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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What makes me a Fertility Acupuncture Specialist?
    Specialist Fertility Acupuncturist or General Acupuncturist? There is a huge difference between a regular acupuncturist and someone who has chosen to dive deeply into fertility acupuncture. I would hope that all degree-level trained acupuncturists are capable of treating to improve a menstrual cycle, but as a fertility acupuncturist I am able to bring so much more knowledge and experience into the clinic space with me. This depth of additional knowledge means that I am able to really work with you to help guide you through the maze of information and options being presented to you. Extensive Specialist Training in the use of Acupuncture to Support Fertility and IVF My training with Naava Carmen has been incredibly enriching, she has a wonderfully integrated approach to fertility acupuncture which has taught me how much useful information can be gleaned from standard fertility tests, information that I can use to help me to guide acupuncture treatment and to advise you on lifestyle and diet tips that will benefit you. You are more likely to hear me asking about your AMH, LH, FSH, Progesterone or Thyroid levels than you are to hear me talk of Liver Qi Stagnation or Spleen Qi Deficiency, and I have a sound working knowledge of assisted fertility options such as IUI, IVF, ICSI, FET, 'egg-banking', PCOS, OHSS and Endometriosis. Here is a list of some of the fertility and pregnancy specific post-graduate training I have had: Advanced Level Diploma in Fertility Acupuncture (Naava Carmen) Spermageddon (Dr Olivia Pojer) Acupuncture tor Fertility & IVF (Paul Johnson) Understanding Endometriosis & PCOS (Jill Glover) Acupuncture & Acupressure for Pregnancy & Childbirth (Debra Betts) Fat Positive Fertiliey (Nicola Salmon) The Reproductive Microbiome (Leah Hetchman) Empathy & Understanding, and a Personal Perspective I have a particular empathy for people struggling with fertility issues as I have experienced endometriosis, PCOS and unexplained infertility first hand and been through IUI and IVF. This is reflected in the passion and drive I bring to my clinic, to me this is far more than just a job - this is personal! To support the emotional aspects of fertility struggles, I undertake regular ongoing training in Hakomi, a form of body centred psychotherapy; this strongly influences how I work. This is a field of work where it is impossible to guarantee success and it is very important to me to be able to offer a safe space where people are able to explore the emotional impact of whatever has happened, where I can help to hold someone together so they can have a chance to rest from having to do that for themselves. . I am on the steering committee for the Acupuncture Fertility Network and Resident Expert for The Fertility Circle.
  • Can acupuncture improve my menstrual cycle?
    If you have any of the following symptoms it suggests that your menstrual cycle is out of kilter and you would benefit from a course of fertility acupuncture: heavy periods or if the bleed lasts a long time passing clots during bleed very painful periods very light, scanty bleed, watery bleed or particularly short bleed (1-2 days) a short cycle - less than 24 days irregular periods absence of stringy cervical mucus during ovulation phase if you think you are not, or have been told you are not ovulating if your lower abdomen feels cold when you rest a hand on it A healthier, more vibrant cycle encourages conception and pregnancy; acupuncture has a long history of being used to balance and energise a cycle and improve fertility. If you have any further questions, please contact me and I will do my best to answer you.
  • How frequently should I have acupuncture for fertility?
    For Best Results - Weekly Appointments For the first month it is best to have treatment at weekly intervals to give me a chance to treat you at every phase of the cycle. Depending on how your cycle responds, it may be possible to reduce this for subsequent months if one aspect of the cycle needs more support than another. Play the Long Game You should be prepared to commit to 3 months of treatment to give acupuncture a chance to work. By the end of 3 months the eggs that are ready to mature in the following cycle would have had a chance to benefit from acupuncture for most of their growing cycle, the hormone balance should be considerably better and your overall health and vitality should be very good. From my records I can see that clients who commit to weekly treatments have a much, much higher success rate than clients who dip in and out. It is not unusual for a client to conceive before they have finished the recommended three months of fertility acupuncture! When in the Cycle is it Best to Start? New patients can time their first treatment to coincide with the beginning of their bleed, or come for the introductory appointment at any point in the cycle and we will pick up from there. Out of Hours Options To help accommodate clients who have busy diaries, I offer a range of out of hours appointments - in Moorgate I am available until 8pm on Mondays and Wednesdays, in Danbury I offer Saturday appointments and in Burnham I can offer Thursday evening appointments.
