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IVF

Young Woman with Severe Endometriosis Finds Pain Relief and a Solution to Infertility With Acupuncture Right Here in Knoxville

Success found through combination of acupuncture and IVF!

Heather Huddleston is a young woman who has struggled with severe endometriosis since puberty. At the age of 19, she had her first of many surgeries. It was so extreme that the surgeon told her she would never have children—he had removed 2/3 of one ovary and 7/8 of the other.  Drugs and surgery were the solution offered her by traditional western medicine, and she took the solution seeing no other option. She managed to get through both undergraduate and her graduate studies by allowing the doctors to put her body into medically induced menopause to cope with the 10 level pain. She thought this was her only option—even doing as told, her quality of life was greatly diminished.

While finishing her graduate studies she got married. She maintained her treatments. Two years later, she and her husband were eager to begin a family. She ceased all hormonal therapy although she was terrified to come off of the drugs remembering the severity of the constant crippling pain. Yet she knew she had to begin somewhere, in her quest for sustainable good health.

The pain was as bad as ever. She trudged through and she and her husband sought the help of fertility specialists. After being unsuccessfully treated by 2 fertility specialists and undergoing 2 more extensive surgeries she was no closer to achieving her goals. The last surgery was performed by a surgeon specializing in excision and was very thorough even removing tissue from her diaphragm. After she recovered, she went back to the fertility doctor—unsuccessfully.  Feeling frustrated and hopeless, she decided to go back on the hormones and regroup.

A year later, she began to have new symptoms—this time in the colon and bowel. This was quite concerning. After consulting a specialist, she was told that the surgery required was extremely dangerous. He recommended pursuing pregnancy before taking that step. She found a new fertility doctor. She achieved a pregnancy through IVF only to be disappointed with a miscarriage 6 weeks in. As bad as this was, the doctor was encouraged because she had achieved a successful pregnancy. He advised them to try again immediately, this time recommending that she do so with the addition of acupuncture.

She took the doctor’s suggestion and made an appointment with a Practitioner specializing in infertility, Sarah Prater. The hormones that were a part of the treatment protocol caused the endometriosis to flare up resulting in crippling pain. This time both she and Sarah hoped to not only achieve a healthy pregnancy but a measure of relief from the crippling pain—.

Heather went into her first treatment with level 10 pain. After the treatment, she walked away pain free! She was amazed—wondering how long the relief from the pain would last. It not only lasted through the night but continued until her next session and beyond. She never experienced that crippling pain again through the treatment, even though she followed the protocol for the hormones which previously made life almost unbearable.

She continued with acupuncture following Sarah’s treatment plan for her all the way up to the transfer, after the transfer and subsequent treatment. Her transfer was successful—she achieved a healthy pregnancy!

Heather is now 12 weeks pregnant and being released by the fertility doctor to an obstetrician. She is headed to Japan for the next year with her husband where she will continue acupuncture and by God’s grace deliver a healthy baby!

The Power of Hope

Sarah Prater has had the honor of helping many women give birth to happy, healthy babies and has a diverse background that enables her to fully support her patients. Her passion for helping women struggling with infertility led her to found the Tennessee Center for Reproductive Acupuncture.  Acupuncture has been shown to increase success rates for women struggling with a variety of issues and conditions associated with reproduction.

Experts Agree

Acupuncture can increase fertility by reducing stress, increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs and balancing the endocrine system, according to several studies and medical research.

According to A recent study from Tel Aviv University, when used in conjunction with Western fertility treatments, acupuncture increases conception rates by 26%.  It found that when combining IUI with Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments, 65.5 percent of the test group was able to conceive, compared with 39.4 percent of the control group, who received no herbal or acupuncture therapy.

A well-known German study done in 2002 followed 160 women who underwent IVF.  Eighty of them received acupuncture as well and 34 of those women got pregnant: a success rate of 42.5%. Of the other 80 women, those who received IVF without any acupuncture treatments, only 21 women (26.3%) became pregnant.

An American study, of 114 women showed that 51% of the women who had acupuncture and IVF treatments became pregnant compared to 36% of women who had IVF alone. Further analysis of the data revealed a much lower rate of miscarriage for the women who had acupuncture as well as IVF.

Sarah strives to stay up to date with current research in her field and is constantly updating her protocols to offer the maximum benefit. Her wide breadth of experience allows her to work cooperatively with reproductive endocrinologists and OB/GYN’s to provide the best care for her patients.

