Browse Category

Fertility

Adding Acupuncture to an IUI Cycle: Our Integrative Approach

Acupuncture treatment during an IUI cycle can improve your chances of pregnancy!
Acupuncture treatment during an IUI cycle can improve your chances of pregnancy!

For families navigating the world of assisted reproduction, many will find themselves considering an IUI cycle to get pregnant. IUI, or intrauterine insemination, involves a combination of hormones to stimulate a woman’s ovaries and the insertion of prepared sperm directly into the uterus during ovulation to increase chances of conception.

The rates of success of this treatment vary, but hovers, on average, around 10-20% per cycle for most women. Most couples will do 2-4 IUI cycles before additional treatment or IVF is recommended, though there may be reasons to consider an increase or decrease in the number of cycles attempted based on your specific diagnosis or situation.

If you’re like most facing an IUI cycle, you want to know what you can do to help increase your chances of success. Acupuncture treatment during an IUI cycle can help to optimize your body for conception and increase chances of pregnancy. While most of the fertility-acupuncture research is done on IVF, similar principles will apply. Acupuncture works by improving blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, regulating hormones, and helping reduce stress. All of these things together help to increase your chances of a take-home-baby.

RESEARCH: There are only a few research studies examining IUI and acupuncture specifically. One notable study out of Israel showed that women who did a combination of acupuncture and herbs with their IUI cycle had a pregnancy rate of 65.5% vs 39.4% who did the IUI alone, and live birth rates were 41.1% in the acupuncture group vs 26.9% in the IUI alone group. This is incredible news!

TNCRA PROTOCOL: Our protocols are based off the latest research and timed according to your cycle. You can begin treatment at any point during the cycle, but we like to start treatment 1-3 months prior to the IUI when possible to help improve the quality of the eggs and help bring your body into balance to optimize conditions for conception. We also like to work with men 1-3 months prior to the cycle to help improve sperm quality. We typically do not recommend herbs while you are taking any hormones, as the effects in combination with medications are largely unknown, though they may be used in the months or weeks leading up to the cycle. 

We will see you about three times during the IUI cycle itself. Each treatment, and it’s timing, is detailed below. The timing of the treatments is important, so we will stay in close communication with you during your cycle to make any needed changes.

First Treatment: Around cycle day 5-9

-improve blood flow to uterus and ovaries

-reduce stress

-decrease side effects of medications -increase egg quality and quantity

Second Treatment: Within 24-36 hours of the IUI procedure

-decrease uterine contractions

-facilitate ovulation

-support progesterone levels

-reduce stress

-increase the thickness and quality of the uterine lining

-improve blood flow to the uterus

Third Treatment: 5-7 days after the IUI

-decrease uterine contractions

 -increase implantation rates

 -reduce stress

-support early pregnancy

Once you have a positive pregnancy test, (fingers crossed!) we strongly recommend acupuncture to help support early pregnancy and reduce any symptoms such as fatigue and morning sickness. You can read more about prenatal acupuncture here.

As always, we are available to answer your questions and we will work with you and your cycle to create a plan that works best for you. Please call or email, we look forward to working with you! And good luck!!

Pineapple and Implantation: Does it really work?

Can eating pineapple really help you get pregnant?
Can eating pineapple really help you get pregnant?

If you’ve been consulting with Dr. Google, reading fertility blogs, or participating in message boards you’ve undoubtedly heard of using pineapple to support embryo implantation. Maybe you’ve even tried it, after all, what could it hurt and pineapple is delicious!

 

While the research supporting pineapple’s use as an implantation aid is still out, there are a few possible mechanisms by which it might be helpful. It all starts with bromelain. Bromelain is the enzyme in pineapple that is thought to give pineapple its therapeutic effects. Specifically, bromelin:

 

Is an anti-inflammatory agent: Research suggests that bromelain encourages the immune system to move away from an inflammatory state. This could possibly help women with implantation issues caused by inflammation.

 

Acts as a blood-thinner and anti-coagulant: Blood thinners, like aspirin, are commonly recommended to women trying to conceive by their doctors to support blood flow to the uterus. The bromelain in pineapple can have a similar effect. The healthier the blood flow is to the uterus, the higher the chances of conception. Acupuncture treatment also improves blood flow to the uterus.

