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Preparing for Success: Alternative Fertility Treatments for Advanced Maternal Age

Posted Nov 21 2009 6:29am

The majority of my fertility patients are between the ages of 35 and 40 years old. I also see a number of women over 40. Acupuncture is effective for women trying to conceive in a number of ways, especially in:

• improving blood flow to the reproductive organs (which I will cover in my next blog); and
• correcting underlying imbalances that could be distracting the body from its reproductive activities.

Let me share an example of how Chinese medicine was able to help one particular patient.

A few years ago, a 39 year-old woman came to see me after being diagnosed with primary ovarian insufficiency (formerly known as premature ovarian failure). She had an FSH level of 35 and was told by her reproductive endocrinologist that her only option for achieving pregnancy would be through donor egg.

When she first saw me, she asked if I could reduce her elevated FSH levels. My response was that I don’t specifically treat FSH levels. Rather, I focus on treating the imbalances that I see. The body takes care of the rest, which generally can lead to an FSH reduction. After doing an initial evaluation, I found three major issues that she was experiencing.

(1) She was only having 1 to 2 bowel movements per week and extreme bloating (to the point where she had no appetite).
(2) She had severely painful periods.
(3) She had tremendous anxiety. She was an accountant who was going through her ART testing during tax season—stress on top of stress.

I recommended that she do acupuncture and herbal treatments once a week for 3 months and then have her FSH levels rechecked. I also suggested a way for her to manage her anxiety. (She used meditation CDs with guided imagery specific to infertility.) After two weeks, she got her period and had almost no pain. Also within that time, her bowel movements increased to 1 to 2 times a day and her bloating resolved.

After 6 six weeks of treatment, she told me that she had taken 4 home pregnancy tests—all of which were positive! She came in to tell me the news and asked, “How is this possible?”

Making the Impossible Possible by Correcting Imbalances

Advanced maternal age patients need to allow some time for their bodies to prepare before entering their next in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI) cycle. What is vital to understand is that, 90 to 100 days before ovulation occurs, follicles enter a major growth phase. This 3-month period is critically important because the environment that the egg is bathed in during this time will affect the quality of the egg at ovulation.

I recommend to my patients that they receive a minimum of 3 months of weekly acupuncture and herbal treatments and follow my comprehensive lifestyle recommendations. During this time, I focus on regulating imbalances that may be occurring elsewhere in the body, which is a different approach from western medicine. While underlying issues like anxiety or IBS might not be of primary concern to a reproductive endocrinologist, they are vitally important to me. Simply put, imbalances—which might be digestive, menstrual, emotional or dietary—need to be corrected to maximize a person’s fertile potential.
Of course, every patient responds differently, and I can’t guarantee success. What I offer is an alternative and complementary approach to addressing infertility that might just be the sort of change of pace that advanced maternal age patients need for success.  For more information on infertility treatments please check out the following link

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