Acupuncture for fertility – Advice from fertility expert Emma Cannon

Emma Cannon  |   26 Nov 2019

When looking for ways to assist your fertility journey, more people are looking at encompassing holistic treatments, and one of these practices is that of acupuncture. At first it may seem unusual (and a little daunting!), but many report the benefits of this treatment. For fertility acupuncture Emma Cannon is an expert to know.

Through her clinic, Emma has been helping couples for over 25 years with natural conception and supporting them with acupuncture for IVF. In this interview she gives fertility advice and some top tips, which could be right for you.

Over to Emma…

emmacannon.co.uk |  @emmalcannon

An ancient practice

I have spent many years supporting hundreds of couples on the path to becoming parents. Whether they are trying to conceive naturally or going through IVF, I find acupuncture to be the best therapy to support female and male fertility.

Acupuncture is part of Chinese medicine, a system of medicine that encompasses both the body and the mind together. In this form of medicine, a woman’s menstrual cycle is seen as the foundation of health, and our aim is to help bring the body and mind back into balance.

Acupuncture is one of the safest and oldest forms of treatment available today; it has an extremely long recorded history of efficacy. Acupuncturists use tiny needles, inserted at specific points on the surface of the skin, that either activate or inhibit the flow of energy with the aim to create balance and harmony in the body for wellbeing and health.

There are acupuncture points all over the body, which act as gateways to the flow of energy (called Qi in Chinese medicine) throughout the body. Over thousands of years, practitioners have discovered which combinations of needles do what, and with this knowledge can treat a wide variety of conditions.

The most documented use of acupuncture is in treating chronic pain, and there are now early studies to suggest that fertility acupuncture may help during the IVF process.

Want to learn more about ancient practices? Read this next: Qigong for fertility – a specialist’s Q&A

What to expect

In the first acupuncture treatment a practitioner will take a full medical case history, including past health background and details about the current condition. The practitioner will carry out pulse taking on each wrist and look at a patient’s tongue.

Once the patient is settled on the treatment couch, tiny needles are inserted into acupuncture points at various sites on the body, where they are retained for about 20-30 minutes. The process in not painful although there is often some mild sensation, and the patient can feel very relaxed during and after the treatment.

The practitioner will make a treatment plan which may include lifestyle and dietary advice as well as a schedule for acupuncture. Normally you will be seen for a course of acupuncture. It is important that you have a good rapport with the practitioner and they have a thorough understanding of fertility, IVF and drug protocols.

Read more here about choosing your practitioners and switching fertility clinics.

During IVF it is likely that you will be asked to come back at specific times during the cycle. In my clinic, we commonly see people on a weekly basis to support natural conception. During IVF this might be more frequently.

An integrated approach

The way we use acupuncture for fertility in clinic today is as part of an integrated approach, in that we work closely with many experts in Western medicine, working together to optimise fertility. For example, it is now widely accepted that women who have acupuncture during IVF are more likely to go on to have a successful embryo transfer procedure and live birth.

I see fertility acupuncture as the ‘fine tuning’: gently increasing the patient’s blood flow to her follicles and womb lining, helping to calm any anxiety and post-transfer, helping to stop contractions and so aid implantation.

Read more about the importance of integrated approaches here: Managing stress and IVF – a fertility doctor’s guide to holistic support options during treatment

Acupuncture for IVF

During the IVF cycle, I give acupuncture in the stimulation phase, to help pelvic blood flow and encourage the follicles to grow evenly on both sides. I advise eating plenty of good protein and blood-nourishing foods, which I will detail later, and getting plenty of rest.

If a patient has had difficulties with egg collection in previous cycles, I may suggest acupuncture the day before to help with relaxation. Acupuncture in between egg collection and transfer is used to help with blood flow, relieve bloating and encourage receptivity. Warming foods are encouraged, as is keeping warm and relaxed.

I also see patients in the days after transfer to help calm the mind during the two-week wait. I have included lots of additional tips for keeping the mind calm and helping with the symptoms that women commonly report to me during IVF cycles, from headaches to constipation and problems sleeping.

If you do seek complementary support such as acupuncture for IVF (or to support any fertility treatment) then do talk this through with your fertility specialist or consultant as it will be very helpful for them to be aware of all you treatment.

Download Emma Cannon’s Top Tips here.

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