 

So, if you’d like to try using pineapple to support implantation there are a few guidelines:

  1. Don’t use canned pineapple: the canning process can destroy bromelain
  2. Make sure to eat the core: this is where the highest concentration of bromelain is located.
  3. Use only after ovulation! See guidelines for use below. Eating too much pineapple before ovulating might increase the acidity of your cervical mucus, making it inhospitable for sperm.
  4. Is is not recommended to use pineapple (with core) as a fertility aid while taking any other type of blood thinner (aspirin, lovenox, etc) without discussing with your doctor.
  5. Choose an organic pineapple whenever possible.
  6. Stop eating pineapple (with core) if you find out you are pregnant. Pineapple (without core) as a snack is ok.

 


Using Pineapple to Support Implantation:

First, cut the green top off and remove the outer peel of the pineapple with a knife. Then slice into 6-8 equal wedges (remember to not remove the core!). Eat 1 slice per day for 6-8 days.

 

  • Trying Naturally: Begin eating your wedges the day after ovulation.
  • IUI: Begin eating wedges the day after the IUI procedure.
  • IVF: Begin eating wedges the day of your embryo transfer

 

Hopefully you will soon be one of the many women who swears by the “pineapple trick.” Good luck!

 

 

 

References:

http://www.blossomclinic.net/2013/05/30/pineapple-and-ivf-embryo-implantation-ivf-success/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12107749?dopt=Abstract

http://natural-fertility-info.com/bromelain-pineapple-for-implantation.html

 

The 8 Most Common Fertility Tests and What They Mean

Rodney_Rousseau_first_poz_blood_drawn._July_2013
Decoding the alphabet soup of fertility testing.

It’s no secret that I fully support my patients getting tested by a fertility specialist. There is quite a lot of misinformation regarding fertility specialists. Many think they will be immediately told IVF is the only option. That is just not true. Fertility specialists have a huge toolbox to help with all causes of infertility and usually IVF is not the treatment initially suggested. The first step is getting a diagnosis. Simply being armed with a diagnosis from a specialist can be immensely helpful in deciding how best to proceed. We often see one of the following possibilities:

 

  • Sometimes the results will reveal something like a structural issue that cannot be helped with acupuncture alone.

 

  • Sometimes they will show that ovarian reserve is good and you can relax and continue to try on your own if you’d like.

 

  • Sometimes they do show that starting aggressive fertility treatment is your best option.

 

No matter the results of your testing, information is a very powerful tool and can help give you confidence in your family’s decision on how to proceed.

That being said, the alphabet soup of tests, acronyms, numbers, and data can be overwhelming. We spend a lot of time helping patients understand their results. So here is a list of some of the most common tests performed in a fertility work-up and what they mean.

 

1. AMH: Anti-mullerian hormone is produced in by the cells surrounding the immature follicles in your ovaries. As a woman ages, the number of immature follicles decreases and this level decreases. This test will gives a snapshot of your ovarian reserve and give your doctor an idea of how well you are expected to respond to treatment. It might even help guide which medications are recommended to you or their dosages.

 

2. Day 3 FSH: Follicle Stimulating Hormone is produced by the brain at the beginning of a woman’s menstrual cycle and encourages the development and maturation of an egg. FSH is another way to measure ovarian reserve. FSH levels increase as ovarian reserve decreases. The results of this test are also used to determine appropriate treatment.

 

3. LH: Luteinizing hormone is also produced in the brain. It is responsible for ovulation and surges to a high level right before ovulation each month. High levels of this hormone can be an indicator of PCOS or other causes of infertility.  If you are using ovulation predictor kits, this is the hormone that leads to a positive reading.

 

4. Progesterone Testing: Progesterone is produced in the ovary following ovulation by the corpus luteum. Testing this hormone around cycle day 21 can tell a woman if she’s ovulated that month. It remains high until a menstrual cycle beings and will remain high if pregnancy occurs. Low progesterone levels can be a cause of miscarriage, so it is often tested during early pregnancy as well. Progesterone is often supplemented via oral, vaginal suppository, or injection after ovulation if levels are low or during certain types of fertility treatments.  

