6 questions about Acupuncture and IVF

People are often apprehensive and curious about needles – how on earth can they help you feel relaxed?  Here are the top 6 questions I get asked about Acupuncture and IVF by nearly every new patient.

1. How often do I need to come? If you follow my advice to start acupuncture 3 months before IVF, you are looking at every 2-3 weeks usually. If you leave it much later say 4 weeks beforehand – then every week.

2. How does it work?Acupuncture is thought to help with the stress response and promote blood flow specifically to the reproductive organs with certain acupuncture points. Other points are chosen that support you as an individual and take into account your physical, mental and emotional health. My patients also find that acupuncture is great at easing the headaches that sometimes accompany the IVF meds.

3. Will it hurt? Generally no! A few people are very sensitive (roughly 1/30) in which case I can use extra tiny needles and more acupressure. If still too sensitive I recommend Reflexology instead.

4. Do I need acupuncture before and after embryo transfer? Short answer NO! But yes I still do acupuncture after embryo transfer! A small trial (subsequently known as the Paulus protocol) looked at implantation rates with IVF comparing both with and without acupuncture at time of transfer. The implantation rates were significantly higher with the acupuncture group. However other trials have looked at other interventions; one notably involved a clown and getting patients to laugh. The implantation rates were higher in this clown watching group too. I take from this that doing something that brings you joy, happiness and relaxes you can possibly help. For my patients who love acupuncture we know it’s a good call for them to have it on the day of transfer as it’s a lovely end to the multitude of appointments the past 2 weeks. I also ask my patients to sing loudly and badly on the way to the IVF clinic and go for walks in nature afterwards. Anything that makes you giggle and happy is good in my opinion!

5. Are there any foods that can help me? I forgotten how many times I’ve been asked if pineapple will help implantation! Eating well in the 3 months beforehand is the most helpful. By eating well I mean regular meals at regular times. Snacking too if people are on the go all day. Eating plenty of low GI foods, complex carbohydrates, a variety of protein and vegetables. It’s not complicated! We all know really what a good diet looks like – but we often skip meals and pick sugary snacks as we suddenly crave some calories.

6. How much caffeine can I have? No coffee. No de-caff coffee – Sorry! Tea is fine in the morning. I’m interested in why someone would need to drink a lot of caffeine throughout the day. Usually it’s related to poor sleep or skipping breakfast and other meals.

To find out more about Acupuncture alongside IVF please arrange a time to speak with Kate by emailing me with your contact details and the best time of day to call you: kate_mcdougall@protonmail.com

Lower Back Pain Clinic – Thursday 6th March

This year Acupuncture Awareness Week (AAW) runs from March 3rd – 8th. The focus nationwide is on back pain and support comes from the dancer Camilla on BBC’s ‘Strictly’ – she uses acupuncture for her own back pain.
NICE have recently recommended that acupuncture be made available on the NHS for chronic lower back pain, however it is still currently difficult to obtain a referral for NHS acupuncture in Norfolk.
To celebrate AAW 2014 I am running a special pain clinic for lower back pain on Thursday 6th March. This is suitable for people who would like to try acupuncture before committing to a full course of acupuncture or speaking to their GP about options on the NHS.

  • Cost – £10 per acupuncture session
  • Must be suffering with lower back pain – in the small of the back, sacrum, coccyx and buttocks.
  • Must be aged between 18-79.
  • Must not have had any other form of physical treatment (physiotherapy / osteopathy for example) 48 hours prior to acupuncture

Please book your slot by calling clinic reception on 01603 665173. Clinic runs from The Complementary Health Care Clinic, 34 Exchange St, NR2 1AX.

Acupuncture and Bells Palsy

Acupuncture is a great choice for patients with Bells Palsy –  I recommend acupuncture once or twice a week to speed up recovery. My patients tell me they feel an improvement within several hours of the acupuncture session, which then plateaus until the next session and then so on. Often we massage the neck and shoulders of Bells Palsy sufferers.  This is because in acupuncture the meridians that nourish the face pass through the back and sides of the neck so we like to start by getting the blood moving here first. Acupuncturists have a special set of ultra fine needles kept for delicate areas like the face, and these are inserted into the affected facial muscles and slowly turned. On an unaffected person this will hardly be noticeable but often with Bells Palsy the patient will feel the needles as prickly warmth spreading across the face.

