Fertility statistics 2012-2013

2013 is not quite over yet – but here are the initial results from all women trying to conceive using acupuncture in the past 24 months. As well as acupuncture, patients were given advice on diet, lifestyle and over the counter herbal preparations. Please take notice of the inclusion criteria for each group. The most common reasons for women not being included in the statistics are;

i) Not having regular acupuncture sessions over 6 months (defined at the initial consultation as being between 2-3 sessions per month depending on the individual case).

ii) Not keeping in touch – so outcomes are currently unknown

GROUP 1 – Natural Fertility with Women aged 35 and under. Patients must not have used Clomid or undergone IVF with 3 months of commencing acupuncture. Women getting a positive pregnancy test during or within  6 weeks of their last appointment were included. All patients committed to regular sessions for at least 6 months. Several women have been included twice (due to initial miscarriage and then restarting acupuncture).

83% of women had a positive pregnancy test

Of these women 20% suffered early miscarriage before 12 weeks, (all women who experienced miscarriage recommenced acupuncture and are either currently in their 2nd or 3rd trimester OR are starting another 6 month course of acupuncture).

GROUP 2 – Natural Fertility with Women aged 36 and over. Patients must not have used Clomid or undergone IVF with 3 months of commencing acupuncture. Women getting a positive pregnancy test during or within  6 weeks of their last appointment were included. All patients committed to regular sessions for at least 6 months.

67% of women had a positive pregnancy test

Of these women 25% suffered early miscarriage before 12 weeks – all were over 44 years of age.

GROUP 3 – IVF Support for Women aged 35 and under. For patients having acupuncture for more than one round in this time frame  the most recent is included. A positive test is defined as one that is present at least 4 weeks after embryo transfer. To be included in the IVF category patients must have seen me as their primary complementary therapist.

80% got a positive pregnancy test

All women in this group started acupuncture at least 4 weeks before any IVF medication. There were no reported incident of miscarriage in this group.

20% did not get a positive pregnancy test

None of the women in this group started acupuncture before the IVF medication

Group 4 – IVF Support for Women aged 36 and over. For patients having acupuncture for more than one round in this time frame  the most recent is included. A positive test is defined as one that is present at least 4 weeks after embryo transfer. To be included in the IVF category patients must have seen me as their primary complementary therapist.

89% of women got a positive pregnancy test

All of these women had started acupuncture at least 4 weeks before the IVF medication. The miscarriage rate in this group was 13% (all before 12 weeks).

11% of women did not have a positive pregnancy test after 4 weeks.

All of these women also had started acupuncture at least 4 weeks before the IVF medication.

Group 5 – Pregnancy rates within The Norwich Natural Fertility Partnership. To be included in these statistics couples must commit to 12 months of regular appointments. Couples not included in these statistics are those that failed to keep to their given schedule and did not continue past the first block.

Couples whereby the woman is 35 and under – 100% pregnancy rate with no reported miscarriages (includes cases with both male and female fertility issues).

Couples whereby the woman is 36 and over – 100% pregnancy rate with no reported miscarriages (includes cases with both male and female fertility issues).

Currently the longest time it has taken for a couple to achieve pregnancy from the initial start date is 10 months.

 

 

What can you do to boost your fertility naturally?

Searching for the best foods to help you get pregnant can be incredibly confusing! Just a few minutes spent online and you will find a huge variety of do’s and don’ts, some of which contradict each other – and others which involve strange new super-foods and supplements!

At The Norwich Natural Fertility Partnership we do not believe in a one-size fits-all-diet. Since most of us eat at least three times every day – food really is a major influence in how our bodies grow and function each month. Every time you eat you are giving your body the raw materials with which to fuel development and function in each and every part of the body, be it the iron of hemoglobin in a red blood cell or vitamin E boosting production of immune B-cells.

The food we eat can also hinder normal functioning of the body. A good example of this is the liver, the amazing organ that allows us to get rid of unnecessary cells –  be it toxic substances or excessive levels of hormones. If our liver is working overtime due to poor diet and drinking habits it can struggle to carry on with all its day to day chores of general waste removal that any body will generate.

Keeping the blood sugar levels is essential for women trying to conceive. The pancreas like the ovaries is a gland, and insulin just like oestrogen and progesterone is a hormone. Hormones and glands act as ‘messengers’ within the body, giving instruction to cells to behave in a certain way. Functioning together as the endocrine system, a change within one gland can affect a seemingly unconnected gland. The ovaries, thyroid, pancreas and adrenals work in harmony together – so keeping your blood sugar and insulin levels happy sends a positive message to the rest of the system including your ovaries!

