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Would acupuncture help me get pregnant along with reflexology?

Q: have PCOS and recently had a miscarriage in August after nearly 4 years of trying. I am keen to conceive again.  I have fortnightly reflexology appointments and am interested in acupuncture as I have heard positive reviews. Would this be beneficial for me to try this along with reflexology? Would this be likely to increase my chances?

A:   We have been asked about PCOS on a number of occasions, and a typical answer we have given has been:

Q. i suffer from pcos on both ovaries, i also suffer from weight issues due to this but have been told by nhs that they cannot help until my bmi is below 30. I know that i need to help myself but can accupuncture help whilst trying to concieve. Have been trying for 5 years.

A. The evidence for the treatment of fertility problems with acupuncture is a little thin, as our factsheet  shows.

There are a number of studies which appear to indicate that acupuncture may help PCOS and the attendant fertility problems which it can cause, but not enough and not enough of consistently high quality for us to make any claims.

  However, traditional Chinese medicine has a very long history of treating exactly the same issues which trouble people today, and although its conceptual basis is entirely different from conventional western medicine, the symptoms which people have and the way in which they describe them haven't changed, and have been diagnosed and treated in Chinese medicine terms for centuries. There are a number of patterns or syndromes in Chinese medicine which reflect quite closely the sorts of problems which PCOS sufferers have and their problems with fertility, and a practitioner may be able to use these as the basis of a worthwhile strategy.

We have to be realistic, though, PCOS makes pregnancy difficult, whatever system of medicine you use to diagnose it. Our main concern is that you are not led into unnecessary time and expense for something which cannot help, and not diverted from conventional treatment which may ultimately be of benefit. Our members are responsible and safe practitioners, and if you visit one local to you, we hope that they are happy to see you for a short consultation, hopefully without charge, to determine whether the unique case which you represent in Chinese medicine terms is one for which they feel that treatment may offer some hope.

We think that this remains sound advice. Acupuncture treatment will certainly do no harm, and from a Chinese medicine perspective, where treatment is aimed at the person rather than the named condition from which a person suffers, there is a great deal to be said for maximising the body's function. The simple but profound belief underpinning a great deal of eastern medicine is that if everything is functioning as it should, then symptoms will disappear. However, one has to be realistic; where there has been longstanding pathological change it may be a much harder task to try to return basic functions to their normal state, and we are always very careful to make sure that we do not give patients false and unrealistic expectations of what might happen.

We also need to re-iterate what we have said in earlier answers, that something of an industry has built up around female fertility issues which, in this expert's view, have started to see practitioners charging more for their services than they would for 'ordinary' treatment. There is nothing, in my view, to justify this; acupuncture treats the person, not the condition, and there is very little additional expertise available in Chinese medicine to treat the problems with fertility which does not form a part of the basic training which all practitioners have. The only advantage of expert training in fertility problems is that it imparts greater knowledge of the western medicine involved and passes on the wisdom and experience of expert practitioners. This may warrant a small additional charge, but we have seen acupuncture being offered within some of the fertility clinics outside the traditional acupuncture 'circuit' at alarming fees.

We are confident that if you visit a BAcC member local to you for advice you will get a fair and realistic assessment of how and whether acupuncture treatment may be of benefit to you. 



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