Q: I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure over a year ago and have been considering acupuncture as a treatment to perhaps improve my chances of conception. I am aware there are a few private clinics in my area, but do not have the funds to attend regularly. Firstly, I am wondering whether it would help me in any way, and secondly I am wondering whether there are any funded or trainees in my local area who may be able to treat me at a reduced rate?
A: It would be fair to say that we have had a large number of enquiries about reduced rate treatment since the Channel 4 programme 'Something for Nothing' last week. All we can say on this front is that there are a number of teaching institutions in a formal relationship with our sister body, the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board, which have teaching clinics which may be able to offer treatment at less than the market rate, and as we have said many times before, under the direct supervision of some of the most experienced practitioners in the country, so in no way a reflection on the standard of treatment.
However, it is also true to say that a great many BAcC members are willing to negotiate if treatment really is beyond someone's means. This is not often an advertising point in leaflets and on websites - we'd spend all of our time bartering, and we're professionals who warrant the fees which we charge - but many members are not in it just for the money and have a genuine desire to help people come what may.
The issue of POF, however, is a more tricky one. As our factsheet on fertility shows:
there are a number of studies which seem to offer some encouragement that acupuncture treatment may enhance fertility. However, the treatment of infertility has become something of a growth area over the last decade, and we are troubled by the fact that there are a number of acupuncturists who are claiming expertise where there are no agreed standards. As far as Chinese medicine is concerned there is very little specialist treatment for gynaecological problems which is not a part of someone's core training as a practitioner. It is true that there are practitioners, many of whom are BAcC members, who have chosen to work almost exclusively with this group of patients, and where they do have a distinct advantage is often in their very thorough knowledge of conventional medicine in this area, more than the average practitioner.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, though, the failure to conceive and the disruption to the menstrual cycle would be seen against the backdrop of broader symptoms which a patient may have together with diagnostic signs unique to Chinese medicine, taking the pulse at the wrist and looking at the tongue. If these show functional disturbances there is a possibility that correcting them may have an impact on someone's fertility.
However, to give this kind of informed view is more than we can do online. We recommend that you pop along to a BAcC member near you, perhaps one who advertises on their website that they focus on working with fertility issues and seek face to face advice on whether acupuncture treatment may be worthwhile in your specific case.