 

Sarah can be reached at:

 www.TennesseeReproductiveAcupuncture.com

Sarah@TennesseeReproductiveAcupuncture.com

342 Ebenezer Rd

Knoxville, TN 37923

(865) 315-3845

Preconception Tips to Help Ensure Your Cycle is a Success: A 90 Day Plan

Help your cycle become a success with these preconception tips!

Many of our patients have been told they have poor egg quality or diminished ovarian reserve, or even poor embryo quality and this is the reason why they are having trouble conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term. While it is true that your egg health diminishes over time, it is not true that there is nothing that can be done to help support your egg health.

Even if you don’t have any specific ovarian or egg quality issues, helping support good egg health will help increase the chances your cycle will be a success!

The total time it takes for one egg to fully mature is about 90 days. It is during this window of time that we are able to have the biggest impact on egg health. So, we recommend that all of our patients looking to plan a treatment cycle take advantage of this time to prepare and consider acupuncture, supplements, diet, and lifestyle changes to help support their egg health.

 

Some of the main factors affecting egg health are:

  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Blood flow to the uterus and ovaries
  • Oxygenation of your blood
  • Stress
  • Hormone balance

Our three favorite ways to improve all of these factors affecting egg health are acupuncture (of course!), diet and exercise, and specific supplements.

 

1. Preconception Acupuncture:

Each of our treatment protocols (IUI, IVF, and medicated cycles) begins with the recommendation of preconception acupuncture. Preconception acupuncture is treatments given weekly in the 1-3 months prior to any fertility cycle specifically designed to support egg health and hormone balance.

By now, you probably know that acupuncture done alongside a fertility cycle can improve the chances of pregnancy for that cycle. What you may not know, is that acupuncture’s effect is cumulative, much like exercise. Each treatment and treatment cycle builds on the previous. Research done on fertility acupuncture supports this idea. Generally, the more acupuncture one receives, the better the pregnancy rates.

The reasons why acupuncture done in the months prior to a fertility cycle can have an impact on your egg health and the overall success of your cycle are:

  • Dramatically improved blood flow to the uterus and ovaries: This increases the   delivery of oxygen and nutrients, and facilities waste product removal, improving overall egg health.
  • Hormone regulation: Many women notice changes in their cycles during preconception acupuncture: less  pain, more regular ovulation, and normalization of menstrual flow.
  • Reduced stress: Help your body and mind get ready for the upcoming cycle.

 

2.  Diet, Exercise and Lifestyle:

Diet: A healthy diet can dramatically affect one’s fertility (and overall health!). Taking the preconception time period to focus on eating a clean, whole-food, plant-based diet can help improve egg health. Our favorite general fertility diet comes from a Harvard Medical School research study, but many diagnoses related to infertility, such as endometriosis or PCOS, call for some specialized nutrition.

Overall, the basics of a healthy fertility diet include:

  • Low amounts of saturated fat: Choose plant based fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and healthy fats like those found in salmon and other fish.
  • Local, grass fed, organic meats whenever possible
  • Fresh fruits and veggies: We suggest eating foods from every color of the rainbow and making sure at least half of your plate is filled with veggies as an easy way to maximize your fruit and vegetable intake
  • Vegetable protein sources: Try to replace one serving of meat per day with a vegetarian protein source like beans or tofu.
  • Lots of fresh water: Try to avoid water bottled in plastic and stick to filtered when possible.
  • Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread and pasta, etc instead of simple, white carbs,
  • Iron rich plants: spinach, pumpkins, beans, tomatoes, and beets.
  • Full fat dairy instead of low fat varieties.
  • Minimal (or no) sugar intake: be sure to watch added sugars and high fructose corn syrup as they can hide in many unsuspecting foods as well as sugary drinks and desserts.

For women who have endometriosis, we recommend following an anti-inflammatory diet. For those with PCOS, a low-glycemic index diet is best.

 

Exercise: Regular aerobic exercise improves the oxygenation of blood and increased blood flow throughout the body. It is also a great stress reliever and helps maintain a healthy BMI, which is associated with higher pregnancy rates. Yoga is also a great way to strengthen your core and help reduce stress.

The preconception time is perfect for implementing a consistent exercise routine as exercise is commonly limited by your doctor during a fertility treatment cycle.

 

Lifestyle: There are many lifestyle habits that can have an effect on egg health. Our top suggestions are the following:

  • Stop smoking
  • Allow personal ‘down-time’ to meditate, read, or just relax.
  • Listen to fertility meditations via Circle Bloom to help de-stress and foster a healthy body/mind connection
  • Work to reduce stress and overwork as much as possible
  • Seek counseling or a support group if you feel it is necessary.

