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How does Acupuncture Work for Infertility?

What does Acupuncture do to help or improve Fertility?

Acupuncture improves fertility by increasing blood flow. Doppler studies show that stimulation of specific acupuncture points increases circulation in blood vessels.

Treatments also stimulate angiogenesis – which means that they actually encourage new blood vessels to grow.

Acupuncture also helps fertility by regulating inflammation, balancing hormones and decreasing stress.

Studies show that certain acupuncture points decrease stress hormones and block chronic stress neurological pathways.

Where do the needles go?

Are you considering acupuncture for fertility and wondering where the needles go when you receive the treatment? 

The needles can be placed in the abdomen, chest, back, arms, legs, hands, feet, head or ears.

Needles are ultra-fine and hair-thin. Upon insertion, they feel like a mosquito bite at most.

Here are 3 most commonly used acupuncture points located on the leg, abdomen and head (Translation of point names and meanings from ‘Characters of Wisdom by Debra Kaatz):

1. ST36 Zusanli (To Walk in the Great Strength of Stillness)

This point is located just below the knee and is a storehouse for putting things into action, it gives us extra strength when things are not easy and strengthens vitality.

Studies have shown that this point is therapeutic for inflammation, stress, pain inhibition, perfusion/ circulation, parasympathetic activity,gastric function and ART reproductive outcomes.

2. DU20 Baihui (The Meeting in Grand Unity)

This point is located on the top of the head and is where chaos can be restored to unity, bringing tranquillity and calm.

Studies have shown that this point helps with anxiety, insomnia and ART reproductive outcomes.

3. CV4 Guanyuan (Gateway of Origin)

This point is located on the lower abdomen and opens our inner fertile gardens; it is where the goodness and vitality is allowed in, opening our life to warmth and harmony.

Studies have shown that this point helps with pelvic pain, endometriosis, primary dysmenorrhea, depression and anxiety.

How often do I need to have acupuncture done to improve my fertility?

The effects of acupuncture treatments are cumulative and treatment plans differ depending on each case.

The frequency of acupuncture treatments varies from 1 to 3 times per week for 4 to 12 weeks, depending on the recommended protocol.

How many acupuncture sessions will it take to get pregnant? How long does it take?

The aim is a healthy pregnancy, so we want to create the healthiest embryo and uterine lining as possible. This means we need healthy egg, sperm and lining.

It takes about 4-6 weeks to effectively increase the blood flow of the lining.

It takes about 90-100 days for egg and sperm to ripen and mature in the body before they are released for conception. We know that if we optimize the environment that they develop in, we are supporting them to grow to their peak potential.

So ideally, we want to focus on this key 3-month preconception time-frame to optimize egg and sperm quality while also optimizing blood flow in the uterus. This minimum time frame gives you the best chance of success.

What kind of success rate does acupuncture for infertility have?

Success rates are dependent on so many factors, including age and the nature of the diagnosis.

Studies show that acupuncture support for IVF increases the chances of success by 15-30%.

How much does fertility acupuncture cost?

At Whole Family Health, an Initial Consult is 60-90 minutes long and costs $144. Follow-up treatments are 50-60 minutes long and cost $96 each.

Yoga for Fertility

Does Yoga Help Fertility?

Lately I have been coming across many people that are interested in the benefits that yoga may have for them on their fertility journey. From the direct experience of my personal yoga practice, I have noticed positive changes in my own stress levels and emotional well being. So, what are the benefits that a fertility focused yoga practice has you ask? Here are some interesting facts:

A 2015 study looked at the effect yoga had on anxiety and women going through fertility treatments. The researchers found that after taking a 6 week yoga program, anxiety scores of participants were significantly lower in the yoga group than in the control group.

This 2018 study found the full scope of yoga postures, breathing techniques, and meditation to be beneficial in stress management as couples went through assisted reproductive techniques. The same study found yoga was helpful to reduce pain and decrease anxiety and stress in couples going through IVF.

Yoga taps into the parasympathetic nervous system and our “rest and digest” functions. Throughout the yoga practice, the body is able to relax and this allows for a shift in the nervous system that increases circulation throughout the body which is so beneficial in all aspects of health.

