8 Evidence-Based Ways that Acupuncture Improves Fertility

8 Evidence-Based Ways that Acupuncture Improves Fertility

So you know what acupuncture is. Your friends are all telling you to try it to help you get pregnant. Maybe you’re getting frustrated with your fertility journey – why is it taking so long? – or maybe you’re just getting started but want to know you’re doing everything you can to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. But you’re wondering how getting treated with tiny needles is going to help improve your fertility. If you’re curious about how acupuncture can improve fertility, you’re not alone. Acupuncture can influence fertility in a number of ways.

Conception Illustration

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Hormone Regulation

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the body is thought of in terms of Yin and Yang. Yin is cool, watery, passive, and receptive, while Yang is hot, fiery, active, and expansive. Yin and Yang must be balanced for the menstrual cycle to be regular and optimally fertile. Balancing Yin and Yang is another way to think of balancing hormones. Acupuncture can regulate hormones that play a role in the menstrual cycle and ovulation, such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), estrogen, and progesterone.

Blood Flow

Good blood flow to the ovaries and uterus is essential for fertility. Acupuncture can significantly increase blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, improving egg quality and the ability of a fertilized egg to implant. This improved blood flow also supplies nutrients to the developing eggs before ovulation and nourishes the uterine lining to support healthy implantation in early pregnancy.

Stress Reduction

Stress is one of many factors that can negatively impact fertility, particularly in modern-day life. Acupuncture regulates the nervous system to improve stress resiliency, allowing you to bounce back from stress more easily and reducing the impact of stress on your hormones.

Improved Ovarian Function

Healthy ovulation is an essential piece of the fertility puzzle which relies on healthy, responsive ovaries. Acupuncture can improve ovarian function and promote regular ovulation, which increases your chances of conceiving.

Sperm Counts and Quality

Optimal fertility, of course, requires healthy sperm. Whether or not you’ve been told you have issues with sperm counts or quality, improving sperm quality will increase fertility for couples who are trying to conceive. Acupuncture improves both numbers of sperm and their quality in as little as 4 weeks.

Reduced Inflammation

Inflammation in the reproductive system can impair fertility by damaging eggs and sperm and reducing chances for implantation. Our immune systems must be well-tuned in order to enhance the implantation process and cue the body to accept a new pregnancy. Acupuncture reduces overall inflammation in the body and balances immune factors to promote conception.

Egg Quality

Egg quality is an elusive measure that indicates eggs with enough energy (mitochondria) and internal organization (chromosomal integrity) to successfully fertilize and rapidly grow to hundreds of organized cells that are ready to implant. Acupuncture improves egg quality, which increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.

IVF Success

For those undergoing IVF treatment, acupuncture is an essential tool to improve success rates. By improving blood flow, ovarian responsiveness, and egg quality, acupuncture can lead to an improved number and quality of eggs. Acupuncture can also play an essential role in preparing for an embryo transfer and has been shown to improve IVF success rates by up to 65% in some studies.

If you’re struggling with fertility, acupuncture is a key addition to your treatment plan. A qualified fertility acupuncture expert can help you decide on the best course of treatment for your individual needs and support you through the fertility process.

Embrace the Energy of Spring to Feel Your Best

Embrace the Energy of Spring to Feel Your Best

Everyone I am meeting this week seems to be buzzing with springtime energy, with the anticipation of sunshine and greenery to come. It seems that we can all collectively feel the new growth gathering the energy to burst forth and transform this dreary gray into a show of color and life.

Spring is the season of growth, regeneration, increased activity, and new beginnings. The transition from winter to spring can offer us more opportunities to be productive and spend time outdoors. Generally, spring is considered a happy season, especially for those living in colder, darker climates. We all anticipate the warmer weather and longer days of spring. Just as everything around us blossoms in the sun, we too should embrace this time of renewal.

Spring FlowersAs with any seasonal change, it is important to pay close attention to your body’s needs during this transitional time. Moving from the indoor, sleepy coldness of winter to the warm, active spirit of spring can be tough on your system if not handled with care. For many, spring months also bring allergies, high blood pressure, headaches, sinus pain, congestion, anger, irritability, and joint problems. Many of these problems can be attributed to changes in the environment in the environment. Although we can’t change external weather factors, traditional East Asian Medicine (EAM) can address and diminish how these changes affect our bodies.

Traditional East Asian Medicine emphasizes the importance of living in tune with the seasons. Its theory divides the year into five seasons, each with its own associations and physical qualities that can be observed both in the external or “natural” world and within our bodies. These elements interact daily and either create balance and harmony when in sync or cause chaos within the body when out of balance.

