When people think of fertility treatments, they think of science and stirrups and injections. But Dr. Jill Blakeway, a leading acupuncturist and renowned Chinese medicine practitioner is changing the way we approach reproductive health in western medicine by introducing eastern medicine into the mix. The author of Sex Again: Recharging Your Libido and Making Babies: A Proven 3-Month Program For Maximum Fertility opened the Yinova Center 20 years ago to offer women fertility support through acupuncture and Chinese herbs. “One of the secrets of our success is that we provide Chinese medical care in a modern way to meet the needs of our patients,” she explains. Her goal is to optimize women’s ability to conceive naturally or in conjunction with medical treatment. Read on for why The New York Times rightfully described her as ‘The Fertility Goddess.’
Acupuncture for Menstruation
Acupuncture has been used for centuries to help men and women improve fertility. However, Blakeway’s use of traditional Chinese methods spans beyond fertility. Through treatment, she regulates women’s menstrual cycles over the course of three months to rid of spotting and PMS. Women who specifically experience amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation) are provided with customized treatments and herbal formulas to boost their ovulation and regulate their cycle. Additionally, studies show that acupuncture has many fertility benefits, including increasing low ovarian reserves, elevating the follicle-stimulating hormone that tells the ovaries to start preparing an egg to ovulate each cycle, and decreasing ovarian cysts.
Acupuncture for Conceiving
Many of Blakeway’s patients try to conceive during those aforementioned three months of regulation, so she simultaneously monitors their BBT (basal body temperature, which determines when a woman’s fertile), and gives advice on how and when to have intercourse. “The Yinova team uses acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal medicine, dietary advice, massage, cupping, and lifestyle adjustments to support fertility by increasing blood flow to the uterus and ovaries to promote a healthy uterine lining and ovarian follicles. We also decrease inflammation to aid embryo implantation and balance hormones,” Blakeway explains. The Middle East Society Journal breaks down the science: Acupuncture mediates the release of neurotransmitters, which in turn, stimulate secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone that ultimately influences the menstrual cycle, ovulation, and fertility.
Acupuncture During IVF
Clinical research shows a 50 percent increase in fertility success rate with patients who underwent acupuncture than those who didn’t in a controlled group study. Blakeway’s patients come twice a week during the stimulation phase of their IVF cycles—one treatment before retrieval, one between retrieval and transfer, one just after transfer, and one a week after transfer. Senior acupuncturist, Amanda Silver, recommends women come in a month before starting IVF to start taking Chinese herbs and receiving acupuncture which can make them stronger upon taking medication. During the downregulation cycle month, where birth control or lupron is taken for a week or two to suppress current hormones so the IVF takes effect, there’s a lot of stagnant energy (qui). Silver and her team break up the qui to reduce stress before starting the most critical process.
As the stimulation procedure begins, their team focuses more on ovary blood flow and essentially calming the uterus for the incoming embryo during retrieval. After the transfer treatment, women have a couple of days to receive acupuncture which can relieve uterus spasms and improve the efficacy of IVF. During IVF, Chinese herbs are usually not recommended because it may complicate matters. Patients undergoing IUI (intrauterine insemination) typically come in for treatment once a week throughout.
A 2002 study published in the Fertility and Sterility journal showed that acupuncture given at the time of embryo transfer during an IVF cycle improved pregnancy rates compared to a control group that was not given acupuncture. In the British American Journal, researchers found that using WS-TCM (Whole Systems Traditional Chinese Medicine) for three months prior to an IVF cycle (approximately 12 treatments) may increase the odds of achieving a live birth over usual IVF care alone or the more limited two acupuncture treatments administered around embryo transfer.
Acupuncture for Endometriosis
The leading cause of pelvic pain seen at Blakway’s center comes from endometriosis. “It can seriously affect a woman’s ability to conceive and can also cause uncomfortable, heavy or irregular periods,” she explains. Using a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs, the acupuncturists aim to improve blood circulation, clear inflammation, relieve pain, and treat the patient’s underlying condition associated with their endometriosis. This may involve specific dietary changes suggested by a practitioner.
How to Choose an Acupuncturist
First things first, ensure that your acupuncturist is certified! You can choose any practitioner but when dealing with matters of reproductive health it’s important they have an understanding of gynecology, fertility, and reproductive medicine. It also helps to find someone who can work around your schedule and IVF treatments.
Does it Really Work?
One testimonial on Yinova’s site reads, “I owe a huge thank you to Katy Hogan at the Yinova Center for helping me to conceive the handsome baby boy that I am holding in my arms right now. Years of hormonal birth control use had destroyed the natural balance in my body and my cycle was non-existent. I came to Katy hoping that she would be able to restore my cycle in hopes of eventually getting pregnant. My first appointment was 8/30/17 and by mid-September I was pregnant. Her skill in acupuncture and knowing exactly which herbs I needed helped prepare my body, and my husband and I conceived our son naturally on my first cycle since coming off birth control. Thank you, Katy and the Yinova Center for helping me become a Mom!”
Of course, the Yinova Center can’t guarantee a pregnancy any more than IVF can. But, if you believe in acupuncture’s healing powers and delve into the research, you’ll be surprised at what alternative medicine can do for your body.