September is PCOS Awareness Month

Polycystic Ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common female endocrine disorder.  PCOS is a hormonal disorder that involves multiple organ systems in the body.  It is characterized by a condition in which the ovaries develop multiple small cysts; it is often associated with abnormal or absent ovulation and, accordingly, with infertility. The most common symptoms of PCOS are an irregular period, lack of ovulation, infertility, increased hair growth, insulin resistance, and unusual weight gain. The cause of PCOS is a mystery, but it is known that PCOS sufferers have a higher sympathetic nervous system activity than other women. Conventional medicine deals with PCOS by treating the symptoms associated with it.  For example, PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility; the most popular conventional treatment uses ovulation inducers such as clomid, hCG, and gonadatropin.  These drugs may trigger ovulation but they do not effectively address the underlying causes of poor ovarian health.

In Chinese medicine PCOS is usually attributed to kidney yang deficiency and damp accumulation and can be treated with a combination of Chinese herbs and acupuncture.  Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are used to stimulate the body’s own natural production of hormones and regulate the menstrual cycle by helping correct the underlying deficiencies and/or eliminating disruptions.  Regular treatment can help in restoring reproductive energy in the kidney system, balance the liver system to control smooth flow and distribution of blood, build an adequate supply of blood to maintain normal menstrual cycles, and soothe the sympathetic nervous system to relax the body, reduce stress, and influence healthy ovulation.

In addition PCOS sufferers can incorporate the following changes for enhanced fertility and better health and well-being:

  • Eliminate processed foods from your diet.
  • Eat a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and low-fat protein.
  • Avoid sugar, artificial sweeteners, and refined carbohydrates.  Balance blood sugar by limiting carbohydrate intake, but do include healthy carbohydrates like whole grains, oatmeal, and brown rice.
  • Practice stress management; incorporate yoga or a regular meditation practice into your day.
  • Exercise regularly; try to get in a half hour per day.
  • Get plenty of rest and keep regular sleep patterns.
  • Avoid alcohol which can lead to a disturbance of hormonal balance.
  • Get regular acupuncture treatments.
  • Have Ilumina prescribe an herb formula that will help reduce cysts and balance your hormones.

Acupuncture and IVF

One question that often arises at ilumina is how often to get acupuncture when going through an IVF cycle. The answer is simple and complex. Here is my general recommendation if you are starting an IVF cycle and the goal is to promote ovarian response, optimize hormones, and increase the quantity and quality of the the uterine lining. Please note that if  pathological hyperstimulation/ OHSS occurs acupuncture is an excellent treatment and can often "save" the cycle.

  • Ovarian Suppression phase- (around 4-6 weeks before egg retrieval) Acupuncture 2x per week
  • Ovarian Stimulation phase- (around 2 weeks before egg retrieval) Acupuncture 2-3x per week
  • One treatment between egg retrieval and embryo transfer
  • Acupuncture 20 minutes before and 20 minutes after embryo transfer (this is performed at the REI office by an ilumina practitioner)
  • One treatment 3-5 days after embryo transfer
  • Then once a week afterwords, if pregnant acupuncture once a week through the first trimester

For advance maternal age, poor ovarian response, elevated FSH, poor embryo quality or male factor infertility I would recommend a much more extensive treatment plan for 3-6 months before IVF which would include: acupuncture, individualized Chinese herbal formulas, vitamins and supplements, diet and exercise and meditation. For more information on how and why Chinese medicine is so effective for IVF preparation please see the book Making Babies: A Proven 3-Month program for Maximum Fertility. If you are looking for an acupuncturist in your area to support your IVF cycle please see the website for the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine's website. This professional organization credentials acupuncturists in reproductive medicine.  If you are interested in the research that shows the efficacy and mechanism of action for acupuncture and IVF please see the comprehensive review  of research put together by my friend and colleague Diane Cridennda L.Ac.For over 10 years ilumina Healing Sanctuary's practitioners have been treating male and female infertility and attending IVF embryo transfers. We have experience and trusted relationships with all of the fertility clinics in the greater Phoenix area. We look forward to working with you on your journey to parenthood.Dana Price DOM, L.Ac., Dipl.OM, FABORMilumina Healing Sanctuary7520 E Camelback RoadScottsdale, Arizona 85251(602)957-2602