Acupuncture for Fertility: A case Study
Sally (not her real name) started coming to East Village Acupuncture & Massage just after we opened. She is a 39 year old woman who had been trying for two years to conceive, so far without success. She had never been pregnant before. She had always had a long menstrual cycle, usually lasting around 33 days. Her periods were light and lasted for only three days. She was not undergoing any western fertility treatments or taking any hormones. She had tried acupuncture before but never for fertility. She agreed to come for acupuncture on a weekly basis.
My acupuncture treatments began by attempting to regulate her menstrual cycle to bring it closer to 28 days. I altered the acupuncture points from week to week depending on where she was in her cycle. After the first month of acupuncture, she also began an herbal regimen to supplement her treatment. Again, the herbal formula was adjusted each week according to her cycle. This reinforced a shorter menstrual cycle. Following this, her menstrual cycle was successfully reduced to around 30 days. However, she had still not become pregnant.
I then changed her formula to one the nourishes yin and blood. According to Chinese medicine, these are the two factors most important for supporting a healthy pregnancy. After taking this formula and continuing acupuncture for four weeks, she became pregnant. Sally discovered the pregnancy very early, before even missing a period. She immediately went for a blood test which showed elevated levels of hCG, confirming the pregnancy. However, when she returned for a second test a few days later, the hCG levels had not raised sufficiently to show a viable pregnancy. Unfortunately, this initial pregnancy resulted in a very early miscarriage.
Sally was disappointed but able see it as a positive sign that she had been able to conceive. We continued the treatments and to her surprise she discovered that the very next month she was pregnant again. We continued treatment every week throughout the first trimester. The treatments were aimed at supporting the pregnancy. After the first trimester, Sally was happy to continue her acupuncture on an occasional basis, when she felt it was needed. She is now solidly into her second trimester, and her due date is November 22nd!
What is hCG?
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone which is produced by the placenta from the very first stage of pregnancy. It can usually be detected from around five days before a missed period. This is the hormone which is detected by home pregnancy tests and can confirm that an egg has successfully been fertilized.
Throughout the first few weeks of pregnancy, hCG levels rise rapidly and as the pregnancy progresses, they begin to level off. By week six of pregnancy, the presence of a fetal heartbeat should be present, and this is a much more reliable test for a viable pregnancy at this stage.
Early miscarriage (within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy) is a relatively common problem. Many women miscarry very early, sometimes before they even realize that they are pregnant. The signs of miscarriage include:
Cramping or pain in the lower abdomen
Discharge of fluid or tissue from the vagina
Sudden disappearance of pregnancy symptoms such as nausea
There are many other reasons why bleeding can occur during pregnancy, and if you experience this, it is important not to panic. If you are pregnant and have vaginal bleeding, contact your physician as soon as possible. They will be able to give you the advice and care that you need.
Other Causes of Bleeding During Pregnancy
Bleeding in early pregnancy can be due to what is called implantation bleeding. This is normal and happens when the fertilized egg implants into the lining of the uterus. It usually happens around a week before your period is due and can sometimes be mistaken for a period, although the bleeding is much lighter. Later in pregnancy, bleeding can be due to infections or changes in the cervix. Bleeding can occur a few days before your due date, as the cervix becomes ready for labor.
More serious causes of vaginal bleeding during pregnancy are conditions such as placenta previa or vasa previa. These are dangerous both for mother and baby. Therefore bleeding at any time during pregnancy should be assessed by a professional. Being aware of the signs of miscarriage is useful, but it is important not to worry too much. Focus on taking care of yourself before and during pregnancy by eating a balanced diet and taking regular, gentle exercise. Take a pregnancy multivitamin supplement including folic acid and consider trying acupuncture. This is another useful tool in preparing your body for a healthy and successful pregnancy.