  • I've been diagnosed with 'unexplained infertility', can acupuncture help me?"
    Unexplained Infertility or SubFertility? Typically a doctor diagnoses someone with 'unexplained infertility' after a year of trying and failing to conceive if there are no structural or measurable reasons for failing to conceive. The term infertility is a very difficult one to hear, and particularly frustrating if you have been told that there is no medical reason for the fertility problems you are having - and if Western medicine can't explain your infertility, the only solution offered is likelly to be to 'keep trying' or to consider IVF. For many couples the word 'infertile' is a really poor choice of words, especially as for so many it would be better to use the term subfertile. There is so much that can be done by way of diet, lifestyle and acupuncture to help someone to move into a more fertile state, but for so many people the awfulness of the word 'infertility' takes all the wind out of their sails. Fertility Acupuncture - Health Boosting, Fertility Boosting Chinese acupucture has a different perspective on fertility issues, we use different diagnostic methods and treat with massage, needles and moxa to encourage the body to want to move towards a more fertile state; thousands of years of knowledge and experience form the basis of our approach which can often mean success against all the odds. The majority of patients who come to me with 'unexplained infertility' are able to conceive within a few months of regular treatment; while there is no way to guarantee success, it is definitely a good idea to have some acupuncture to improve your chances of conceiving. And What If Acupuncture Isn't Enough? If you give your own natural fertility a chance but it is still not working well enough, then it really may be time to consider assisted fertility but the time spent is a fantastic preparation for IVF. 2-3 months of fertility acupuncture prior to IVF can improve your chances of having a successful cycle. If you came to me saying you were already planning IVF, I would recommend regular acupuncture for a few months prior to starting treatment to help prepare your body for conception and pregnancy. And What if IVF is Already In the Diary? As explained above, fertility acupuncture for a few cycles prior to IVF can really help the whole process, Fertility acupuncture can help to improve the circulation to your ovaries and uterus so they are in a better position to respond well to the fertility drugs, it can help improve your sleep, digestion and immune system to put you in a stronger position to cope physically with the demands of IVF, and it can help support you emotionally so you can start IVF feeling a little less afraid and a lot more knowledgeable. In my opinion, it is definitely worth extending the pre-IVF acupuncture treatment to three full months to see whether you would be able to conceive without the help of IVF. To me there is nothing more rewarding than helping someone to avoid IVF! If you have any further questions, please contact me and I will do my best to answer.
  • How will I know if my fertility acupuncture treatment is working?
    Almost without exception there will be improvements in the cycle, some people may notice a significant change to the premenstrual phase and the bleed phase of the cycle, there may be noticeable improvements to sleep and digestion and your stress level should settle down. If you are not ovulating and your cycle is being monitored, you should start to ovulate after a month or two of regular acupuncture.
  • I think I may need IVF, is it still worth coming for fertility acupucture?"
    Yes, most definitely! IVF is the process of fertilising the egg under laboratory conditions, but your chances of a successful pregnancy will be strongly influenced by your underlying health and wellness. A course of acupuncture prior to IVF has been shown in various studies to improve your chances of maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Eggs take at least 150 days to mature, so coming for acupuncture for a few months before IVF means that the eggs maturing in the IVF cycle will have had the best possible start, the blood and energy circulation to the uterus would be improved and you would be able to cope better with the stress of IVF. (and though people always doubt it when they come for their initial appointment, in some cases it is possible to fall pregnant while preparing for IVF with acupuncture . . . )
  • What can fertility acupuncture do to improve my chances of getting pregnant?
