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41 questions

Q:  Is acupuncture useful on its own for fertility in a case of premature ovarian failure or has to be used plus IVF at the same time?


A:  As you can see from our factsheet, there is some evidence that acpuncture used in conjunction with conventional treatment for infertility can improve the chances of conception.  Please click here
but the evidence is limited and not always as methodologically robust as one might hope.
In more general terms, it is quite often said that traditional acupuncture, as a treatment which aims to restore harmony, balance and function across the whole system, can have an effect on individual systems and organs within the body, sometimes as a result of directly treating the organs or indirectly aiming to improve the flow and balance of energy in the whole system. Given the high stakes involved in fertility treatment, however, it is probably best to regard acupuncture as something to be used in conjunction with conventional treatment rather than instead of it.
If time is on your side, of course, you could set aside a number of months to see if acupuncture can have an effect on your ovulatory potential, but if there is no current evidence that the ovaries are still functioning this might simply be wasting time which might be better spent on alternatives which deliver a greater deal of certainty in their outcomes. 

Q:  I had two depo provera injections last year and the evil progesterone is very slow leaving my system. I am told it could take two years for depo provera to flush out of my system.

Could acupuncture help rid my body of the depo provera progesterone?  I have been on solpadol as well for over a year.


A: There is no research evidence to suggest that acupuncture can speed up the process of removal, so we have to be careful in what claims we make. It is also our understanding that the average washout period is about 10 months, and that fertility rates have returned to normal after about 18 months, so two years may be a little pessimistic.
There is no doubt that many people use acupuncture for helping themselves to readjust after long periods of taking prescription medicines, and the practitioner is usually very clear with the patient that the main focus of treatment is helping the system, understood from a Chinese medicine perspective, to return to full function after the stresses which have placed on it by the medicine. In some cases this process can overlap with the western understanding of organs such as the kidney and liver having a role in filtering out harmful or disruptive substances, but we would not want to make specific claims about a single medication.
We are a little concerned that you have been on solpadol for over a year. We are assuming that this is with the full knowledge of your GP, but if it isn't we are duty bound to point out that Solpadol can be quite subtly addictive, and advise you to check with your GP that the dose you are taking is safe to continue.

Q: Is  there medical evidence that acupuncture can heal varicose veins in legs and how can it help hormonal imbalance to regulate scarce periods ?


A:  The short answer to your first question is 'no'. There is no evidence of which we are aware which is conclusive enough to make any claims for the efficacy of acupuncture in 'healing' varicose veins. A great deal depends on the extent of the problem, however. Once there is considerable consolidation and tissue change there is nothing much short of surgery or injections to help the problem. In the developing stages, however, when the veins are starting to manifest and still change in relation to what someone does - worse for standing at work for hours, sitting still for extended periods of time - there are a number of protocols and syndromes within Chinese medicine which recognise this as a manifestation of poor function in some of the key parts of the internal system. If this is the case there will invariably be other accompanying symptoms, as well as diagnostically significant information to be gained from the tongue and pulse at the wrist, which might give a practitioner some confidence that they could offer some benefit by using acupuncture.
The same can be said of scarce periods, oligomenorrhea. There is less evidence of the use of acupuncture for this than for PMS or painful periods, both of which show some encouraging results, and what evidence there is tends to be of very small scale trials from which it is difficult to generalise. Again, there are a number of recognised patterns and syndromes within Chinese medicine - after all, this is not simply a modern problem - and there will other confirming information which might guide a practitioner towards a number of treatment options.
Taken both together, there are some very obvious connections which narrow the field of possibilities, and this is one of the great strengths of Chinese medicine, its ability to take symptoms which are treated as discrete and separate in western medicine and see them as part of an overall pattern of functional weaknesses in the body. Our advice to you will be familiar to anyone reading a number of these answers - visit a practitioner local to you to ask their advice and on the basis of a brief face to face assessment get some idea of whether they think that you might benefit from acupuncture treatment.

Q:  i am 43 years old and have no children, although i have fell pregnant naturally while i was in my 20's, but didn't go full term. i'm a new relationship and would love to have children. am i too late, and if not, can acupuncture help me?


A: We are sorry to say that there are far too many imponderables to be able to say whether or not you could become pregnant. There are certainly a large number of women who have their first children after the age of 40, and some of the more famous have written extensively on this. However, each individual is very different, and there are all manner of factors, both from an eastern as well as western perspective, which may have a bearing on whether it would be possible to conceive. The statistics are not necessarily in your favour, with first pregnancies after 40 quite a great deal rarer, but these are just averages, not determinants of any individual case.
What we can say is that a relatively large number of BAcC members undertake specialist postgraduate training in the area of fertility and pregnancy, and there are a number of well-established protocols for dealing with some of the more common problems associated with fertility. The Chinese medicine practitioner also has the advantage of assessing the whole system, not simply looking at fertility as an independent issue, and can make use of this understanding to address some of the wider issues in someone's overall balance which may have an impact on their ability to conceive.
We cannot give individual referrals; the BAcC stands by the generalist principle that all its members can treat any patient within their own personal scope of practice. However, we are working on what would count as the standards for being able to claim to be an expert practitioner in a number of fields such as paediatrics, and fertility and the treatment of the pregnant woman. Some of the groups who have contributed this process have a considerable membership as special interest groups within the BAcC, and we take the view that it is acceptable to mention the two largest of these (the Acupuncture Fertility Network and the Zita West network) as organisations with lists of named practitioners by region through whom you may be able to obtain the specialist advice you need.
You might also find it helpful to contact BAcC members local to you to ask their advice as well. Many treat women trying to become pregnant by relying on the rather straightforward principle that if a system is functioning as it should, most natural processes unfold without further ado, and anecdotally we hear many stories of straightforward treatment according to basic principles having a successful outcome.

Q:  I have been having acupuncture to help with my fertility as we had bern trying for 2 and 1/2 years and fell pregnant after 3 sessions. My energy was very low and increased after the first 3 sessions I took Chinese herbs too. Having fallen pregnant I have carried on with acupuncture. I am 11 weeks and was told by my acupuncturist that my pulse isn't as strong as she would like it to be. Just s but anxious as to what this means? Am now taking more herbs to help.


A: When you spend your whole time practising Chinese medicine it is easy to forget sometimes that the people to whom you are talking, which is most often patients, are not quite so well trained or savvy as you are. Pulse taking is a subjective as well as objective art and skill, and most practitioners have in mind a sense of what a good strong pulse will be for each individual. This will differ greatly for an 80-year old granny and a teenage athlete, and the practitioner will often find on taking on a patient that the whole system is a bit run down and needs to be brought back to the best possible balance and health.
We suspect that all your practitioner is saying is that after the years of trying for a child and while adjusting to the early stages of pregnancy your energy has probably dipped a little, and she believes that her role is to ensure that it is as strong as possible for a successful and happy pregnancy. The strains of modern life mean that the majority of people, including sometimes ourselves, are not as well-balanced as we could be, and this means our pulses are probably not as strong as our practitioners would like. There is nothing to worry about in this. If the practitioner had serious concerns about anything, as a responsible professional she would already have raised these with you and referred you to your doctor.
One small note of concern, though, is that you said you are taking more herbs to help. We weren't quite sure whether this was at the practitioner's suggestion or whether you were increasing your own dose because you were worried that you needed boosting. If it is the latter it would be a good idea to check with your practitioner if this is OK.   

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