Jun 3, 2013

Treating Infertility with Acupuncture

Acupuncture for Infertility
I made Jamie take a picture of me and my needles.

Remember when Jamie and I consulted with a new fertility specialist and were really excited to start treatments with him? And then remember when the months of April and May were jam packed with travel, family visits, and home restoration after our flood? It was looking like June was going to be our month to get our testing done for the new RE so that hopefully we could get back to doing insemination in July.

But then, a week and a half ago, my good friend and neighbor Clare sent me an email. In it was a link to a book and an anecdote about a friend of a friend having followed its guide and fell pregnant after having been unable to for a few years.

The book was The Infertility Cure by Randine Lewis. I read the reviews and the preview pages. Less than a half hour later, I had the book downloaded on my iPad and I started reading. By page 60, I was sold.

It's all about using acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat infertility. I'm going to tell you straight up that I've never been one for holistic medicine, and though I'd never given it much thought or attention, it always felt hokey and hippy-dippy to me. But this book! This book straightened it out for me, at least when it comes to acupuncture and TCM for infertility. In the basic of basic explanations, TCM and acupuncture serve to balance your reproductive system and create the best possible environment for conception.

I could try to explain it all here, but it'd be wordy and probably not well thought out, so I'll tell you my situation and what the doc planned out for me.

First, we went over the details about my cycle. While I haven't been diagnosed by my OB/GYN or RE with this, he believes I have mild endometriosis based on my signs and symptoms during my period. This means that I have endometrial tissue outside of the uterus causing my immune system to fight hard against something that isn't supposed to be there. Unfortunately, my immune system knows that it wants to eradicate endometrial cells, but it doesn't know that it only needs to fight off the ones outside the uterus so it also attacks the endometrium making it unwelcome for our baby-to-be.

He also looked at my past Basal Body Temperature (BBT) charts to help assess the situation (also something that my RE did not do.) From my chart he can see that my overall body temperature is too low. After ovulation (where the vertical red line is) my temperature should be in the 98 degree range, but mine is always still in the 97 range. (He also pointed out that my spikes in temperature could also be a sign of my immune system battling the endometriosis.) He also noted that my luteal phase, the time between ovulation and my next period, is too short.

One of my own charts.

An example of a good chart.

From there he decided that the main goal for me at home right now is to basically warm up. I need to keep my feet warm and not drink anything cold. He even recommends drinking my water closer to body temperature rather than even room temperature. He's put me on a restrictive diet of no coffee or tea (not even decaf), no alcohol (except during ovulation, but hey, I've been meaning to cut back!), no dairy, and no beef or lamb. He also gave me plenty of suggestions as to what I can and should eat and in what amounts.

Oh, and herbs.

The diet, the warming up, the herbs, and the acupuncture will all serve to balance my body and my reproductive system. It should regulate my periods and work to create the optimal environment for conception.

It's recommended to give it 3-6 months, but I've read a lot of success stories (and I mean a lot because I can't stop Googling it) of women in my same situation, with years of negative pregnancy tests and even some failed inseminations and IVF procedures who start acupuncture and get pregnant naturally within a month or two. While that definitely gives me hope and makes me feel like we're finally going to get what we've been working so hard for for so long, we also have a longer-term plan. We plan to try acupuncture and TCM alone for about 6 months, then from there we will likely pair it with fertility treatments.

IUI (insemination) has about a 20% success rate when used with fertility drugs. My acupuncture doc has a 38% success rate with women using acupuncture and herbs alone. His overall success rate with women using  either IUI, IVF, or acupuncture and herbs alone is 65%. Based on these numbers, I'm feeling really optimistic.

I feel like acupuncture and TCM work to naturally change your body to make it more ready and receptive to conception whereas the treatments with my RE felt really invasive and forceful with synthetic hormones trying to replicate a fertile womb. I'm definitely not against using IUI and IVF with fertility drugs; we will go back to that if we have to. But I'm happy to try something natural with side effects that are positive that seeks to fix the problem rather than try to MacGyver the hell out of it.


  1. I've read about this! Fingers crossed for you!

    PS- we miss you guys!

  2. This sounds like a great first step in your plan, especially because so many of those infertility docs get soooooooo invasive. I really hope this works out for you and Jamie, keeping my fingers crossed for you, girl!

  3. Good luck! Sounds like a great idea with very optimistic numbers. xo

  4. Thanks Sarah! I'm definitely stoked about the stats. :)

  5. Thanks Kristen-- they are definitely invasive and EXHAUSTING... and I only did it for 3 cycles! I'm hoping to not have to go back to that, but I will if I have to.

  6. This information is just so awesome!!


  7. Hi There, I am in a very similar boat as you and just came across your blog after googling (for hours) info. about TCM and conception. This entry is a few months old, are you still doing the acu. and herbs? If so, has it worked, did you conceive? This is my first month and I'm hopeful as well! Thank you, Anonymous

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  9. Nice blog and attractive information. I like your blog and your work.

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  10. This is the first time I've heard about acupuncture with fertility. It is very interesting how the needles can stimulate broken nerves. I am just glad that my wife and I are both able to have children. http://seattleacupuncture.org/

  11. It is totally a new concept for me that the basic purpose of acupuncture to get back fertility and Chinese had a firm belief on this treatment but in the modern era, scientists and doctors have also started to trust this therapy as it is quite effective and free of side effects.

  12. Personally, the post is in fact the most excellent on this impressive topic. I agree with your conclusions and will look further to your future updates.