 

3. Supplements and herbs: In addition to a good quality prenatal vitamin, there are some supplements that you can take that will help support egg quality and overall fertility. One supplement that has some evidence showing it’s efficacy is CoQ-10.

CoQ-10 is a vitamin-like substance (meaning our bodies can make some on their own) that functions within the energy production centers, called mitochondria, present in each cell. As we age, the efficiency of the mitochondria declines. The idea is that by supplementing CoQ-10, we can help support this energy production, which is especially needed for high-energy processes like the cellular division involved in egg production and embryo development. There is some preliminary research showing an egg-health benefit in mice and we await further research. CoQ-10 is generally regarded as very safe to take while trying to conceive and most experience no side effects. It also shows some promise in helping support male fertility as well.

Other supplements that we typically recommend are:

  • Fish Oil: high in omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce inflammation in the body
  • Probiotics: to support good digestion and absorption of nutrients.

There are also specific supplements and herbs available for other fertility related conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, luteal phase defect, male factor infertility, etc and will be recommended as needed.

 

Please call 865-315-3845 or contact us, we are more than happy to answer your questions or set you up for preconception acupuncture! Good luck with your cycle!

 

5 Reasons to Try Acupuncture for Fertility

5 reasons why you should consider adding acupuncture to your fertility treatment.

 

Are you currently trying to get pregnant or planning to try in the next few months? Have you considered adding fertility acupuncture to your IVF, IUI, or medicated cycle?

You’ve probably read or heard a little about acupuncture for fertility, but maybe don’t know much about how it can help you. Here are our top five reasons why you should book an acupuncture treatment with your next cycle!

 

  1. Increases Chances of a Take Home Baby: Research shows that acupuncture not only improves pregnancy rates (up to 60%!), but can reduce miscarriages leading to an overall increase in the chances of a take home baby! After all, this is what everyone facing infertility really wants! This research is typically done on IVF cycles, but the same mechanisms of action can help improve an IUI, medicated, or natural cycle in much the same way.

 

  1. Improves Blood Flow:  Acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow to the uterus. This improved blood flow is associated with a better chance of embryo implantation in IVF cycles. It can also facilitate better nutrient delivery and waste product removal to potentially increase the the quality of your follicles and endometrial lining.

 

  1. Hormone Regulation: Over the course of 1-3 months, acupuncture can help to regulate your reproductive hormones. For example, women with PCOS often begin ovulating after treatment with acupuncture. Subtle cycle changes also occur as hormones become more balanced. Changes often noticed during the course of treatment include: increased fertile cervical mucous, a longer luteal phase, reduced PMS symptoms, and even changes in your basal body temperature chart.

 

  1. Reduced Stress: We all know struggling with infertility is stressful. Acupuncture can help you cope with this stress so you can relax and feel normal while going through treatment cycles. It causes a release of ‘feel-good’ chemical called endorphins in your brain that will…. well, help you feel good! You may also notice that you sleep better or have better digestion after treatment as well.

 

  1. Treatment of Side effects: Often when we are treating patients during their cycles, we use points to reduce headaches, nausea, bloating, irritability, insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats, constipation, anxiety…. you name it! Making you feel comfortable during treatment is a huge part of what we do. The way we see it is that, for many couples, success can be a matter of time. Time finding the right medication combination that works with your body and time waiting for the right follicle to develop. If we can make that wait easier, you’re more likely to try an additional cycle or two and increase your chances of success! Additionally, we all know you can’t push the pause button on life while you undergo fertility treatment, so we work to help keep you at your best so you can continue to be a wife, co-worker, student, mother, sister, friend, and/or superwoman!

 

As you can see, combining acupuncture to your fertility treatment plan is a great way to, not only, increase your chances of pregnancy, but to feel more comfortable, relaxed and get a more regulated cycle!

We work with both men and women to find a treatment protocol that works with the timing of their cycles to give you the maximum benefit of acupuncture. Please give us a call or contact us online and we’ll walk you through what is best for your situation. Or, if you’re ready, you can schedule an appointment online now! 

 

Preventing Miscarriage with Acupuncture

Acupuncture can be helpful in preventing miscarriage from certain causes.
Acupuncture can be helpful in preventing miscarriage from certain causes.

