Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hope for Women With Ovarian Reserve and Egg Quality Poor

Women in their late 30s to mid 40s can face age-related fertility problems. Poor ovarian reserve and poor egg quality are common diagnoses for this population of women who seek help for fertility. When a woman hears she has diminished or poor ovarian reserve, she feels a sense of dread and fear that her chances of getting pregnant are now over. But is this really the case and is there room for hope?

With acupuncture and Chinese medicine there is always hope as the main philosophy of our medicine embraces the idea of the body's innate ability to heal itself. One of the goals of a fertility treatment with acupuncture and Chinese herbs is to improve the whole health of a patient; to improve the internal environment and thus improve the body's function.

This concept of improving the internal environment to improve pregnancy rates is mirrored in scientific research that appeared recently in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. In this study, Gleicher (1) states that the term poor ovarian reserve does not reflect the true state of a woman's overall potential to have a baby. Based on his research, he is of the opinion that a woman's eggs do not age, as previously thought, rather the ovarian environment ages and it is this decline in the function of the ovaries that affects the quality of the eggs.

Unlike men, who create new sperm every 90 days, women are born with all their eggs that have the potential to become a baby. The majority of these eggs are called primordial follicles. They are in a dormant state until puberty is reached when a woman starts releasing an egg each month (ovulation) and having periods. Between puberty and menopause, primordial follicles remain in this dormant state until activated to start the maturation process on the way to ovulation.

Once activated, the primordial follicles, (also known as non-growing follicles (NGFs) go through around four months of maturation. Many follicles are recruited to go through this process at the same time. One becomes dominant and will ovulate while the others die off.

When primordial follicles enter aging ovarian environments, it stands to reason that, compared to younger ovaries, problems with the maturation and development process occur that effect both the number of eggs reaching maturity as well as the quality of the eggs and, ultimately, their chance of becoming a healthy embryo.

Fertility tests to assess ovarian reserve are not able to calculate how many primordial follicles a woman has left. They are only able to look at the eggs that are in this maturation process. High FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), low AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone and low AFC (Antral Follicle Count) are indicators that the ovarian environment is aging and the eggs in this four month maturation process are less capable of being fertilized. These tests are not the final word on a woman's chances of getting pregnant and should not be seen as such.

So how can you improve the ovarian environment and increase the chances of getting pregnant? In his work, Gleicher uses DHEA to improve the ovarian environment. How it works is not clear but he has seen increased pregnancy rates in women with poor or diminished ovarian reserve. Acupuncture and in particular, Chinese herbs can also be used to improve the ovarian environment and increase the chances of pregnancy. And not only can they improve the ovarian environment, they also improve the overall health so when a woman finally gets pregnant, she is more likely to have a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Acupuncture For Additional Procedures for the Treatment of Infertility

Infertility, not an uncommon problem 
For some couples, becoming pregnant can be difficult and many must turn to medical treatment options in the form of Assisted Reproduction Techniques (ART) to aid in fertilization, but unfortunately, not always with success.

In-vitro Fertilization 
The procedure known as In-vitro Fertilization (IVF) is one of the most frequently adopted infertility treatment options. For the United States, data from the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that approximately 15% of women, who are of child-bearing age, seek such aid. However, even with the scientific advances of modern times the success rate appears to be much less than 50%.

Acupuncture for fertility 
As a supplementary procedure to improve on that success rate of IVF, some infertility specialists are adopting the ancient Chinese medical technique of acupuncture, long used in China as a method to help regulate the female reproductive system.

While there are still differences of opinion among medical professionals, studies in the United States and Germany have confirmed the significantly improved rates of success in achieving the births of healthy babies.

What is Acupuncture 
Acupuncture, is recognized and described by the U.S. National Institutes of Health as a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in which procedures are used to stimulate certain points on the body that are believed to help control the flow of energy that is required to maintain a healthy body.

Acupuncture stimulation involves the placement of ultra-thin needles in the skin at various points, defined as pressure points, throughout the body. According to the tenets of acupuncture, the stimulation of those points promotes the body's natural healing capabilities.

An ancient Eastern tradition 
Acupuncture is an essential component in the practice of traditional Chinese healing. In the ancient traditions of Chinese medicine, it is believed that a person's health is determined in large measure by the flow of energy along specific pathways in the body. Chinese medicine also incorporates a holistic approach to achieve good health.

Modern Western tradition and acupuncture 
As in many traditional beliefs passed down from ancient times, Western society does not readily accept acupuncture without a more logical scientific explanation. However, without yet being able to demonstrate the scientific reasons why, some valid and reputed clinical researches have demonstrated that there is merit in some of the claims regarding the benefits of acupuncture in the treatments of some diseases, many of which have not succumbed to conventional medical treatment.