 

5. Thyroid Testing: An overactive or underactive thyroid can cause fertility issues. Thyroid issues are also associated with miscarriage and other pregnancy complications. This is a very common test in someone that has fertility issues or experiences recurrent miscarriages. Levels should be between 0.5 to 5 mU/ml. Some doctors will monitor borderline or slightly-abnormal levels and other will choose to treat these cases. If you are having trouble conceiving or carrying to term, you might speak with your doctor about checking thyroid levels.

 

6. Ultrasound: Ultrasound is used to check for any physical problems that might be impacting fertility like polyps, uterine septum, etc.  It can also be used during a cycle to check for maturing follicles and is the method of choice for confirming a healthy pregnancy.

 

7. HSG: HSG or hysterosalpingiogram is a test to check if your fallopian tubes are open. Healthy tubes allow the egg and sperm to meet for conception and travel down into the uterus for implantation. Occasionally, one or both tubes will be damaged by trauma, endometriosis adhesions, scar-tissue, from a previous ectopic pregnancy, or other causes. This test is done after your finished menstruating but before ovulation and is used to determine the best course of treatment.

 

8. Semen analysis: Last but not least: Getting your partner tested during a fertility workup is extremely important. Often this testing is overlooked and inappropriate treatments can be recommended. Make sure you ask for a semen analysis if your doctor doesn’t suggest one. Many issues discovered through this testing can be treated successfully and there are specialized fertility treatments available for male factor infertility. A semen analysis consists of providing a sample (can usually be done at home or in the office) and then having a series of tests run including: semen volume, sperm count, morphology, and motility. Other more extensive testing may be performed or a follow up analysis done to confirm the results.

 

Our IVF Acupuncture Protocol: Improving Pregnancy Rates up to 60%

A painless and relaxing complement to your upcoming cycle that can increase your chances of success!

With the development of in-vitro fertilization, many families unable to conceive were suddenly given hope. Over the years, there has been great scientific interest in improving this procedure and success rates have increased greatly and currently hover right around 30% for women under 35.

While this is all great news, most will agree that a success rate of 30% in the youngest population of infertile women leaves a lot of room for improvement. Women going through or preparing for IVF treatment will wonder if there is anything else they can be doing to improve their chances. In addition to maintaining a healthy body weight and healthy lifestyle, acupuncture remains one of the most commonly sought after complementary treatments for couples going through IVF. With numerous research studies showing improved pregnancy rates, many doctors and fertility clinics are coming on board with combining their treatments with acupuncture.

In our clinic, over the last two years, we saw a pregnancy rate around 60% for all women who went through an IVF cycle. This number includes all ages and all types of transfers (frozen, fresh, and egg/embryo donor). These results are truly amazing and in line with what many other acupuncturists are seeing in their own clinics.

Just think, if all women going through IVF had acupuncture treatment we would have so many more success stories and the cost savings of not having to do repeated IVF cycles would be astounding!

We use a protocol inspired by the work of Dr. Magarelli and Diane Cridennda, and other fertility acupuncture research, that involves a series of treatments specifically timed throughout your IVF cycle to help support each phase of your cycle. This protocol has been shown to not only increase your chances of getting pregnant, but improves live birth rates as well! They found a reduction in the number of miscarriages, rates of ectopic pregnancy, and even lower numbers of multiple pregnancies when using this protocol in combination with IVF. The protocol has even been shown to help keep certain hormones at levels consistent with women who get pregnant on their own to support a healthy, successful cycle. After all, the ultimate goal is a take-home-baby!

We divided the protocol into 4 phases corresponding with your cycle. The bulk of the protocol begins when you begin your cycle medications, but it is recommended to being treatment designed to help prepare your body for your upcoming cycle about three months before your expected cycle. 

 

4 Phases of TNCRA’s IVF Acupuncture Protocol:

  1. Pre-Conception: Treatments in the 3 months preceding the cycle to manage stress, regulate hormones, and help your body prepare for the cycle. For more information about our preconception program click here
  2. Ovarian Stimulation: Treatments are done twice weekly along side your ovarian stimulation medications to help increase the quality and quantity of your eggs and reduce side effects.
  3. Transfer: A treatment given immediately before and/or after your embryo transfer to increase blood flow to the uterine lining, reduce uterine contractions, and manage stress. We are available 7 days a week for pre and post embryo transfer appointments. 
  4. Transfer Follow Up: One treatment 5-7 days post embryo transfer to support implantation, early pregnancy, and reduce stress. 