Fertility focused yoga emphasizes a slower and more restorative practice that provides the space for the body and mind to connect on a more subtle level. It’s a beautiful combination of body, breath, and mind that will leave you with a deep sense of comfort!

I would love to see you on the mat!

Register now!
For our upcoming 6-week YogaPuncture for Fertility series
Thursdays, Sept 19 – Oct 24
6:15 – 7:15pm
$150

Help for IVF Anxiety

In my own clinical practice, as well as in my own life, I have had the honour to witness acupuncture’s positive effects on anxiety. Nothing beats the feeling of melting into a treatment table and allowing your body to relax under the effects of the needles. All of the whirling thoughts tend to slow down as you feel listened to, cared for and supported. 

Anyone who has been in the vicinity of the life creating processes of IVF know that emotional support can be of huge benefit to the couple undergoing the procedure. For centuries, Traditional Chinese Medicine physicians have observed and recorded how excessive emotions and overthinking can contribute to the progression towards imbalance. What could cause more deeply felt emotions and excessive rumination than the suspense associated with expanding your family through IVF? 

Indeed, previous studies have indicated that 25 percent of women are at risk of clinical distress following an IVF cycle. However, a clinical trial involving over 800 women, aged 18 – 42 and across 16 different IVF clinics, studied how anxiety associated with IVF responds to acupuncture treatment. The study, spanning from 2011 to 2015, showed that acupuncture during an IVF cycle significantly reduced the feeling of anxiety on the day of embryo transfer. (1)

Acupuncturists have a variety of treatment protocols that can help to calm the mind, balance the nervous system and relax the body. Spending time on the treatment table can cultivate your sense of calm and thus help to improve the ease and success of your cycle.

If you are experiencing anxiety associated with your IVF cycle, we can help you. At Whole Family Health, we combine the time tested truths of ancient medicine with cutting edge modern medical knowledge.

If you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our practitioners please give us a call to book in for a free Q & A

Reference: 

1. Smith, Caroline A., et al. “The Effects of Acupuncture on the Secondary Outcomes of Anxiety and Quality of Life for Women Undergoing IVF: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Acta Obstetricia Et Gynecologica Scandinavica, vol. 98, no. 4, 2019, pp. 460–469., doi:10.1111/ aogs.13528. 

Acupuncture for Pelvic and Back Pain in Pregnancy

Even though I have not experienced the miracle of pregnancy, I can say that I am no stranger to pain. I know pain not only affects us physically, but that it takes its toll on us mentally as well! Having to constantly modify our duties and activities, it creeps into every aspect of our life.

Once my patients become pregnant, their bodies change to accommodate the life that is growing inside. Of course there are going to be associated aches and pains and pelvic pain is very common.

Fortunately, I have had much success treating pelvic pain in pregnancy with acupuncture.  Here are a few snippets from a systematic review of three studies on the success of acupuncture treatment for the relief of pelvic pain in pregnancy (1):

  • In 2000, a study found that the acupuncture group had a baseline of 7.4/10 pain that decreased to 1.7/10 after 4 weeks of acupuncture.  Whereas the control group’s pain only improved from a baseline of 6.6/10 to 4.5/10.
  • In a 2004 study, 60% of women in the acupuncture group reported less pain compared to 14% of the control group. 0% of the women in the acupuncture group required pharmaceutical intervention.
  • In 2005, a study compared 3 groups: an acupuncture group, a stabilizing exercises group and a control group. The baselines were 65, 60 and 63 respectively out of 100. The pain levels decreased to 35 in the acupuncture group, 50 in the stabilizing exercises group and 59 in the control group. Fewer women reported having pain when turning over in bed in the acupuncture group (66% vs 71% vs 88%.)

Acupuncture can successfully treat pregnancy related pelvic pain in less time, without the use of pain killers, and with less intervention than other treatment options!

If you need help with your pelvic or back pain, contact us for a free 15 minute Q & A or to book in with us today!

Reference:
1. Carolyn C. Ee, MBBS, BAppSci (Chinese Medicine/Human Biology); Eric Manheimer, MS; Marie V. Pirotta, MBBS, PhD; Adrian R. White, MA, MD, BM BCh,  Acupuncture for pelvic and back pain in pregnancy: a systematic review , MARCH 2008 , American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Happy Men’s Health Week!