The National Institutes of Health's Center for CAM has reported that a growing number of people are turning to acupuncture for treatment of what ails them. A survey in the year 2007 indicated that 3.1 million adults had used acupuncture in the previous 12 months, an increase from 2.1 million in the survey of five years earlier.

The relief of pain from many causes is a primary application of acupuncture but the practice is not limited to pain relief. Acupuncture is also used to treat such ailments and medical conditions as depression, anxiety, fertility problems, asthma, tinnitus, neuralgia and other nerve conditions.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Your Top Three Questions About Acupuncture, Answered!

Have you ever considered trying acupuncture for pain relief or wellness? The answer is probably yes. Because Acupuncture has become so popular in the last few years, many people are interested in trying it or have at least been told by a friend to try it.

Most people I talk to would consider acupuncture but would like to know a little more about the treatment and how it can benefit them. Here are the top five questions that almost every patient asks before beginning treatment.

Does Acupuncture Work? 
Yes, acupuncture has worked for centuries and has proven itself over and over again with various conditions. Modern research has demonstrated acupuncture to be effective, and many medical doctors are even referring their patients to acupuncturists for treatment.

How Does Acupuncture Work? 
Acupuncture helps the body achieve balance by stimulating various points in the body called meridians. The needles are inserted into the meridians to help balance the energy flow called Qi. When proper energy flow and balance are restored, all of the organs and systems function in harmony and the body can then begin to heal itself.

What Conditions can Acupuncture Help? 
Acupuncture has been successful with many conditions and can also be used in a wellness program to keep the body functioning at it's best. Some of the most common conditions helped by acupuncture are, back pain, neck pain, knee pain, headaches, plantar fascitis, tennis elbow, neuropathy, radiculopathy, disc problems, fertility, insomnia, TMJ, and many more conditions.

Hopefully you have most of your questions about acupuncture answered. If you are ready to give Acupuncture a try I suggest finding a local Acupuncturist and scheduling a free consultation to see if Acupuncture can help you. Remember acupuncture isn't just for pain relief and symptom care.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Acupuncture - Used For Infertility

Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine (not much thicker than a hair) needles into specific acupuncture points that are located along meridians or channels that connect to the various organs in Chinese medicine. The thinking is that by needling these specific points you can influence the flow of qi (pronounced chee) or energy that flows to the organs and improve organ function. Western medicine research has discovered that acupuncture can alter production of various brain chemicals including neurotransmitters, endorphins, encephalins, pain killers, mood enhancers, natural anti-inflammatories etc. The meridians and points are also often in close proximity to blood vessels, nerves, and lymphatic channels or specific organs.

Is Acupuncture Safe?

Absolutely if it is practiced by a qualified, competent practitioner. Having practiced acupuncture for 12 years, I have found that the worst that happens is mild to moderate bruising in some patients and sometimes a lasting sensation where the needle had been for up to a day afterward. The acupuncture needles we use are sterile and disposable so there is no risk of infection.

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

Because the needles are not much thicker than a hair, there is very little sensation when they enter the skin, sometimes a teeny pin prick. As the needle reaches it's destination you may feel a tingly sensation, electrical sensation or deep pressure sensation, but generally not much more than that and whatever sensation is felt usually subsides within a minute or two of the needle insertion. After that you may be aware the needle is there but not really feel much of anything from it.

What is an Acupuncture Treatment Like?

In total a treatment takes 35-40 minutes. I start by marking where the needles will go by pressing on your skin, then cleaning that spot with alcohol and inserting the needle. Once they are all in they stay in for about 20 minutes and are then removed and discarded. Each treatment consists of anywhere from about 8-18 needles. Afterward most people report either feeling energized or relaxed.

How Can Acupuncture Help Infertility?

Studies have shown acupuncture to be helpful in regulating the function of the ovaries in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). There is evidence that acupuncture helps in pain relief for egg retrieval, improving pregnancy outcomes of in vitro fertilization(IVF) treatment, reducing ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, management of ovulation disorders, male subfertility, primary dysmenorrhea, endometriosis and menopausal symptoms. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) standpoint you are improving the function of the organs by improving the flow of energy too and from the organ. From a Western medicine point of view, you are increasing immune system activity in and around the reproductive organs to promote healing and optimal function. You are also directly stimulating nerve endings that lead to the organ to stimulate brain to increase cytokines and neurotransmitters that increase repair activity.

As a naturopathic doctor, I integrate acupuncture along with my other healing methods including diet and nutrition, natural supplements, herbs, lifestyle counseling and stress reduction for the maximum impact on reversing infertility and helping women carry healthy pregnancies to term and produce healthy babies.