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Can acupunture help a 32 year old female conceive ?

Q:  I am a 32 year old female trying to conceive. I have a history of endometriosis and ovarian cysts. I have had two laparoscopic surgeries to drain the cysts and remove some adhesions as well.  The last laparoscopy was in Oct 2012.  Fertility investigations show that I am ovulating spontaneously but one of my fallopian tubes is blocked. I have been actively trying to conceive for 14 months now.  Would acupuncture help in conceiving?  Secondly, would acupuncture help in improving the symptoms of endometriosis such as painful periods?

A: As far as research into the  acupuncture treatment of fertility is concerned there is very little of sufficient quality to be able to make any encouraging noises about what acupuncture might achieve.

Our factsheet please click here
 

 
is very clear on this point. However, there are so many different reasons why someone may not be fertile or may have their fertility compromised that research in conventional terms, which reduces variables to the absolute minimum may be difficult to set up, given that it would have to find a significant number of women with exactly the same fertility issue.
 
The difference, and to an extent, advantage of Chinese medicine, however, is that it has an entirely different picture of the way that the body mind and spirit function based on an understanding that everything consists of an energy which the Chinese call 'qi'. As long as this energy flows freely and is in balance, all of the natural functions of the body perform as they are intended to. Once there are weaknesses or blockages in the system, then ill health or failure of function occurs. Sometimes there are specific causal relationships between blockages and functional failures/symptoms, and sometimes the symptoms are just an indicator that the whole system is not working well. The skill of the practitioner is to identify and correct patterns of imbalance, and because there is a Chinese medicine understanding of the mechanism of pregnancy a practitioner may be able to establish a direct causal link which explains why a woman is not getting pregnant. More usually the practitioner simply has to put the system in as good a working order as possible to enable conception to take place normally.
 
Our understanding, though, is that 14 months is still well within the limit at which conventional medicine starts to show concern, and it could simply be a matter of luck. In this case there would be no problem with having acupuncture anyway to prepare the system as well as possible, even though the practitiioner might find you in good balance (although the blocked tube and endometriosis suggest otherwise). 
 
The caution in modern times is that the fertility industry has become a big business, and there are now many people offering acupuncture treatment as a part of their package for helping women with problems who are not necessarily using the sophisticated system of Chinese medicine as it was intended. Formula treatments are rarely going to be enough to deal with complex issues, and the strength of Chinese medicine lies in the skill and artistry of the practitioner in discerning the unique patterns of the individual's disease.

The endometriosis you mention could be having an impact on your fertility, as our factsheet shows:
 
http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/endometriosis.html
 
The evidence for the use of acupuncture in the treatment of endometriosis is a bit thin. One Cochrane review concluded that there were insufficient trials which met the standard criteria to be able to draw a conclusion
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21901713
 
although two studies seemed to us to be relatively positive.
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20728977
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18794019
 
Our clinical experience, however, is that while acupuncture treatment can reduce the severity of the pains and to an extent regularise the menstrual cycle, it is not a condition which responds rapidly to treatment, so it would be unwise to have too many expectations about what can be achieved with treatment.

Our advice is always to visit a BAcC member local to you for a face to face assessment of whether they think acupuncture can help. We are in the process of developing systems for accrediting postgraduate training in the field of obstetrics so that members can make it known that they experts in the field, but since this work is still being finalised we cannot give referrals to individual practitioners with special expertise in this field. Most BAcC members who spend a great deal of their time working with fertility issues are very clear about this on their websites, and it should be relatively simple to identify a BAcC member near you with this particular focus in their practice.  
 
 

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