The other day a patient emailed me to tell me there are thinking about becoming pregnant in the next year, and they want to support their fertility process with acupuncture and Chinese medicine. What she wanted to know is the best time to start acupuncture and Chinese medicine for fertility. I know a lot of you may have the same question.
This is a great question! First of all, many people are unaware that acupuncture can help with fertility and reproductive issues. In fact, its effectiveness is well-documented. Many fertility doctors refer their patients to acupuncturists, especially during assisted reproductive techniques, such as in vitro fertilization, or when the reason for infertility is unknown. That said, I work with women who are wanting to become pregnant at all stages in their journey.
I start working with some women one to two years before they plan to start trying to become pregnant, because they want to ensure that they’re healthy and ready for pregnancy. But I also work with women who begin their treatments a week or two before an IVF transfer. I’ve also been treating more and more younger women who don’t want to be rushed to have children, and who are undergoing egg freezing cycles. And I work with women who after several months of trying to become pregnant want some help in the form of acupuncture and Chinese medicine as an alternative to seeking help from a Western fertility clinic.
The frequency and timing of your treatments will vary, depending on your specific situation. For example, if you’re doing an IVF transfer this week, your needs will be very different from someone who is wanting to become pregnant naturally in six months. In addition, fertility treatments are a little different than treatments for other conditions. Your practitioner needs to take into account the stage of your menstrual cycle or the stage of an assisted technique, such as IVF, that you may be undergoing. The timing of treatments will vary, from one every few weeks for someone who is months away from trying to conceive to several appointments close together to support implantation for IVF.
So, the answer is that when to begin acupuncture depends on your specific situation. But the answer is also that it’s never too late to begin!
It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t need to wait for something to be wrong to seek out the help of an acupuncture practitioner. I know, in Western medicine it’s common practice to see your health care provider when you’re sick or having health problems. However, Chinese medicine is different—it can help you maintain or return your body to balance before something big crops up. That’s why so many women turn to acupuncture as a way to support their fertility goals; it’s not just for when things aren’t going right. In addition, even when things aren’t going right, many people think of acupuncture as a last resort. They may have been trying to get pregnant for a long time or have struggled with a reproductive health problem, and turn to acupuncture only when they feel like they’ve tried everything else. However, acupuncture can help regulate your cycles, balance your hormones, improve egg quality, prepare your uterus for implantation, and promote better circulation to your reproductive organs. Many of these women end up wishing that they had begun acupuncture treatments sooner.
Some women hesitate to work with an acupuncture practitioner because they don’t believe it could be compatible with other types of medicine, especially reproductive medicine. However, the reality is that many fertility doctors are deeply familiar with the research and clinical benefits of acupuncture—enough so that they regularly refer their patients to an acupuncture provider while they are undergoing Western fertility treatments. The benefits speak for themselves.
If you’re wondering if the time is right in your fertility journey to add acupuncture to the mix, the answer is almost always yes. It’s never too late, and your practitioner is trained to assess you and your health needs, and to provide treatments that work with where you are right now. If you’d like more information about acupuncture and fertility, please give me a call.
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.