Part 3: How acupuncture improves fertility
Welcome back to my blog series on how acupuncture and EAM can improve your fertility. Each week I will discuss specific mechanisms, review the current evidence, and outline a typical treatment plan. Contact me with any questions. For updates, add this blog to your blog feeder, follow us on twitter, or like us on facebook.
Acupuncture improves blood flow and uterine lining thickness
Last week we covered three ways acupuncture and EAM can improve fertility including: regulating hormones, increasing insulin sensitivity and promoting ovulation. We continue our series with two more vital ways in which acupuncture improves fertility: improving blood flow and uterine lining thickness.
Acupuncture improves blood flow to the uterus and ovaries
Adequate blood flow to the uterus and ovaries provides the necessary nutrition to the uterine organ and ovarian glands. The blood flow for both of these structures stems from the kidney and femoral artery. In some women, blood flow is impeded due to stress, aging, and other factors, but acupuncture may help to reverse it. By improving blood flow to the organs tasked with reproduction, we improve their ability to complete the jobs of conception, implantation, gestation (pregnancy), and live birth delivery.
Acupuncture improves the thickness of the uterine lining
Because acupuncture can improve the blood flow to the uterus, it can also increase the uterine lining thickness, also known as endometrial thickness. A thick uterine lining is more likely to accept embryo implantation and support a pregnancy through its full nine-month term. Once an egg is fertilized and becomes an embryo, it travels through the fallopian tube for about five days. If all goes well, it then emerges into the uterine cavity as a fully developed blastocyst. See this movie illustrating early-stage embryo development.
Ideally, the uterine lining will have three layers (trilaminar) and should be at least 8 mm thick. If the uterine lining is not thick enough or does not fully develop all three layers, the lining is less likely to support a viable pregnancy. Acupuncture may help increase a thin uterine lining to support pregnancy.
We typically see an improvement in uterine blood flow and thickness with a minimum of 9 to 12 acupuncture treatments. Sometimes, mild electro-acupuncture may be incorporated into the treatment plan. Electro-acupuncture and acupuncture without electrical stimulation can promote the appropriate body mechanisms to increase blood flow, reduce factors that block blood flow, and increase uterine lining thickness and quality.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, the essential components for success include unobstructed blood flow to the organs vital to conception, but also abundant, high quality blood. For example, if you have had a severe or persistent blood loss from long-term uterine bleeding, treatment will first be aimed to reverse the effects of the blood loss. If you are anemic or borderline anemic, extra iron supplementation will be necessary. The addition of Chinese herbs to the treatment plan may also be appropriate. Chinese herbs can be effective to improve uterine lining, especially in women who are taking clomiphene citrate for several cycles.
Acupuncturists often recommend focused dietary recommendations based on each person’s needs in addition to acupuncture and Chinese herbs. They will include a variety of vegetables including those that support hormone metabolism like green leafy or cruciferous vegetables, grass-fed and pasture-raised organic animal proteins or low-toxicity seafood, pasture-raised organic milk, cold-pressed organic olive oil or medium-chain triglycerides like coconut oil, and plenty of fluids. Limiting consumption of alcohol, coffee, and beverages containing sweeteners of any kind are also recommended. High amounts of sugar intake can cause inflammation, especially in those who are insulin resistant, which can then impair blood flow.
You can do several things at home to improve blood flow and support the effectiveness of the acupuncture such as yoga and massage. Legs up the wall and reclining bound ankle pose relax the pelvic muscles and improve blood flow. You can also do a femoral massage. Performing the femoral massage one to two times a day on yourself can help improve the blood flow to the uterus and ovaries.
Got a question? Contact me. For updates, add this blog to your blog feeder, follow us on twitter, or like us on Facebook. Missed a part of the series? Here’s Part 1 and Part 2. Next week we will cover how acupuncture and EAM regulate the menstrual cycle.