Bells Palsy is often classified as ‘Wind-cold invasion’. In Chinese medicine they often describe what they see! ‘Wind’ means it is created from something outside the body (like a virus or environmental factor) but was strong enough to break through the body’s natural defenses. Acupuncture therefore aims to strengthen the person so they can push the invasion back out again. For this reason we also advise plenty of rest and avoidance of both coffee and alcohol until the facial muscles return to normal. ‘Cold’ in Chinese medicine is constrictive and blocks movement, so again the acupuncturist tries to balance this out by creating warmth and movement in the facial muscles to get them moving again. Difficult as it may be to slow down in the modern world – if Bells Palsy strikes, taking a couple of weeks out is simply the best thing you can do for yourself to speed up recovery.

It is worth noting that that most cases of Bells Palsy are self limiting – and many people first start to notice an improvement within 2-3 weeks from the start. NICE are clear that most people will make a full recovery in 9 months –  this is a general figure based on patients and not the therapies involved. So we have two groups – The first being those who do naturally make a full recovery and perhaps for them the real question should be ‘is there anything that can speed up my recovery time?’ The second group is those who do not make a full recovery and so the question is ‘can acupuncture help Bells Palsy 9 months on?’  A third question would be ‘is there anything I can do early on to minimise my chance of having long term problems?’  A review of various Bells Palsy treatments including acupuncture, physiotherapy, and medication is provided by The Cochran Database, where it is shown that the use of corticosteriods early on can lead to better outcomes long term – however using the corticosteriods more than 72 hours after onset appears to have to no significant benefit. A separate recent study compared the type of acupuncture used in Bells Palsy and found that those who received strong needling sensations in the face (compared to those who did not) were more likely to experience long term recovery.


Painful periods – Dysmennorhoea

Woman of all ages regularly come to see me at the acupuncture clinic for help with pain around menstruation. A small amount of cramping and aching is normal on the first day, but for many the pain is unbearable and disrupts everyday life. Painful periods with no serious underlying causes is known as ‘primary dysmennorhoea’ – there is no obvious medical reason why this happens. Pain that is related to conditions such as endometriosis and fibroids is called ‘secondary dysmennorhoea’. This too responds well, though these conditions deserve a separate article to themselves.

In Chinese medicine, pain is seen as ‘stagnation’, and usually with severe period pain we call it ‘blood stagnation’. The underlying cause of this stagnation can be a combination of many things and the job of your acupuncturist is to work out what these may be. Acupuncture visualizes everything in the body in constant motion, slowly and gently. The pain results when the blood and Qi of the pelvis can’t move in the direction it needs to, instead it sits and creates a blockage like a dam, and as the pressure builds up you feel more and more discomfort.

I really see very good results using acupuncture, diet and lifestyle changes. My top tips for managing primary dysmennorhea are the following;

1. Acupuncture regularly – in the second half of the cycle. I usually ask to see my clients twice before their expected period starts. I needle directly on the lower abdomen and the legs using lots of heat to relax the muscles. Sometimes we also work on the lower back and sacrum too. It really doesn’t hurt. The needles just sit under the skin and once in place, the body responds to them by releasing a whole load of various substances which will aid in general pelvic circulation. You can’t usually feel this happening ( some women will be aware of tingling and warmth or muscles relaxing), but it takes around 20-30 mins which is why you will just be lying there listening to music and daydreaming.

2. Discourage ‘bad prostaglandins’ by reducing all meat and dairy produce –  small amounts can be taken (they must be organic). Prostaglandins are present in all cells of the body and most have a beneficial effect. There are a few that are related to constriction and inflammation and too much of these types will cause an imbalance. Women suffering with severe dysmennorhea are found to have higher levels of two particular types of prostaglandins known as PGF2 and PGE2. The fuel the body needs to make these ‘negative prostaglandins comes from arachidonic acid which is abundant in meat and dairy. So cutting these out will make it harder for the body to produce PGE2.