The adrenals are well known for the part they play in the fight or flight response – the hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol all are produced here. However they also play a part in reproductive physiology producing androgens and oestrogen. Many of these hormones share the same precursor cells – so they can develop in one of several ways. By making sure your adrenals are not constantly under stress,  these precursor cells can then be directed towards maintaining a hormonal balance and support what is happening with the ovarian hormones.

Interestingly within Chinese medicine the three major organ systems of female reproduction are the Kidneys, Liver and Spleen/pancreas –  it is similar to conventional medicine in that harmony between all systems is paramount when trying to conceive. These three meridians run up the inside of the legs before diving deep into the pelvis which is why you often have needles in the ankles or knees with fertility acupuncture.

At the Norwich Natural Fertility Partnership here in Norwich we have 5 Golden Fertility Rules!

1. GO ORGANIC – essential for animal produce, meat and dairy.

2. DRINK 1.5 LITRES GOOD QUALITY WATER DAILY – invest in a good quality water filter or buy spring water.

3. EAT REGULARLY AND INCLUDE PROTEIN AT EACH MEAL – this is the one rule that catches many of my clients out!

4. INCLUDE 7-10 PORTIONS OF FRESH FRUIT AND VEG EVERY DAY – again this is harder than it first appears!

5. MAINTAIN A HEALTHY BMI – I see an equal number of women who are slightly underweight compared to women slightly overweight. You should make sure you are firmly between 19 – 24.9, the research overwhelming supports this as indicator of fertility.

One of the best studies done on diet and female fertility was done by The Harvard Medical school over 8 years and looking at over 17,000 women. Interestingly it found that women who gained more iron from vegetarian sources (without actually being vegetarian) were more likely to have healthy ovulation. At The Norwich Natural Fertility Partnership we work on a diet suited to you, your lifestyle and underlying health conditions.

Different styles of Acupuncture in Norwich

Did you know that in Norwich alone there are 4 different styles of acupuncture commonly practiced? How do you choose which one is right for you?

Two of the often used types of acupuncture are ’5 elements’ and ‘TCM’ (Traditional Chinese Medicine). In 5 element acupuncture the influence of our mental and emotional state on our body is paramount, many people who already understand the root of their ailment to be deeply imbedded in their thought processes will be well suited to this style. The feel of the acupuncture session will be gentle, thoughtful and nourishing, also making it a good choice for children.

TCM acupuncture is broad term which includes much of the acupuncture coming out of China in the mid 1900′s. It is often seen as slightly more aggressive than other types of acupuncture – though this ultimately depends on the person performing the treatment. Practitioners use electro-acupuncture and strong needling techniques – making it a good choice for people with pain conditions – back, knee and shoulder for example.

Japanese acupuncture uses ultra thin needles, and there are several variants whereby the needle does not actually penetrate the skin. Great for children and people who experience needle shock.

Medical acupuncture is performed by those who are already registered with another professional healthcare skill – physiotherapists, nurses and osteopaths for example. The British Medical Acupuncture Association runs accredited courses of various lengths. The plus side of this is that you can receive acupuncture from someone who has additional knowledge in relation to their field – giving them a more complete understanding on your condition. The flip side to this is that the actual clinical training time on some of these courses is limited – so don’t be shy to ask your therapist how much time they have spent studying before you sign your consent form. My experience from client feedback is that medical acupuncture tends to hurt!

I practice mainly TCM – though I also studied 5 elements. TCM for me is the most effective way to relieve aches and pains in the physical body and it is what I use when working at Norwich’s Community Acupuncture Clinic – which is exclusively for pain relief.

Every acupuncturist develops their own style – nearly all of us include cupping, moxibustion, gua sha, infra red and electro-acupuncture as standard within our practice, so it is not uncommon to actually receive several ‘therapies’ within your normal acupuncture session. Because we can vary so much individually – don’t be afraid to try again with someone new if your previous acupuncture did not help. It is worth spending a little time considering which type of acupuncture is best suited to you. There is a good story here in The Telegraph that illustrates this point. Finally – whoever you do choose make sure they have done the appropriate amount of training and that they are registered with one of the following organisations.

1. The British Acupuncture Council

2. The British Medical Acupuncture Association

3. The Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture UK

A typical fertility session with acupuncture

 

Prior to booking an initial consultation for fertility, many women ring in first just to find out a little bit more about how I work.

