Women Undergoing Fertility Treatment Can Have Their Chances Ofsuccess Boosted by Acupuncture. German Researchers Found the Complementarytherapy Increased Success Rates by Almost 50 Percent in Women Trying Invitro Fertilisation (Ivf). Here One Woman Tells Rachel Blackburn How The ancient Chinese Treatment, Helped Make Her Dream of Becoming a Mum Come True
Esther Duncan was devastated when she and her husband Alistair were told they were unlikely to conceive a baby naturally.
The couple started trying for children two years ago, but nothing happened.
When Esther, 32, sought medical help, she was told she had endometriosis – a condition that affects around one in 10 British women and which can lead to infertility.
It had caused cysts to develop on Esther’s ovaries and, after she had them removed, she was told her Fallopian tubes had been damaged and she was unlikely to be able to have children without assistance.
‘We were both devastated because we really wanted a child and it was really upsetting to be told we might not be able to,’ said Esther, who lives in Edinburgh.
She and Alistair, a 35-year-old advocate, decided IVF fertility treatment was the only route open to them.
But knowing it can often take years for IVF to succeed, Esther began doing internet research into the best ways to improve their chances.
She discovered that acupuncture could help and had three months of it, combined with herbal medicine before her IVF began.
Amazingly, Esther conceived straight away and after a trouble-free pregnancy gave birth to baby daughter Eva in April this year.
She said: ‘After wanting to become a mum for so long, we wondered whether it would live up to its expectations.
‘But it has and in fact, it’s exceeded them.
‘I’m absolutely loving being a mum and Eva is a very happy and contented baby.
‘She’s a real joy.’
Esther admits she wasn’t 100 percent confident of conceiving when she and Alistair began trying for a child.
‘I had a niggle at the back of my mind as to whether it would happen,’ she said.
‘There was no real reason for that but I didn’t take it for granted that we’d be able to have a baby.’
The couple had been trying for about four months when Esther consulted her GP fearing something was wrong.
Her instincts were right and, after being referred for tests, a scan revealed that she had endometriosis.
It occurs when the tissue lining the uterus grows outside the uterus and attaches to other organs, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
It’s a progressive disease and its symptoms include painful periods, abnormal menstrual bleeding, and pain during or after sex.
Esther said: ‘I hadn’t really had any symptoms of endometriosis, although my periods had been less regular and more painful.
‘But the doctors were able to pinpoint what was wrong almost immediately.
‘The consultant told me not to panic because it might not have caused any damage or impaired my fertility.
‘But he said they would have to operate to remove the cysts.’
Following the operation, however, doctors confirmed her tubes had been damaged, leaving her with fertility problems.
‘We were very upset but we also realized we were lucky in the sense that we were only six months or so down the line and hadn’t been trying for years before finding out there was a problem,’ said Esther.
‘We were told it wasn’t impossible for us to conceive naturally, but it was unlikely, and that we should consider IVF as that would be our best chance of having a baby.’
Esther and Alistair decided to go ahead and were advised to go private rather than face a long wait for NHS treatment.
Esther found some research on the internet that suggested acupuncture could help her chances of conception.
In 2002, German researchers reported an increase in success rates of almost 50 percent in women who used acupuncture before undergoing IVF.
They had worked with doctors at the Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine at Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, China, and 160 women who were having IVF treatment. Half of the women received standard IVF treatment while half were given acupuncture to improve energy and create more blood flow in the uterus before and after IVF.
The pregnancy rate in the group receiving acupuncture was 42.5 percent while the success rate in the group which did not receive the complementary therapy was 26.3 percent.
Esther, who had never tried acupuncture before, was treated by former nurse and qualified practitioner Fiona Wolfenden at Napier’s Clinic in Edinburgh.
She began going for acupuncture once a week last March for a period of three months before starting IVF treatment in June.
‘Fiona used needles on various parts of my body including my feet and between my thumb and forefinger,’ said Esther. ‘I found it a very pleasant experience. Sometimes I felt a tingling from the needles but they didn’t hurt.
‘After the treatment, I felt as if I had more energy and my cycle began to return to how it had been a few years previously.
‘My periods became less painful and more regular.
‘I found I was having a more normal 28-day cycle rather than having cycles of different lengths, including 40 days sometimes.’
Fiona said: ‘I treat every woman who comes for infertility reasons individually and look at how I can regulate their menstrual cycle and improve their chances of the IVF succeeding. There are acupuncture meridians that nourish the uterus.
‘I concentrate on those to rebalance the cycle as well as other points to balance any disharmony the individual may have, such as liver stagnation or a kidney or blood deficiency.
‘If the menstrual cycle is too short, for example, I’d be looking at how to lengthen it so the uterus has more of a lining for successful implantation.
‘If the cycle is too long, as in Esther’s case, that means the usual hormonal balance is out.
‘So I’d try and shorten it and make it easier for the woman to conceive.’ Esther continued with the acupuncture once the embryo was implanted in her womb in July.
Twelve days after implantation, she was given a blood test to find out if she had conceived and was given the news that she’d become pregnant on her first IVF cycle in August.
She said: ‘That’s quite unusual as there’s about a 25 percent chance of it happening on the first cycle.
‘But I had felt quite positive about it and we both felt that we had done everything we could to help it to work. After that, we had to accept it was down to fate. When the blood test came back positive, we were absolutely elated and we couldn’t believe how lucky we were.’
Esther said she’d recommend other would-be mums in a similar situation to try acupuncture.
‘I think it helped me and I’d certainly do it again if we decided to try for another child,’ she said.
‘Some people are put off by the thought of the needles, but it’s a really relaxing and enjoyable experience.
‘It was certainly worth it to achieve my dream of becoming a mum.’
Interested in trying acupuncture for yourself and experiencing its healing effects? Visit AB Acupuncture now to book an appointment.