    I cannot promise that you will fall pregnant, but I can help your body to fall into a better, healthier cycle which should make pregnancy more possible. Acupuncture is deeply rooted in the rhythms and cycles of life which makes it a really effective therapy for menstrual issues. A course of acupuncture treatment for fertility issues can make significant improvements to the cycle, encouraging ovulation, promoting a thicker, healthier endometrium and improving the energy and circulation of the whole lower abdomen which can make it easier for your body to fall pregnant and to maintain that pregnancy.
  • I have been prescribed medication to help me ovulate, but am still not gettng pregnant. Can fertility acupuncture help?"
    There is a prescription drug commonly used to encourage ovulation, but although it statistically raises your chances of ovulating, these statistics are not as good for the chances of falling pregnant while taking it. This is because for a significant number of women, it interferes with the production of cervical mucus so essentially makes your body less prone to impregnation. The cervical mucus acts as an inverted fireman's pole, providing sperm with a quick, safe route through the cervix - if there is less cervical mucus, the sperm have to work a lot harder to reach the egg. Acupuncture encourages both ovulation and the production of cervical mucus, so if you have failed to fall pregnant while taking medication to promote ovulation, you may find you are in a better position with fertility acupuncture.
  • I have never had acupuncture before - does it hurt?
    Many clients who come for fertility acupuncture have not had acupuncture before, so you are not alone! I use very fine, pre-sterilised, single use needles and I work as gently as possible. If you are particularly needle sensitive, I can scale the needle size down even further and use as few needles as I can without compromising treatment. The vast majority of patients really love how acupuncture makes them feel, for many it induces a state of deep relaxation and calm that can last for days after treatment.
  • Where do you put the needles and why?
    There is a particular energetic quality to each phase of the cycle and the point locations are chosen to reflect this. Although the points chosen for any particular treatment will be influenced my many different things, the essential underlying sense is to generate a treatment that resonates with the current energetic phase of the cycle. It is like holding a tuning fork to the system, gently suggesting correct vibration to the cacophony of hormones and energies. If all goes well, the body listens, and gently falls into step. The Bleed Phase The first stage of the cycle is the bleed phase, during this phase I may use points to help the body to control excessive bleeding or to smooth the flow, ease pain and cramping and calm the mind. Spleen 8 is a good point for moderating Blood flow. The Follicular Phase (before ovulation) The second stage of the cycle is the follicular ripening phase, the growth of Yin energy which ripened the follicle. I would concentrate on points that nourish blood and Yin. Kidney 3 is a good point to use during this phase, which nourishes Kidney Yin energy that is so important to mature healthy eggs.. Ovulation The third stage of the cycle is around ovulation, the point at which Yin transforms into Yang. It is important at this phase to use points to support energy in the ovaries and fallopian tubes, and to encourage Qi to move in the abdomen, encouraging the fallopian tubes to collect the egg and move it down to the uterus. Zi Gong is a fantastic point to use at this stage as it helps to regulate energy in the ovaries and fallopian tubes The Luteal Phase (after ovulation) The fourth stage is the luteal phase, the Yang half of the cycle. Points used in this phase are more dynamic, encouraging the Yang energy to build to maintain a strong luteal phase. If the abdomen feels cool during this phase I might use an infrared heat lamp over the abdomen to encourage warmth and circulation. One of my favourite points in this phase is Ren 6 which encourages the birth of Yang and has a strong connection to the Heart and the uterus.
  • Can acupuncture help in the case of a threatened miscarriage?
    Evidence shows that acupuncture can be a useful therapy to use when there is a threatened miscarriage. Some miscarriages are inevitable as the genetic makeup of the embryo means that it cannot grow or develop, but other reasons for miscarriage include hormonal issues, blood supply to the uterus and extreme stress. Acupuncture can help with these aspects and studies have shown it is better than simply waiting to see what happens.
  • Is acupuncture safe to use through pregnancy?
