By Keren Zelicha
In the past few years there has been an increase in awareness and acceptance of Chinese Medicine and its benefits regarding fertility treatments. One reason for this is the amount of research and studies that have been done in the past decade revealing that the combination of Chinese medicine with traditional fertility treatments contribute to the success rate of achieving quicker positive results regarding pregnancy.
An Israeli study done by Ichilov Medical Center reveals a significant increase in the success rate of women undergoing IUI treatments while receiving Chinese Medicine treatments (Chinese herbs and acupuncture). Acupuncture can improve the function of the uterus and ovaries. The mechanism for this is still being researched.
One of the theories that explains the success of combined Chinese medicine and fertility treatments is that acupuncture raises levels of Beta Endorphins which influence the secretion of hormones such as GnRH, and therefore help regulate the menstrual cycle. In addition, acupuncture can stimulate the blood flow to the pelvis, thus benefiting the uterus and ovaries.
In most cases, before the couple reaches IVF, they undergo some less invasive procedures including a monthly follicle growth track and blood work (in order to detect ovulation). Then later on they may reach Intra- Uterine Insemination (IUI). IUI cycles may or may not include the use of hormonal injections. These hormones stimulate the growth of several follicles, in which case the Estradiol levels increase accordingly. The hormonal injections given during an IUI cycle are similar to those given during an IVF cycle although the given dosage is lower. The pregnancy rate resulting of IUI treatments are lower than those resulting from IVF, and many women may reach IVF if a pregnancy is not achieved after 3-4 rounds of IUI.
This is a case study which describes the importance of the combination of acupuncture during IUI treatments:
Dalit is 29 years old and married, she has been trying to get pregnant for a year and a half. In the past she consumed oral contraceptives for 7 years. When she stopped her periods were irregular. Menarche at age 15, periods are 34 days long, the second day is strong with red blood and some clots. Slight dysmenorrhea. A migraine may occur before periods. During her periods there may be diarrhea. Generally, her bowel movements are regular. Her nutrition is irregular, and she doesn’t drink much. Her sleep is good. Her moods are down, she is worried and stressed. She tends to feel cold. Her tongue has a thick white and turbid coating, and there’s a depression in Lung area. Pulse is thin and weak.
A year ago, she began IUI treatments with Clomiphene (Ikaclomine) which were unsuccessful. Later she did two more IUI treatments with Gonadotrophins (Gonal F 75-150 IU) which resulted in 5 follicles, but again did not achieve a pregnancy. During this protocol her uterine lining reached a 7.5 mm measurement. Dalit came to me before her third IUI cycle with a strong feeling that after this she may need to move on to IVF.
Diagnosis: Spleen Qi deficiency, Damp cold in Middle Jiao, Liver Qi stagnation
The first treatment was done around ovulation time-
Sp9, Lu5, Kid7, St40, Cv4, Kid13
The combination Sp9+Lu5+Kd7+St 40 is a common treatment which regulates the flow of Qi, clears damp, and supports the kidneys.
In addition, Dalit was given nutritional suggestions on how to eat correctly, putting an emphasis on eating meals regularly, a warm cooked meal once a day containing orange vegetables, and was suggested to stay away from cold foods, all this in order to support the spleen and prevent the uprising of dampness. Dalit was given a formula containing the following herbs: Huang qi, Fu ling, Yi yi ren, Bai zhu, Zhi, ke, Mu xiang, Gan jiang, Gan cao
Two weeks later Dalit got her period and began a new protocol including Gonal F injections (75 IU) in preparation for her third IUI. During follicle stimulation period we met for a session. The treatment strategy was to tonify kidney and spleen Qi, tonify blood, and regulate Qi and blood in the Chong and Ren vessels. The points that were used were: St36, Sp6, Lu9, Kid3, St29, Cv4,6.
The uterine lining increased to 8.5 mm. Estradiol levels were 1063, progesterone 1.7. two large follicles were produced, sizes- 17 mm and the 22 mm. after 8 days of injections, ovulation was timed with Ovitrelle, and the IUI was performed accordingly.
Two days after her IUI we met again and the treatment included: Gb34, Sp 6, Kd 7, Sp 9. The treatment strategy was to support spleen and kidney Qi, tonify and move blood. Dalit commented that the IUI was done more easily this time, and that unlike her previous treatments where she had to increase the dosage of Gonal F, she was able to stay with a 75 IU dosage.