Finally seeing those two lines on a pregnancy test is a long-awaited, and rightfully celebrated, moment for all of my patients! This joy can quickly become sadness if the pregnancy is not viable. Miscarriage is a very common occurrence with 10-25% of all pregnancies ending in miscarriage. The most common cause of miscarriage is genetic abnormalities that cause the embryo to be non-viable. Other causes of miscarriage can include:

  • Hormonal abnormalities: PCOS, low progesterone, diabetes, etc
  • Lifestyle issues: smoking, excessive alcohol use, excessive caffeine, drug use,exposure to toxic substances, etc
  • Maternal age: the prevalence of genetic abnormalities increase with age
  • Thin or low quality endometrial lining
  • Immune system issues
  • Trauma: generally only very severe trauma leads to miscarriage
  • Structural abnormalities in the uterus: adhesions, polyps, septum, etc
  • Blood clotting: anti-phospholipid syndrome

For less than 1% women, miscarriages can become recurrent. This is typically diagnosed after having 3 miscarriages. A thorough workup is done to try and find out the cause and determine what treatment is appropriate. Fortunately, many causes of recurrent miscarriage are treatable. Even in the case of genetic abnormalities, like chromosome translocation, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) can be utilized in combination with IVF to help decrease the chance of miscarriage.

 

What can I do to prevent miscarriage?

There is a lot you can do on your own to help prevent miscarriage. Much of this work involves managing chronic illness or hormonal imbalances and modifying complicating lifestyle factors. For example:

  • Quit smoking as soon as possible in your conception journey
  • Limit coffee and tea to 1-2 cups daily
  • Maintain a healthy BMI
  • Seek the help of your physician in managing diabetes, PCOS, or other health problems
  • Eat a healthy whole-foods diet high in fruits, veggies, and protein and low in sugar and processed foods
  • Limit exposure to toxic chemicals or environments
  • Avoid dangerous situations or activities where severe trauma may occur 

 

How Can Acupuncture Help?

Acupuncture can be a very useful for assisting in the prevention of miscarriage when not related to chromosomal abnormalities by treating many of the common causes of miscarriage. Acupuncture can be helpful in the following ways:

  • Increasing the thickness and quality of the endometrial lining
  • Helping regulate hormones
  • Helping to treat PCOS 
  • Reducing uterine contractions in early pregnancy
  • Improving uterine blood flow to help prevent blood clots
  • Regulating the immune system
  • Stress reduction

What does the research say?

Research on acupuncture and miscarriage is very promising. One recent study on acupuncture done along with IVF showed a 50% decrease in the miscarriage rate.

Another study suggests acupuncture may even be a potential supportive treatment for threatened or recurrent miscarriages due to its beneficial effects on serum cortisol and prolactin levels during IVF.

Acupuncture’s known effects on stress are also a possible mechanism by which miscarriage rates could be reduced. According this same study, it is possible that stress in very early pregnancy may cause overactivity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis leading to reduced progesterone levels. In reducing this stress, progesterone levels may stay higher.

 

When should I start acupuncture?

Acupuncture can be started at any point along your journey. Some basic recommendations are here:

  • If you are pregnant: We recommend acupuncture weekly through the first trimester to support blood flow to the uterus, reduce stress, and support progesterone levels before the placenta is fully developed.
  • If you are trying to conceive: Generally, it is recommended to begin acupuncture 3 months prior to conception for most causes of recurrent miscarriage. This allows the treatments to affect overall cycle health, hormone balance, and egg quality as it takes 90 days for an egg to prepare for ovulation. However, the effects of acupuncture are beneficial at any stage of your journey, and accumulate over time. We see many women while they are actively trying to conceive naturally or with fertility treatment. We have protocols for IVF, IUI, medicated cycles and couples trying naturally.

 

Please give our office a call to discuss your specific situation or to schedule an appointment. We are more than happy to answer any questions you may have. We wish you the best of luck!!

 

 

References:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/jacquelinehurst/acupuncture-to-support-fe_b_5958722.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3342918/

http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/miscarriage/

http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq100.pdf

http://natural-fertility-info.com/increase-egg-health

http://eastwindsacupuncture.com/acupuncture-in-ivf-linked-to-lower-miscarriage-and-ectopic-rates/

 

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

Acupuncture makes a wonderful addition to your upcoming IVF cycle and can help 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 tremendous!

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 without acupuncture are harder than those done with acupuncture. And, hopefully, at the end of it all you will get those long-awaited two pink lines!

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!!