with 43% experiencing fertility problems according to research published in the British Medical Journal. Despite this, male problems can often be sidelined while attention is focused on the female partner.
Acupuncture can balance and strengthen the functions of the male reproductive organs. It is used to help improve sperm health - low sperm count and motility and poor sperm shape. Don't worry the points used are not in sensitive areas! Treatment helps to reduce stress and anxiety, increases energy and a sense of well-being.
Lifestyle, dietary, and stress management advice to maximise your chances of conception are included in the treatment. Reflexology, aromatherapy, massage and herbal medicine are incorporated as required.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
In my experience CHM is enormously useful for infertility. Often there is an underlying weakness or blockage in the system, that doesn't show up in tests, but is discernible from Chinese Medical Diagnosis (mainly tongue and pulse). A prescription tailored to the individual and monitored on a weekly basis can really make all the difference. Having been trained in the use of raw herbs I am able to fine tune the delicate balance of a herbal prescription to suit your precise symptoms each week, as opposed to using formulaic over the counter herbs. Often for female infertility there is a different prescription for each phase of the menstrual cycle depending on what needs to be done so as to optimise the chances of success. It is quite an art as well as a science. Herbs are not expensive and can save a relative fortune compared to the cost of assisted conception.
Assisted Conception e.g. Clomid, IVF, IUI, ICSI, Egg/Sperm Donation
Please note: as the herbal interactions combined with the strong medications given during IVF are not known I only give acupunture during IVF treatment.
Research shows that acupuncture increases the chances of a successful outcome and can reduce the number of tries required which alleviates considerable physical, emotional and financial stress. It can also result in couples being able to opt for less invasive procedures. For example, when more healthy sperm are produced it is not necessary to undergo ICSI (the micro injection of a single sperm into an egg), a couple can try IVF or IUI instead.
Acupuncture can improve the quality of the eggs and sperm and help prepare couples who opt for assisted conception for the impact that treatment has both physically and emotionally (see second testimonial below). It can help uterine function, increase blood flow to the uterus and enhance uterine lining. IVF hormonal drugs send the body into early menopause before boosting the ovaries back into action which is a massive jolt to the system. Acupuncture can help counteract the sometimes 'crazy making' side effects of the strong fertility medications. Treatment can also alleviate common complaints such as backache, sciatica, constipation, headaches, depression, carpal tunnel syndrome, pubic pain etc.
'As the months went by I became more stressed and depressed, a vicious circle, stressed because I couldn't get pregnant, and being stressed was no doubt stopping me from getting pregnant. It was at this point that I found Maeve.
Maeve's pragmatic yet nurturing approach was just what I needed, and I soon felt a lot more relaxed. Maeve felt that we could remedy the situation with Chinese herbs as well as acupuncture. Maeve did a lot of research into creating a herbal prescription specifically for me. I was very pleased to have someone looking after me who took the process very seriously.
At the start of the third month of treatment we realized that I would have to start on the IVF hormone treatment in the next month, much sooner than we had hoped. This meant we couldn't give the herbal treatment the four months minimum Maeve had told us we would most likely need to see any positive results.
Proceeding with the IVF meant I would have only have one more chance to get pregnant with the aid of the Chinese herbs, it seemed impossible.
So you can imagine our shock and delight when we discovered 2 days before I would have had to start the IVF hormone treatment that I was pregnant. In fact we are still in shock as I write this at 7 weeks pregnant. I still see Maeve for calming treatment, as I am now anxious for things to go well!'
‘The acupuncture has a soothing and calming effect. This is much more noticeable and intense than merely lying still and relaxed for an hour.
In this calm state I find a ‘space’ to think with increased clarity, to focus and concentrate and a strength to resolve problems.
Acupuncture shores up my coping mechanism which is important for dealing with the day to day stress and procedures involved in our treatment. The fertility treatment is physically exhausting but I feel I can summon energy after acupuncture that wouldn’t have otherwise been there.’
For the complete versions of these testimonials click here