    Yes! I am trained in antenatal acupuncture and prebirth acupuncture and frequently continue to see clients the whole way through their pregnancy. It is a gentle, supportive therapy for pregnancy and can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions that would otherwise require medical intervention or drugs. While many acupuncturists will treat pregnant women after 12 weeks, I have specific post-graduate training in antenatal acupuncture so can confidently treat women from pre-conception through to birth.
  • Do you need to see my blood test results?
    If you have had any fertility related blood tests it is really useful to have the results of the tests as they can help determine where in the cycle you need the most support. Most GPs are happy to arrange some of the blood tests for fertility investigations, but some are more reluctant to order tests which can be frustrating. Medichecks - an independent solution If you would prefer to arrange for your blood tests privately then Medichecks is a great option. You can opt to have a phlebotomist come to you or go to Broomfield Hospital, but if you have a doctor or nurse friend they can take the blood for you which makes the process cheaper (if you do opt to have a friend take the sample, be aware that it needs to go in the post to get to the lab as soon as possible - so don't do it on a weekend). The results will be made available online. Useful Tests Some of the tests that can be useful to see include: Day 2/3 - FSH, LH, Oestradiol Day 21 - Progesterone Prolactin Androgens - Testosterone, FAI (Free Androgen Index), SHBG AMH Vitamin D Thyroid (TSH, FreeT4, FreeT3, Thyroid antibodies) It is worth bearing in mind that most GPs will not order an AMH test which checks for Anti-Mullerian Hormone which is often used as an indicator for ovarian reserve or as one of the markers of PCOS. This test is available privately, and through Medichecks. 'Normal' is Not Enough Information! If you are coming to see me, it is really useful to have the test results as numbers and units rather than simply to be told the results were 'normal'. What is considered normal is not necessarily the same as optimal for fertility!
  • Can fertility acupuncture do anything for a low sperm count or motility/morphology issues?
    If you have had a poor sperm test result, do not dispair! Lots of things can impact your test result - if you have had a particularly stressful time over the past 9 weeks, if you have had a cough/cold/virus or been unwell in any way, even if you have recently had a bit of a big night out! It is always risky to determine a sperm issue on the basis of a single test, it is better practice to put into place some dietary and lifestyle changes and then have the sperm re-tested in a few months time. There are some obvious things that have been shown to make a big difference to subsequent test results, see my quick guide to improving sperm health by clicking here. Dietary Changes - clean up your diet, less processed foods, less sugar, less caffeine and less alcohol. Avoid foods containing hydrogenated oils and trans-fatty acids as these can decrease motility. Choose to eat natural, seasonal food when possible including plenty of fruit and vegetables (particularly dark coloured fruits and vegetables). Eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables will increase the levels of antioxidants in your system, this can help to improve sperm quality. Good foods to incorporate into your diet are citrus fruits, kale, broccoli, spinach, sweet potato and avocado. Include nuts and seeds in your regime as they contain lots of important micronutrients, brazil nuts, almonds and walnuts are excellent nuts to snack on (a single brazil nut a day contains your daily Selenium requirement!). Buy yourself a pot of mixed seeds to sprinkle on salads, scrambled eggs, porridge or yoghurt to give yourself a nutrition boost If you want to take supplements, Selenium, Zinc, Vitamin E and a Vitamin B complex may be worth taking, or get a bottle of Floradix or a good general pre-conception multivit/mineral. Lifestyle Changes - wear looser fitting boxers instead of tight pants, avoid very hot baths, saunas, icy plunge pools. Keep your phone away from your front pockets, and avoid resting your tablet or laptop on your lap for long periods of time. Acupuncture - a course of acupuncture has also been shown to improve sperm issues in many studies. In trials it has been shown to improve number, morphology and motility of sperm.
  • What if nothing works, what if I don't get pregnant?"