We are all so happy at Whole Family Health, to have been mentioned in this Edmonton Journal Article on the challenges of dealing with Male Factor Infertility!

We love to help and support couples going through this process, and we recognize that it is hard for everyone, regardless of what the diagnosis is.

40% of infertility cases are due to male factor, and about 20% of cases are due to combined male and female factor. So infertility affects men and women relatively equally.

June 10-16th is also Canadian Men’s Health Week!

We would like to honour and support men, by offering 50% off Initial Men’s Reproductive Health Consults that are booked during this week until June 16thContact us for more information.

Stay tuned for more blog information this week on how you can improve Male Fertility with supplements and acupuncture.

Happy Men’s Health Week!
Dr. Alda Ngo

If you would like more information or to book in for a discounted Initial Men’s Reproductive Health Consult this week, contact us:
by Email: info@wholefamilyhealth.ca or
by Phone: 780.756.7736


Success Story

“I think when us guys hear the words “fertility issue,” we tend to look for ways to fix what’s broken. My wife and I have been through the grinder and every test conceivable (<-yeah it’s a pun) for Western medicine. There was no easy fix for what was quickly starting to look like an “infertile couple.” Our last option was surrogacy but we still needed healthy eggs from my wife and good sperm from me to proceed. We asked around about what we could do to increase our chances of having success with creating healthy embryos.

“We went for a few months of treatment & in tandem with a fertility clinic, created several healthy embryos as a result.”

Acupuncture was mentioned a few times so we gave it a whirl. It really was the best advice anyone gave us. We went for a few months of treatment and, in tandem with a fertility clinic, created several healthy embryos as a result. We now have a little girl that has just turned one. We can’t thank Alda and the rest of the team enough for helping us. They can truly make a difference.

Lastly, I encourage all couples to BOTH go for acupuncture.  So often I see women at the fertility clinic on their own. I think it’s important for both partners to be there and go through the experience together. “

-Clint H


Mat’s Story

Here is also another dear patient’s video, sharing his experience as he and his partner went through fertility treatments:

Exercise Guidelines For Pregnancy

By: Paige Wyatt

Living a health lifestyle has never been more important than while you’re pregnant. Not only are you now responsible for your overall health and well being, but also that of your unborn baby. What we eat, how much we sleep, how much water we drink, our mental and emotional stress, as well as how much we exercise need to be taken into consideration for a healthy pregnancy.

The new 2019 Canadian Guidelines for Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy has shed a new light on recommendations for prenatal physical activity. Not only can we help to reduce complications during pregnancy but it can also optimize health and wellbeing for both mother and child.

Previous concerns over fetal health during pregnancy have long been a deterrent for prenatal physical activity. The thought of exerting ourselves and potentially increasing our chances of miscarriage, stunting gestational growth, inducing preterm labour, and harming the fetus has caused a lot of expecting mothers to reduce and stop their exercise program. Less than 15% of women are engaging in the recommended prenatal exercise.

But, here’s the truth; these concerns have never been proven by research. Instead we’ve seen a rise in pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, gestational hypertension and large for date babies, which may be the cause of rising maternal obesity.
Physical activity is now being looked at as a preventative and therapeutic measure to reduce pregnancy complications.

WHAT DO THEY RECOMMEND?

• All women without contraindications should be physically active throughout pregnancy
• 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week
• Physical activity should be accumulated over a minimum of 3 days per week
• Aerobic and resistance training achieved greater benefits
• Pelvic floor muscle training (eg. Kegels) may be performed on a daily basis to prevent urinary incontinence
• Exercises should be modified to reduce supine position

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

Women who exercise during pregnancy have a reduced chance of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, cesarean delivery and operative vaginal delivery. Exercising while pregnant can also help reduce post partum recovery time, decrease depression and stress levels, as well as overall weight gain.

IS EXERCISE FOR EVERYONE?