Usually I will have agreed with my client beforehand to book her appointment at key points in her cycle – around day 7, 14 and 21, though this can vary hugely depending on the length of each woman’s cycle. We start off with a general chat about how she felt after the last acupuncture session and how her week has been mentally, emotionally and physically. If she has been charting (checking her daily temperatures), keeping a food diary or has brought in a recent set of blood results she hands over everything to me. Depending on what arises in our conversation combined with her Chinese tongue and pulse diagnosis I decide whether to start needling on her back or front. It can be a very different experience lying face up or down – and some women have a clear preference about which makes them feel better afterwards! I tap all the needles in very gently at first, then revisit each needle and work with my client to achieve the ‘De-Qi’ sensation on as many points as possible rechecking the pulses as I go. Heat lamps and electro-acupuncture are added now if needed.  Once I am satisfied that my client is comfortable and warm, I turn the lights down, gather up her notes and leave the room.

While she is relaxing I sit in a  nearby room, writing up her notes and examining any new information she may have brought in. This is the time when I review her progress and make a decision about what I will ask her to do out of the clinic until her next appointment. The acupuncture needles stay in for 25-35 mins and occasionally longer if needed. When I return, I check the pulses again before removing the needles, leaving the room while my client dresses. We then have several minutes at the end of each session to discuss lifestyle or dietary changes for that week and make a ‘contract’ about what realistically can implement.

With each woman we quite early on decide on a key marker (or several markers), that would indicate to both of us that progress is being made. An example could be a change in the menstrual flow – in Chinese medicine we aim for a period that starts with bright fresh looking blood with minimal clotting that is at it’s heaviest in the first two days before tailing off to a scanty bleed for the rest of the period. So if one of my clients has an extremely scanty and brownish coloured menstrual bleed throughout, a key marker would be a increase in flow and redness of her bleed. In Chinese medicine this is equated to improved Yin and Qi in the pelvic region, but you could also relate it to a thicker endometrial lining from a conventional perspective.

I constantly refer back to these key markers in each case – sometimes acupuncture alone is not strong or quick enough to change the environment in a woman’s body and that’s when I will ask her to implement a change in her life that week. Very often I ask my clients to commit to one yoga and meditation class per week. In my opinion it is one of the most effective ways of managing stress, improving circulation to the pelvic region – undoing the effects of sedentary desk jobs and heavy workloads. And it’s a fraction of the price of acupuncture! It is simply my ‘wonder tool’ for bringing anyone back into balance physically and mentally and most importantly the only thing my clients have told me that has stopped the internal stress caused by not getting pregnant! There are many fantastic yoga teachers in Norwich, I recommend Louise Kitchener and Michelle Busuttil for yoga that truly transforms you from inside out!

Often I will ask my clients to alter their diets. I may be encouraging them to gain or lose weight and most often making sure they eat warm well cooked meals. Yes strange as it may seem cold salads and refrigerated sandwiches are not on the menu with fertility acupuncture! All meals should be warm and easy to digest – so cinnamon porridge instead of cornflakes for breakfast and soups instead of sandwiches at lunch.

The combined effects of acupuncture and lifestyle changes should yield noticeable results within 2-3 menstrual cycles. The initial focus is on these key markers – welcoming each new improved menstruation as a sign the body is becoming more fertile rather than the common pattern of sadness and frustration if the period arrives. It is difficult to shift the attention away from a positive pregnancy test – but that is often the key with fertility acupuncture – enjoying the journey, observing the changes in oneself and knowing everything is happening just as it should.

 

The Norwich Natural Fertility Partnership

The Norwich Natural Fertility Partnership (NNFP)  is a collaboration between Kate McDougall – acupuncturist and Charlotte Evans - homeopath. Both have enjoyed success individually in the natural fertility field and have joined forces to provide an alternate path to IVF.

Sometimes IVF is the best way forward due to underlying complications in either partner, however often a couple are given no medical explanation in their struggle to conceive. NNFP is a different choice to assisted reproductive techniques (ART) whereby various complementary therapies are used in conjunction with one another to help each woman achieve her full fertility potential.

We work closely with each client – seeing them once, sometimes twice a week in 3 month blocks. As well as providing regular acupuncture and homeopathy, the programme depends on the willingness of each woman to implement change in her life – through diet, lifestyle and emotional well being. Since no two women are the same it stands to reason that no two women will receive exactly the same course of treatment through NNFP. Some may benefit from learning fertility awareness with Charlotte and decide to proceed with mineral hair analysis. Others may benefit from acupuncture targeted just prior to expected ovulation combined with homeopathy.

The Norwich Natural Fertility Partnership was formed in response to the demands from our previous clients. They asked for a comprehensive model of care that addressed all factors impacting on their fertility. They asked for greater communication between their individual therapists and they asked for a fertility plan that worked in harmony with their bodies rather than a simple shut down to control their reproductive hormones.

We believe every woman has the potential to carry a healthy baby to full term. Our aim is to help our clients achieve this dream.

The Norwich Natural Fertility Partnership runs from The Complementary Health Care Clinic, 34 Exchange Street, Norwich, 01603 665173.