 

Throughout your treatment you can expect to feel more relaxed, get better sleep, and see a reduced number of medication side effects like bloating, mood swings, and cramping. Many of our patients report that the cycles they’ve done with acupuncture are ‘easeir’ than those done without. And, hopefully, at the end of it all you will get those long-awaited two pink lines!

TNCRA’s owner and acupuncturist, Sarah Prater, inserts needles into a patient.

We are comfortable working alongside any of Knoxville’s fertility doctors and have even seen patients from doctors in neighboring areas and out-of-state. We work closely with your cycle and will check in frequently to make sure the timing of your treatments is the most beneficial for your cycle. We truly love our work and want nothing more than for you to have the family of your dreams.

Please feel free to contact us by email or phone at 865-315-3845 if you have questions about your own cycle or are interested in scheduling an appointment. We also have online scheduling available.

 

Please feel free to reach out, we are always happy to help! 

 

 

 

We wish you the best of luck with your cycle!!

Combining East and West: 5 Keys to Successful Fertility Acupuncture

baby-784607_1920-crop-u371
Benefits of a fertility specialist and other tips for successfully adding acupuncture to your fertility treatment.

Please read the guest blog Sarah wrote for Circle Bloom. Circle Bloom has developed downloadable audio tracks to help foster a healthy mind-body connection while you are on your fertility journey. They have programs for all stages of the journey including fertility treatment, natural conception, pregnancy and beyond. We highly recommend their programs. Check out their free download here.

If you find yourself sitting in the waiting room of the fertility clinic, you’re probably wondering if you’re doing all you can to help your cycle be a success. You might have heard about some women adding acupuncture to their treatment cycles or even considered it yourself.

Acupuncture is a safe and effective way to increase your chances of conception and can be combined with IVF, IUI, and other fertility treatments. Many fertility clinics are even starting to offer acupuncture in-house! If you aren’t so lucky as to have such a clinic nearby, this article is for you!

At our clinic, Tennessee Center for Reproductive Acupuncture, we specialize in combining acupuncture and fertility treatments. We see many benefits to this approach such as:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Decreased medication side effects
  • Improved egg quality and quantity
  • Increased thickness and quality of the endometrial lining
  • Improved pregnancy and live birth rates
  • Prevention and reduction of uterine contractions
  • Decreased chance of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy
  • Encouragement of embryo implantation
  • Hormone regulation

Adding acupuncture to your already complicated fertility treatment schedule can seem like a daunting task, but luckily there is help! Read below for a few tips we’ve learned on how to best incorporate the two treatments:

  1. Try to find a fertility specialist in your area. An acupuncturist who specializes in fertility will be familiar with the type of treatment you are undergoing and may have even worked with your doctor. They will usually have flexible scheduling to allow for last minute changes in your treatment and even have extended availability for pre and post embryo transfer appointments.
  2. Call before your treatment starts. While acupuncture can be started at any point during a treatment cycle, many acupuncturists have protocols they use for each type of cycle. So calling a month or so before your cycle begins can allow you to plan for your appointments. At the Tennessee Center for Reproductive Acupuncture, we often recommend treatments in the weeks before your cycle, but most of our protocols begin when the cycle starts.
  3. Keep communication open. Make sure your acupuncturist knows of any changes or problems that come up during your cycle. This can help us better time your appointments and allow us the opportunity to help treat side effects and issues, all to help your cycle become a success.
  4. Continue treatment during pregnancy. Assuming your treatment is a success, (fingers crossed!) acupuncture can be safely used to support a healthy pregnancy for you and your developing baby. We strongly recommend treatment during the first trimester, as this is the time when most miscarriages occur. It can also help alleviate morning sickness, fatigue, stress, and other symptoms. Many women will continue treatment throughout their pregnancies!
  5. Let your acupuncturist know your treatment results: We are very passionate about our trade and feel the highs and lows right along with you. So, please let us know how your cycle turns out! And we always welcome little ones for a visit!