No. These guidelines are intended for women who do not have any pregnancy complications. Although exercise exhibits many health benefits there are certain conditions that are considered absolute contraindications. EVERYONE should be thoroughly evaluated by their OBGYN before beginning an exercise program to ensure there are no medical conditions.
Absolute contraindications are as follows:
• Ruptured membranes, premature labour
• Unexplained persistent vaginal bleeding
• Placenta previa after 28 weeks gestation
• Preeclampsia
• Incompetent cervix
• Intrauterine growth restriction
• High-order multiple pregnancy (eg., triplets)
• Uncontrolled type 1 diabetes, uncontrolled hypertension, or uncontrolled thyroid disease
• Other serious cardiovascular, respiratory or systemic disorder

HOW TO START BEING PHYSICALLY ACTIVE DURING PREGNANCY?

According to the new guidelines there is never a better time to start exercising than the PRESENT. Even if you have never exercised before it is recommended to start. If you’ve never exercised, starting gradually and slowly increasing your intensity and frequency is recommended.
Although the more activity you do, the greater the benefit, even small amounts of physical activity have been proven to be beneficial. Exercise can be for everybody! Take a prenatal yoga class, go for a brisk walk, go for a swim, take an aerobics class or get your sweat on by stationary cycling.
Keep in mind that there may be periods of fatigue and discomfort as your body changes throughout pregnancy, and certain activities may need to be modified as pregnancy progresses. Remember, IT’S OKAY TO REST!

THINGS TO CONSIDER

  1. 1. Take it easy! A good indication that you are not overdoing your workouts is by using the “Talk Test.” If you are able to carry on a conversation while exercising it is likely that you are not overexerting yourself.
  2. 2. Always make sure you maintain adequate hydration- drink water before, during and after exercise.
  3. 3. Avoid physical activity in excessive heat and humidity (eg. hot yoga). A thermo-neutral environment is recommended.
  4. 4. Avoid activities that involve a risk of falling, or physical contact that may induce risk of fetal injury (eg. horse back riding, non-stationary cycling, extreme hiking)
  5. 5. No scuba diving.
  6. 6. No high altitudes.
  7. 7. Seek obstetric advice if considering exercising above the recommended guidelines.
  8. 8. Listen to your body and if you experience any symptoms while exercising such as persistent shortness of breath, severe chest pain, regular and painful uterine contractions, vaginal bleeding, persistent loss of fluid from the vagina, persistent dizziness, and faintness that does not resolve with rest STOP physical activity and consult a health care provider.

In summary the new 2019 Canadian Guidelines for Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy has recommended moderate-intensity exercise during pregnancy to help reduce pregnancy complications and optimize health for both mother and baby.

https://els-jbs-prod-cdn.literatumonline.com/pb/assets/raw/Health%20Advance/journals/jogc/JOGC908_LR-1539864964137.pdf

https://sogc.org/news-items/index.html?id=229

https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Physical-Activity-and-Exercise-During-Pregnancy-and-the-Postpartum-Period

My Favorite Resource For Pregnant Mothers To Be

By Christina Pistotnik

The time between that positive pregnancy test and holding your newborn in your hands can be filled with a mixture of emotions. On one hand you are so excited that you are going to be a mother but on the other hand you can’t help but feel anxious because it is hard to know what you can and cannot do. Some of you invested time, energy, and financial contributions in order to get to this place, and of course you want to do everything you can to safely maintain this pregnancy.

One of my favorite resources that I refer to and suggest to newly expectant mothers is called Motherisk. It is a Canadian site and program facilitated by the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children and they provide evidence-based information about what is and is not safe during pregnancy. I really enjoy it because it is easy to use and contains a vast array of information all on one site. Plus they have a toll free number (1-877-439-2744 ) that you can call and speak directly to a nurse that will help you out with any concerns you may have.

Having reliable resources and specialists to support you during pregnancy is important because it can help ease uncertainty surrounding an important time in your life.

What about acupuncture, is it safe during pregnancy?

Since the majority of my patients start seeing me while in the process of trying to conceive, I get this question quite a lot in my practice and the answer is; Yes, acupuncture is a safe and effective form of treatment in pregnancy. This is because it utilizes the body’s own healing process to help maintain pregnancy by keeping the uterus calm and stabilizing progesterone which keeps the lining secure until the placenta takes over. Plus it helps to minimize uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms which include; nausea and vomiting, aches/ pains, insomnia, and energy issues.
Plus, an added bonus when receiving acupuncture treatments is that it has a very calming affect on the body. Therefor, it can help with stress and anxiety that you may be experiencing during this time.

