Acupuncture And Fertility
by, Katie Johnston, R.Ac
Fertility problems and infertility may be more common than you think. A recent study shows that 11.5% to 15.7% of Canadian couples experience infertility. That's almost one in six couples.
With some personal fertility highs and lows, I have found myself passionate about helping to educate and provide treatment for couples dealing with this emotional struggle. The overwhelming anguish and sense of loss men and women experience in the fertility process is an unwelcome motivator, driving couples to search for help in their areas.
This includes home remedies, fertility drugs, IVF, donor eggs and embryos and closest to home for me, Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Modern healthcare has vastly expanded the options available for couples struggling to conceive and for this we are fortunate.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a recorded history of 2500+ years, which is dated to be the third oldest form of medicine. The fact the TCM has existed for thousands of years, and is still used today is a testament to its value as a form of healthcare.
APPROACHING THE TRIMESTERS
Seeking treatment throughout the trimesters of pregnancy has many benefits which many moms are completely unaware of. We are happy to provide relief for all of the upheavals of pregnancy.
The first trimester
Acupuncture is used to help prevent miscarriage and provide a stabilizing effect on the pregnancy, balance the endocrine system, and regulate hormones. Acupuncture helps to minimize nausea, morning sickness, fatigue, migraines, bleeding and spotting.
The second trimester
Acupuncture is used to regulate the digestive, nervous, and endocrine systems, all of which are necessary to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Acupuncture helps to alleviate heart burn, hemorrhoids, edema, elevated blood pressure, and stress.
The third trimester
Acupuncture is used to regulate the musculoskeletal system to provide relief from sciatica, backache, pubic and joint pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Treatment during this trimester also encourages the proper positioning of the baby for birth and helps normalize labour.
Proper positioning would include breech presentation, which is best treated with acupuncture and moxibustion at 34-36 weeks and cleared by your midwife or doctor. Research shows that women who use acupuncture experience shorter labour times with fewer complications, reduced rate of caesarean, and less need for the use of oxytocin, pain medications and epidurals. Sessions in the last months of pregnancy are intended to soothe anxiety, relieve fatigue, and ensure that the pregnant woman maintains good physical and psychological condition.
DURING THE PREPARATION FOR CHILDBIRTH, ACUPUNCTURE CAN:
• induce labour when term or medically indicated
• promote relaxation of the perineum
• stimulate uterine contractions and breastmilk production
Enhancing Postpartum Healing
Regardless of how your baby was born, acupuncture and TCM can help your postpartum healing recovery. In China, it was customary for the new mother to spend 30 days resting indoors while being cared for by her family. While this is unlikely in today’s culture, there are a few traditions we can carry on such as Mother Warming.
Mother Warming is a simple technique that uses moxibustion. Moxibustion itself is a plant/herb (mugwort) used to warm specific acupuncture points. It is typically used on the lower back and abdomen 4-5 days after delivery to speed the recovery process. East Asian medicine can also be used to stop persistent bleeding postpartum, help stabilize emotions, stop night sweats and reduce perineal pain and scar pain.
From herbal suggestions, dietary suggestions and acupuncture itself, we can make recommendations to help encourage restricted milk supply and have had great success doing so. Acupuncture can also help aid and relieve mastitis, a very painful condition where the milk ducts become clogged.
Relieve Aches & Pains
Labour and birth are akin to running a marathon, or even an ultra-marathon for some. Many folks experience muscle soreness and fatigue following the birth itself. As the aches and pains from the birth diminish, many new parents experience tightness in the neck and shoulders from so much time spent nursing their baby, and looking down at your precious little newborn. This is effectively addressed by acupuncture and various forms of bodywork including cupping and gua sha. Qua sha is a technique used that involves scraping the skin to improve circulation of blood and lymph, reducing muscular and fascial restrictions.
As your hormones shift and begin to settle back into a routine, acupuncture can help re-establish healthy menstrual cycles. This is helpful if you are wanting to have space between your births or are ready to start trying to become pregnant again. Heavy flow, irregular cycles, painful periods, and symptoms of PMS are all things that can be addressed with acupuncture and herbal medicine. By regulating the hormones we can also directly and positively impact postpartum depression by working with the nervous system, immune system and balance various neurotransmitters in the intracephalic neuronal synapses.
During pregnancy, the Qi and blood are found in abundance in the body, necessary to support the growing fetus. You see this manifest directly in thicker hair which is directly related to blood. During delivery much Qi and blood is lost, leaving the mother in a deficient state. We see this manifest as hair loss, clearly indicating the need to build up blood. Other symptoms include low energy, poor sleep, heart palpitations, irritability, poor breast milk production, anxiety, etc. Herbal medicine is a superior way to bring the body back into balance, and should begin as soon as possible post-delivery.
Sheng Hua Tang (generating and transforming decoction) is a standard formula given in China and Taiwan for up to two weeks immediately following childbirth for retention of lochia and abdominal pain. Its actions are moving and warming blood in the uterus (cold instruments used during childbirth introduce cold into the uterus, impeding blood flow and production), and causing contractions in the uterus to aid in the discharge of lochia (vaginal discharge of blood, mucous, and uterine tissue, which occurs for 4-6 weeks following childbirth).
By moving out stagnation, nourishing the blood and Qi, women can quickly recover, and breast milk production will be much improved. Results will be seen as improved energy, mood, reduction in pain in the lower abdomen.
Shen Hua tang generates and transforms, meaning it generates new blood (and therefore milk) and transforms stasis, ensuring the uterus is clear, clean, and warm after birth. It also improves immunity of the mother and the entire body is positively affected. Postpartum fever and depression are greatly improved or relieved. This can also be used for women post miscarriage or termination to ensure complete discharge of tissues and healing of the uterus.
TREATING INFANTS WITH ACUPUNCTURE
Many moms and infants suffer through a trying stage called colic. Colic is defined as episodes of crying for 3 hours a day 3 days a week. We know colic generally goes away after 6 weeks on its own, however this can be a very long, exhausting and sometimes depressing 6 weeks for Mom and Dad. Some believe colic is caused from gastrointestinal cramping, causing swollen and poor activity of bowel movements such as constipation.
When we treat infants we give them a spleen massage along either side of the spine. Most babies don’t make a fuss during this process and find it quite relaxing. When we treat for colic we insert tiny, when I say tiny I mean it, needles into specific acupoints to calm down their nervous system, improve their digestion and nourish their spleen and stomach.
Babies haven’t gone through as much physical and mental trauma and their vital energy, or Qi, is very keen, so they tend to respond very quickly and most will enjoy coming back because they know it helps relieve their symptoms.
We recommend bringing them twice a week for two weeks and then we move forward accordingly from there. Acupuncture is a very safe and effective way to treat colic and brings me so much pleasure in my practice.
WHEN SHOULD YOU COME SEE US?
Ideally, we would love to see you around 2- 4 weeks postpartum. If you are really finding yourself needing treatment before then we are always here to help heal, and please bring your newborns with you! We love a good baby snuggle. However, it is not uncommon for many moms out there to have postpartum symptoms present themselves one to two years later; seeking the proper treatment after postpartum will help resolve issues later on and promote faster healing. You’ll be thanking yourself in the long run.
Another added benefit we provide at The House of Healing is a prenatal discount to all expecting and postpartum moms and an even larger discount for paediatric acupuncture. We understand the process and we’re here to help. We do package discounts for anyone seeking and recommend them to fertility patients. It’s never to late to come in and treat yourself too the many amazing health benefits acupuncture has!
Written by Katie Johnston, R.Ac Owner of The House of Healing in Dawson Creek www.thehouseofhealingclinic.com