EAM associates the Wood phase and the Liver and Gallbladder organs with spring. This sphere is essential for detoxification, decision-making, and nourishing the tendons and joints of the body. In East Asian Medicine, we talk about the Wood phase as responsible for keeping all of our energies flowing smoothly. During the winter months, we may experience stagnant feelings in areas like relationships, work, and our bodies. If we experience frustration, physical pain, or sadness, it may be a sign that energy is not flowing optimally.

6 Ways to Rebalance Your Wood Element

Stretch Daily.

Regular stretching is an excellent way to start and end your day. Adding yoga or tai chi to your daily routine can provide even greater benefits for your joints, connective tissues, and overall health. These practices not only help with flexibility, but they also promote relaxation and mindfulness, which can reduce stress and increase overall well-being. This season is all about ‘flow’.

Go Outside.

Spending more time outdoors is an easy and effective way to support Wood energies during the spring. Moving around outside can increase your heart rate and keep your blood flowing smoothly. Exposing yourself to daylight, especially in the mornings, helps your body stay in sync with the daily cycles of day and night. This balances cortisol and melatonin levels, supporting deep, restful sleep and energetic mornings.

Eat More Greens.

Consuming fresh leafy greens can support the liver’s detoxification function and improve vision due to the vitamins and nutrients found in these vegetables. Fresh, local, and in-season greens, such as micro-greens, ramps, and fiddleheads, are considered the most beneficial for promoting healthy blood flow and boosting energy. Greens with more bitterness, like dandelion greens, are most beneficial for detoxification and digestion. If you struggle to eat your greens regularly, consider adding a greens powder to your daily regimen.

Understand Your Constitution.

When a person is in complete balance, transitioning from one season to another tends to go unnoticed. However, a person with a Wood element in their constitution may experience irritability and frustration during the spring season. In EAM, we understand that the Wood phase is being taxed by this season, which can cause feelings of being stuck, frustrated, or angry. People who tend to feel these emotions easily will benefit from extra attention to gentle movement and having dedicated time for rest.

Avoid Overstimulation.

It is recommended to avoid excessive stimulants during the spring months. While coffee and caffeinated drinks can be helpful during the cold winter months, they are considered expansive and energizing, which can be harmful to the body during the spring when life is abounding. Symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, and anger can manifest as a result of excess energy.

Get A Seasonal Tune-Up.

Keep your springtime flowing smoothly with acupuncture and herbs. Acupuncture can balance the nervous system as it adjusts to changes in weather and activity levels. Regular acupuncture treatments boost immunity to keep spring viruses at bay. Spring can also cause flare-ups associated with seasonal allergies. Acupuncture and herbs can help alleviate symptoms such as inflammation, sneezing, runny nose, chest congestion, and watery eyes. Importantly, acupuncture can also help regulate emotional imbalances that are often common during this transitional period.

Ranunculus in a vase


Abdominal Breathing Technique for Nervous System Regulation

Abdominal Breathing Technique

Breathing exercises such as this one should be done daily or whenever you find yourself under stress, your mind dwelling on upsetting thoughts, or when you are experiencing pain. Abdominal breathing is just one of the many breathing exercises, but it is the most important one to learn before exploring other techniques. The more it is practiced, the more natural it will become, improving your mind and body’s internal balanced rhythm.

  • Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your abdomen. When you take a deep breath in, the hand on the abdomen should rise higher than the one on the chest. This ensures that the diaphragm is pulling air into the bases of the lungs.
  • After exhaling through your mouth, take a slow deep breath in through your nose, allowing your mind to focus on the undersurface of the nose where the air enters the body. Inhale for a count of 4.
  • Slowly exhale for a count of 6-8. As all the air is released with exhalation, gently contract your abdominal muscles to completely evacuate the remaining air in your lungs. It is important to remember that we deepen respirations by completely exhaling air, rather than inhaling more of it.
  • Repeat the cycle 19 more times for a total of twenty deep breaths.
Can’t Sleep? Feeling Anxious? Irritated? Depressed? Stress May Be The Cause. 

Can’t Sleep? Feeling Anxious? Irritated? Depressed? Stress May Be The Cause. 

Meditating GnomeStress is a cause of many chronic illnesses. When we experience stressful life situations, the body releases hormones that are biologically intended to keep us safe from danger by kicking the body into high gear. This is the ancient human response to “the tiger is going to eat me, I have to run really fast in order to survive”. The heart rate increases, digestion is suppressed, energy increases as more glucose (sugar) become available for the brain. Because survival is the primary goal, stress hormones suppress otherwise necessary functions like digestion and excretion. 