As an acupuncturist specializing in fertility and pregnancy, I am happy to safely treat you for any of your pregnancy concerns. Call Whole Family Health to book your appointment or learn more about our Fertility Services today!

Moving Forward From Pregnancy Loss: 4 Things That Help

October is Pregnancy and Infancy Loss Awareness Month, and in honor of heartbroken parents, blessed little lost ones, and all dear folk touched by this grief, we recognize this all too commonly shared experience.

We all process this kind of loss in our own way, and in our own time. One of life’s humbling mysteries – sometimes there is an explanation, and other times there is not. Either way, we are left to grapple with that which we don’t have control over, and to practice with somehow making peace with it, while sorting out how to move forward.

Often losses can be isolating, held close and private, locked in the silent hope of the first trimester. Hopefully to be spoken of later, perhaps when a little less emotionally raw.

While later term losses or stillbirths may be collectively grieved; empty-armed parents, navigating how to move forward at the mercy of often unpredictable waves of emotion. Moving through a life unchanged and yet forever changed – buoyed or sunken by the community’s varying depth of understanding and expectation.

It is said that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage by age 35, and once we start talking about it, we realize that everyone knows at least one person who has suffered a loss- if they haven’t experienced one themselves.

What does life after loss look like? There is no right or wrong way to grieve, we all do it in our own way and in our own time. Some of us are de-railed for a short time, and others of us never quite ‘get over it.’ Some of us need potato chips, while some of us need long walks, or both. Whatever it may be, allow the time and space to be with it in whatever way works best.

Here are some things that will help in the wake of pregnancy loss:

1. Breathe. Studies show that Mindful breathing exercises shift us out of fight or flight and activate our pre-frontal cortex- which is responsible for higher executive functioning. This supports our recovery from traumatic events and helps us to be present with and to integrate these experiences in a healthy way.

Mindfulness allows us to have the perspective we need to see our way through difficult times, without avoiding or being completely high-jacked by the negative impacts of the associated stress. Accessing resources like a Mindfulness class or a Mindfulness App like Headspace have far-reaching benefits.

2. Nourish and renew. Pregnancy loss and stillbirth can be draining both physically and emotionally. Eat replenishing foods, that are nutrient-rich and tonifying. Try to stay away from refined and processed foods, while gravitating toward a whole foods diet.

Stick to warm and cooked meals, especially in the colder seasons. These are more easily digested, and your body doesn’t have to work as hard to metabolize them. Bone broths, which are rich in amino acids, vitamins and minerals are easily absorbed, rehydrating, and fortifying.

3. Follow up. Follow up with your doctor. Especially if bleeding or pain persists or if your energy levels are slow to recover. Your doctor can run standard blood-work to check on hormone and iron levels after a loss. He or she can also determine if there is any indication for ultrasound imaging to ensure that no pregnancy products remain and/or that healing from any procedure is going smoothly.

If you have had more than one loss, your doctor will likely want to run a Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Panel, to rule out any potential contributing physiological factors.

4. Acupuncture. Acupuncture promotes blood flow, regulates inflammation, supports hormone balance, and decreases stress. It helps with recovery from both spontaneous miscarriage, procedures and stillbirths, as well as supports regulation of your cycle after loss.

Treatment plans are individualized, based on factors relevant to your particular case, and can include regular acupuncture, customized Chinese herbs, and a review of recommended supplements, diet and exercise.

If a Western diagnosis has been identified, and/or Western Medical treatment is necessary, we make modifications to support this process. The primary aim is to help your body re-set. Should you plan to create and carry another healthy pregnancy, then we also help to prepare for this, while supporting the mental-emotional process and doing what we can to prevent another loss.

Pregnancy and infancy loss is not uncommon, and the more we speak to it, the better
we are able to understand and support one another. Bless the hearts of those who know
this kind of loss first-hand and bless the hearts of those who love and support them.

 

Dr. Alda Ngo

For more information on how we can support recovery and prevention of pregnancy
loss, please feel free to contact us for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

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