3. Encourage ‘Good Prostaglandins’ – To tip everything in our favour we need to add certain things into our diet. Lots of the ‘good prostaglandins’ will help the uterus contract beautifully and with ease. Adding in lots of oily fish, nuts, seeds and leafy greens will do this. You also need to have adequate amounts of certain vitamins and minerals in your diet so that your body can create these good prostaglandins. Everything should be present in a varied healthy wholefood diet, but if your diet is compromised you may need to take these as supplements short term to boost your levels.

4.  Pelvic stretches – absolutely essential for getting good circulation going. I have a set of yoga stretches I show to each woman that really get deep into the groin. There are plenty of short videos on You Tube for inspiration too. You want to be doing 10-15 mins every 2 days initially. The 5 days before your period you must do every day. Everyone can find time to do 10 mins – once you are familiar with the stretches you can do them in front of the TV in the evenings. After a few months you will probably not need to do them so often as the overall circulation has improved. The one exercise to avoid if you suffer from painful periods is of course sit-ups.

As with many things in natural and complementary medicine – it is the combination of a few small changes here and there which give dramatic results. In acupuncture we don’t accept that severe pain at menstruation is ‘normal’ and something to be put up with. Working with your body requires time and patience and a genuine desire to get to know yourself. Using the 4 interventions above, I see huge reductions in the monthly pain within 6-10 weeks. If you or someone you know suffers with debilitating cramps – please get in touch with the clinic to see how we can help you.


Stop smoking with Acupuncture and Hypnotherapy

The lovely Irina wrote the following about the quit smoking programme at out clinic!

Hypnosis has been proven to outperform all other methods to quit, helping you to feel great and look great as a healthy non smoker. Hypnotherapy combined with Acupuncture enormously increases rates of success further reducing symptoms of withdrawal.

Smoking as other addictions keeps the lid on a box of emotional issues, preventing the box from being opened. Smokers say that cigarettes help them to relax, avoid the pain, and gain a temporary sense of pleasure.

If you are trying to fight your addiction without understanding the root of it, you only may replace it with a ‘better’ dependency or come back to existing one in a few weeks, months or years when under pressure.

Benefit from the investment in YOU of only £290. The price includes:

• 1 hour of acupuncture

• 3 hours session of hypnotherapy

• 1 hour of acupuncture in the space of two weeks. PLUS a FREE further hour of Hypnotherapy if needed.

If you smoke 10 cigarettes a day you would save £91 a month (assuming that a packet of 20 costs £6, based on NHS smoking costs calculator), £1095 a year and £10950 in ten years. Giving up smoking 30 cigarettes a day saves you £274 a month, £3285 a year and £32850 in ten years. Imaging what can you do with all that money!

Imagine being healthier with your skin looking younger, having more energy, maximised lung capacity, improved smell, taste and increased mental wellbeing. What a freedom!

Most smokers describe smoking as an enjoyable escape from stress, intimate time with themselves and the easiest way to connect with other human beings in a social setting– smoking being a pleasure, not pain.

Every smoker possesses the niggling thought that it would be better to quit smoking one day soon, even if it is not a life & death question yet. Repeatedly doing something that you think is bad for you, makes the addiction much more harmful. Guilt is one of the strongest self-destroying emotions.

The simplest way to quit smoking is not to insert a cigarette in your mouth ever again. Nice and easy. In theory. The withdrawal symptoms, (I go crazy, stressed, irritable etc) and underlying reasons make this theory harder to enact.

On a physical level, when you introduce a new substance like nicotine into your body it’s a shock to the system. Then cells quickly make adjustments to align with the new substance and to compensate for its introduction. Those compensations or adjustments that the body has made, translate to you as a craving.

So if you restrain yourself from re-introducing the substance into the bloodstream for three consecutive days, then cells will balance themselves to natural well-being.