    Making baby humans can be very difficult, and sometimes it just doesn't happen. Before being drawn down the road of fertility acupuncture, my main area of interest was acupuncture for mental health and I have a lot of experience of supporting people through grief and depression. The journey through fertility issues may be difficult, but it can be more bearable if you have someone to offer the right kind of support and emotional nourishment at a time when words are simply not enough.
  • What if I have a question that isn't answered here?
    If there is a question that I have not covered, please get in touch and I will do my best to answer it. Email me at, contact me by clicking here or filling in the contact form at the bottom of the website.
  • "I have recurrent thrush-like symptoms and endometriosis - can this be related? Are there any supplements that can help?
    Yes, they possibly are related. In my clinical experience, most people assume that vaginal discomfort is thrush but when we run microbiome tests to see what is actually going on, it is much more likely to be a bacterial issue. The presence of endometriosis suggests increased inflammation, issues with oestrogen metabolism and hormonal balance and an increased potential for digestive issues and nutrient deficiencies. All of these factors increase the risk of microbiome dysbiosis - for instance we know that higher levels of oestrogen encourage the growth of prevotella bivia which is one of the many microbes that create a pattern of bacterial vaginosis. There are some over-the-counter vaginal microbiome support products but I would not advise blindly taking supplements in an effort to solve the problem - if you don't know what is going on, taking supplements could make matters worse! My advice would be to test your vaginal microbiome to see what is going on first, take appropriate antibiotics if required, then to put a program in place for microbiome repair afterwards. This is a complicated area to navigate on your own, so I would advise you work with an experienced holistic practitioner if possible.
  • Can submucosal fibroids come and go - one removed a few months ago, last month scan was clear, now two new fibroids . . .
    It sounds to me as though they are coming, not coming and going! Yes. If the conditions that encouraged fibroid formation are the same, then more fibroids are likely to appear over time. There are several things we pay close attention to when fibroids are in the picture: - microbiome issues - inflammation (from infection, autoimmune issues, poor digestion, poor blood sugar control etc) - issues with oestrogen metabolism (often found if there are cycle related issues with breast tenderness, bloating, headaches, brain fog) - issues with circulation in and around the uterus (pelvic tensions, previous abdominal/pelvic surgery, adenomyosis, endometriosis) While surgery is the fastest way to remove fibroids, surgery alone will not prevent them from returning. For anyone considering a surgical solution to fibroids/endometriosis issues, it is so important to also look at the state of the system holistically, look at what encouraged the formation in the first place to see how to improve things to discourage regrowth. There is a huge amount of support that can be found for this kind of thing - acupuncture, Chinese herbs, visceral osteopathy, functional nutrition.
  • Right tube removed, left tube blocked. Age 32, AMH is 1.8 pmol/l. Is IVF my best option now?
    One of the leading causes of blocked tubes is infection - which may be identified through vaginal microbiome testing or through a uterine biopsy. The presence of a vaginal microbiome infection is associated with an increased risk of blocked tubes as the infection and inflammation travel upwards, causing endometritis (inflammation in the uterine lining) and increasing the risk of chronic pelvic inflammation. Inflammation and infection can cause AMH to run low because the ovaries struggle to perform properly in that kind of environment. My advice would be to investigate this properly before considering IVF. In my experience this is rarely investigated properly by the IVF clinics - you would be better to work with a holistic fertility support practitioner to look into this kind of thing. Research and clinical experience suggest that infections are associated with an increased risk of early loss and IVF implantation failure - your blocked tubes suggest there is likely to be an infection, and infection reduces the chance of IVF working, so it would make sense not to run an IVF cycle until you have properly checked this. If an infection is found and cleared, it may be worth seeing if castor seed oil packs and visceral osteopathy can gently clear any remaining fluid from your fallopian tubes. If you are unable to clear the infection from the tubes, and you have issues with implantation failure or early loss after IVF, there is some evidence to suggest that removing a blocked tube may be helpful if it is likely to be seeping toxic fluid into the uterus - but that would be something to discuss with your IVF consultant.
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