Many people are discovering that acupuncture can be an effective therapy to support your fertility, whether you’re trying to get pregnant naturally or with the help of assisted reproductive technologies. For some, just knowing that acupuncture can help increase your chances of becoming pregnant is enough to give it a try, but others, understandably, want to know more. For example, they may want to know what’s involved in a treatment, what points may be used and what’s the thinking behind each treatment. For those people who want more info, here are some important things to know about using acupuncture to support fertility.
Acupuncture Treatments for Fertility are Cyclical
The focus of acupuncture treatments change throughout your menstrual cycle, and they also change during the stages of IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). When you’re trying to get pregnant, your acupuncturist thinks about each treatment according to where you are in your cycle, generally divided into the follicular phase (before ovulation) and the luteal phase (after ovulation). For acupuncture purposes, your cycle is divided further into four phases:
- The menstrual phase, which is day 1-7* of your cycle, with day one being the first day of your period. Even if your flow doesn’t last a full 7 days, this phase is all about moving energy and blood to set up your body for the rest of the cycle.
- Day 8-14 (or until the date of ovulation) is the pre-ovulation phase. The focus of acupuncture during this time is to bring the circulation of blood and energy to your ovaries in preparation for ovulation.
- The post ovulation phase is one day after ovulation (often day 15-21) of your cycle, and is still about moving blood, as well as stimulating your ovaries to continue to release progesterone to support implantation.
- The implantation/premenstrual phase (often about day 21/22) until the first day of your next period if you are not pregnant. Implantation occurs 6-7 days after you ovulate, so this time period is important to encourage the process. This involves promoting the flow of blood to your uterus, which helps build a thick uterine lining and supports the energy it takes for an embryo to implant.
- In addition, because this can be a stressful time, acupuncture points are often added to your treatments to reduce stress (they can be added at any time in your cycle).
*Depending on your specific cycle, the cycle days that these phases occur may vary.
During your cycle, Chinese herbs are also prescribed, but are based primarily on whether you’re in the follicular or luteal phase of your cycle. As we prescribe an herbal formula, we keep in mind your health history and body constitution. This means that while we’re considering your cycle phase, we are also treating any constitutional imbalances you may have. This can include actions such as warming the womb, moving energy, boosting energy, strengthening your digestion and nutrient absorption, nourishing your blood and clearing heat or toxicity.
For women going through IVF cycles, the cyclical nature of our treatments are similar. Our sessions are aimed at encouraging blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, calming the nervous system, balancing hormones and promoting uterine receptivity. We typically don’t prescribe herbs while patients are taking pharmaceuticals associated with IVF, but encourage them to have 1-2 acupuncture treatments a week. We will also time specific treatments for right before and after IVF transfer.
Acupuncture Points for Fertility
In a previous post, we described how your acupuncture practitioner chooses points, and those considerations are also relevant to fertility treatments. Here is a list of some of the points we use at BodaHealth and why:
Local Points. We commonly use points both on the lower abdomen and on the lower back, because they’re important locally, but also because the functions of many of these points augment fertility. They include:
- Points on the Ren Mai, which is also called the Conception Vessel. Using points on this pathway is especially appropriate because in women this pathway originates in the uterus.
- Kidney channel points (KI 15 and 16) are helpful not only because they’re located in the lower abdomen, but also because the Kidney system is responsible for your overall reproductive health and fertility.
- Stomach channel points (ST 26, 27 and 29) Again, these are local points on your lower abdomen, but your Stomach system, paired with the Spleen, is responsible for your digestion, which replenishes your body’s nutrients and energy.
- Zi Gong, is called an extra point, because it’s not found on a pathway, but is used based on its clinical effectiveness over hundreds of years. Located on your abdomen just over your ovaries, the Chinese translation of this point is Baby Palace. Enough said!
- Bladder points on your back. These points are found on your back on either side of your spine. The lower points (BL 23-31) are local points addressing your reproductive organs from your lower back. The upper points we use (BL14, 15, 17 and 20) are chosen to support your heart, digestion and to nourish your blood.
Points on your legs are chosen for their actions to help nourish your blood (Spleen; SP4, 6, 8, 9 and 10), support Essence and promote fertility (Kidney; KI3, 7 and 9 and bladder; BL 57), boost your energy and support digestion (Stomach; ST 36 and 40) and help move energy and blood (Liver; LV2 and 3).
To soothe your emotions and reduce stress; DU 20 (at the apex of your head) and Yin Tang, a very calming extra point located right between your eyebrows.
Ear Points. Because your ear is a microsystem of your entire body, points found in the soft outer part of your ear can be used alone in a treatment or as a way to augment the use of points throughout the rest of your body. We use the points Ear Shen Men and Sympathetic for calming, and Heart, Uterus and Ovaries to support blood and promote fertility.
The bottom line is that at BodaHealth we want to work with you to achieve your pregnancy goals. We take into account your specific health profile as well as your cycles to build effective treatments. For patients who are seeking out acupuncture for fertility, it’s helpful to know that it can help improve the flow of blood to your uterus and ovaries, enhance egg quality, increase uterine receptivity and provide a better response to assisted reproductive procedures. If you’d like more information on how acupuncture can play a role in your fertility, please contact our clinic.
Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.