Chronic Stress

The stress response is absolutely necessary in times of acute danger. But the body can’t always tell the difference between the proverbial tiger about to eat us and sitting in hours of traffic, so we experience chronic stress. Under chronic stress, our bodies often stay in a state of ‘fight or flight’. We experience tension, anxiety, insomnia, stomach problems, headaches. These chronic stress symptoms are really common, and with all of the overwhelm in the modern world, to say we are all stressed is probably an understatement. While many of us have learned to cope with stress, stress hormones may still be, well, stressing us out.  Over time this can negatively impact our quality of life.  

In Western medicine, the release of chronic stress hormones into the body causes chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is understood to put the body at greater risk for diseases such as heart and bowel disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer.  In short, it affects all systems of the body.  This is because, as Eastern medicine teaches us, chronic inflammation sets off a cascade of reactions, throwing our system off balance.  

In Eastern medical thought, the body is striving for a balance of Yin and Yang, and plentiful, free-flowing Qi and Blood. Chronic stress interrupts that delicate balance and over time can deplete our reserves, causing us to “burn out”.  Just know that when we are constantly in fight or flight, the body doesn’t get to rest, restore, and repair. This leads to imbalances, which show up in different ways, depending on your unique constitution.  This is why it can be confusing to understand just how stress may be a factor in causing sinus issues, or PCOS, for example.  

Natural Ways to De-Stress

Our bodies are incredible and have natural ways to release stress hormones, but there are some things we can do to help the process along.  If you notice yourself feeling tense, worried, anxious, or in pain, trying some of these techniques will help your body relax and increase your overall health.  

Exercise. Moving your body, whether gently or vigorously will get the blood and qi flowing, releasing tension that gets stuck in the body. Walking, running, dancing, yoga, tai chi are all great ways to release endorphins and improve your overall well being. 

Laughter. Laughter really is the best medicine.  Laughter increases your oxygen intake, getting your blood flowing, stimulating your organs, and releasing endorphins, the happy chemicals in your brain. 

Deep breathing and meditation. Sitting quietly for just 5 – 10 minutes a day, practicing deep breathing activates the vagus nerve, allowing the body to relax from its fight or flight stage into rest and relaxation. The heart rate slows, digestion resumes, and stress hormones are no longer released. Meditation also quiets down the overactive chatter and worry we often have in the mind. 

Crying. The next time you feel sad or overwhelmed, you might want to let the tears flow.  Interestingly, crying is an excellent way to release cortisol, one of the main stress hormones. This is one of the reasons we sometimes feel better after crying a little.  

Hugs. A warm hug from a pet or a friend, often makes us just feel good.  This is actually because hugging releases oxytocin, sometimes called the “cuddle hormone”. Oxytocin may be a factor in reducing inflammation, and even if it isn’t, it sure feels good. 

We can’t take away the pressures of life and society.  In the modern world, stress is a part of life.  But we actually have a lot of simple tools we can use to support our body in releasing stress hormones and getting back into a restful state. Along with regular acupuncture, these techniques support the body’s natural processes and improve our quality of health. 

Chicago Acupuncturist: How to Find the Right Person for You

Chicago Acupuncturist: How to Find the Right Person for You

You’re in pain. Or maybe struggling with infertility. You could be feeling anxious. And someone mentioned that acupuncture could help you. It sounds a little strange. How could those teeny tiny needles help me feel less anxious, help me get pregnant, or cure my pain? Your friends swear it’s true, and the research shows it’s not just in their heads. So, you decide to give in a try. But where should you start?

In Chicago, we are lucky to have many acupuncturists to choose from. But all those choices sometimes makes it harder to find the right acupuncturist for you. Here are 6 things to ask yourself once you’ve decided to take the plunge:

1. Did you know that not everyone who does acupuncture is a licensed acupuncturist?

It’s true! There are a number of professions that can legally perform acupuncture (in Illinois) without becoming licensed in acupuncture or attending acupuncture school. This includes chiropractors and MDs, who only have to attend a few hours of training to start treating clients with acupuncture. Physical therapists can also perform ‘dry-needling’, which is a form of acupuncture, with minimal training. Acupuncturists (the licensed kind) earn a Masters degree, spend nearly 4 years in school, must pass national board exams, and keep up with continuing education to maintain their license. I think a licensed acupuncturist is the way to go, but whoever you decide to see, make sure they have sufficient training under their belts.