On a spiritual level what you are craving is the sensation of fullness of who you are flowing through you. The substances are a temporary fix for discomfort. As you can’t fight your way to peace, you need to find the underlying issue that keeps you from loving yourself, without the need of substances; otherwise you may replace it with a ‘better’ dependency. That is why some people put on weight after giving up smoking, replacing nicotine with food.

Hypnosis is a powerful, natural and effective tool for transforming you into a non-smoker. Most clients emerge from their hypnosis session permanently convinced in body and mind that they will never light up again.

The benefits of a hypnosis session if you have made the choice to become a non-smoker:

-you are guided through a process of discovery of the deeper issues that kept you so far from feeling good

– clearing trapped energy, removing patterns of habit

– assisting in relieving and/or completely eliminating withdrawal symptoms

– learning constructive and healthy relaxation methods to reduce stress

– reinforcing wellbeing and the positive feeling of success and empowering you to be free.

Hypnosis and acupuncture have no side effects beyond saving the money you used to spend on cigarettes, restoring health to your body, allowing you to feel absolutely amazing and be the best you can be.

This Unique Stop Smoking program is not only a highly effective method to quit smoking but also easy and effortless. Simply come to relax and enjoy yourself at the Complementary Health Care Clinic in the Norwich city centre to become a non-smoker. Contact the clinic now on 01603 665173 and we will talk you through the process and prepare to live your life smoking free. You can also email to reception@holistic-care.com .


Acupuncture in Norwich – what to do before booking an appointment.

There are many fantastic acupuncture clinics in Norwich – but before booking your initial appointment, please take the time to do a bit of research.

Firstly – make sure your acupuncturist is registered with a governing body. This ensures the person performing the acupuncture must adhere to various professional codes of ethics and practice. These codes of practice are designed for you the patient, to make your experience of acupuncture as safe as possible. They distinguish between an acupuncturist who has completed training to degree level from someone who has done a few afternoons training. As yet the UK government has not made it mandatory for acupuncturists to join The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) – and although the vast majority do, there is a growing campaign to enforce this in the hope it will prevent some of the more serious side effects of acupuncture by unqualified therapists. Look for a member from one of the following four organisations.

Top of the list for traditional acupuncturists is The British Acupuncture Council. Click on these words to go straight to the BAcC website for a list of certified acupuncturists in Norwich. BAcC members are also able to carry out work for insurance companies so check to see if you have cover for acupuncture.
If they are a GP, physiotherapist or chiropractor using acupuncture then you can check they are registered within medical acupuncture by clicking here or here for the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists.
There is also the Register of Chinese Medicine which has a register of Norwich acupuncturists here.

Secondly – look for specialisation and experience. Many acupuncturists will be clear on their websites about their areas of interest. You can also arrange a time to call us and discuss your case beforehand. If  I have not had much experience with a particular condition I will very happily refer onto another acupuncturist who has! I particularly enjoy seeing women for fertility related issues and also run a separate clinic for pain management. You will also find acupuncturists in Norwich who are particularly good with children, mental health problems and auto immune disorders for example.

Thirdly – think gender – acupuncture usually takes place in a one to one environment. You will often be lying down with restricted movement while the needles work their magic. We have a good balance of male and female acupuncturists in Norwich so take a moment to think if you would be more comfortable with one or the other.

Fourth – can you honestly commit to more than one acupuncture session? It is not an instant ‘cure’, acupuncture works with your body, gently nudging in towards good health. Although many people feel a benefit immediately, for others 2-4 sessions are required before an improvement on the original problem is detected. I personally never ask anyone to commit to more than 4 sessions without feeling a significant improvement.

Lastly – remember to bring details of current medication to your first appointment – some medications can affect blood clotting, and some conditions have to be approached with a little more caution. Blood pressure problems might mean your therapist chooses a different position for you to sit or lie in for example. Acupuncture has a very good track record in terms of patient safety. The majority of side effects are self limiting and considered minor – for example feeling light headed for a few moments after the session.

If you would like to know more about acupuncture please visit The British Acupuncture Council website by clicking here.