2. Would you like to find a practitioner with a particular specialty?

One of the best things about getting acupuncture, is that it has the ability balance out so many aspects of your health. That said, many acupuncturists choose to specialize in a particular area. For instance, I specialize in women’s health and fertility, pregnancy, and anxiety. This makes me especially comfortable treating in these areas, and I have learned much of the Western medical treatment and lingo that these patients are getting and hearing.

3. What kind of needle technique are you comfortable with?

Hold on now. I’ve gone ahead and decided to jump on the needle wagon, and now you’re telling me I need to think about how I’m going to get needled?

Well, yes, but I’ll keep it simple. Most acupuncture techniques fall into two broad categories: Japanese-style or Chinese-style. I could go on and on about this, but what you need to know is that Japanese-style tends to be much gentler while Chinese-style tends to be much stronger stimulation. At Four Flowers Wellness, I primarily practice the Japanese-style. I love how gentle it is for my clients, and in my experience, the results are phenomenal!

4. Would you benefit from other Eastern Medicine techniques, such as herbal medicine, guasha, or moxibustion?

Despite calling myself an acupuncturist, it would actually be more accurate to say I’m an Eastern Medicine practitioner. Eastern Medicine is so much more than acupuncture and includes a highly sophisticated herbal medicine tradition, manual therapy, techniques to benefit the muscles and fascia such as guasha and cupping, and moxibustion (aka moxa). You may or may not know that one of these therapies could add another layer to your healing. You don’t need to know-that’s my job! I’ve got a full toolbox and I know how (and when) to use it.

5. How much experience does your acupuncturist have?

It’s always good to know you’re in experienced hands. I’ve been in acupuncture practice since 2010 and started my shiatsu practice in 2008. During school, I also had 3 years of experience working in the student clinic and a year doing an amazing internship at the Chicago Women’s Health Center. Woah! I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for over 10 years already!

6. Can you start with a free consultation?

I really believe that no matter how good things look on paper, for a healing relationship to really work, you need to have trust and a good rapport. This is why I always encourage people to come in for a free consultation before getting started.

Would you like to connect with me to see if I can help you with my unique and effective approach to holistic health care?

Request a free consultation and we’ll meet to discuss your case. We’ll sit down, review your health history and goals, and see if you are a good fit for our services. You will have an opportunity to ask any questions about our approach and if you feel confident that I can help, you’ll have an opportunity to learn how to move forward and work with me.

Don’t Press There! Acupuncture’s Forbidden Points for Pregnancy

Don’t Press There! Acupuncture’s Forbidden Points for Pregnancy

As the popularity of acupuncture has grown, so has the notoriety of the so-called ‘forbidden points’ of pregnancy. As someone who’s been through a couple of pregnancies, I know well the anxiety it can provoke to have such a small and vulnerable person so reliant upon your care. Pregnancy can make the most benign of daily encounters feel dangerous-turkey sandwiches, canned tuna, hair dye, pedicures, massages.

In acupuncture school, I learned (as all acupuncturists learn) about a certain set of points that should not be used in pregnancy for fear of causing labor or otherwise putting the pregnancy at risk. I do believe that knowing about these points is very important, but I also think that their danger has been greatly exaggerated, especially amongst the general population. Research looking at side-effects of acupuncture for pregnant women has not uncovered any increase in miscarriage, preterm labor, or any other danger to the pregnancy.

Pedicures & Massages

One area that I’ve noticed a lot of fear amongst pregnant women is around having a massage or pedicure. There is an unfounded belief that a massage therapist or nail technician could inadvertently press on one of the ‘forbidden’ points are cause miscarriage or labor. Please, I urge you, go get that massage or pedicure! There is no danger!

For an average, healthy pregnancy, no amount of pressing or prodding these acupuncture points will have a detrimental effect. To give a little bit of perspective, when I’m working with women who are at term and trying to get labor started, I’ll have them press these points deeply for several minutes at a time, a couple of times per day in order to jump-start the labor process. Even a deep massage won’t give the points that kinds of stimulation.

For women who have had threatened miscarriage or experienced pre-term labor, intense, direct pressure at the ‘forbidden points’ should be avoided. You may feel more comfortable in a massage situation if you are aware of which points can be problematic, just in case your therapist isn’t.

The ‘Forbidden Points’ of Pregnancy

Spleen 6

The point Spleen 6 is located on the inside of the lower leg, about a hand’s width above the ankle bone. This point is very commonly used for increasing circulation in the uterus and also used to induce uterine contractions to kick-start labor. As one of the most powerful points to cause contractions, it should not be used before 38 weeks of pregnancy.

Bladder 60

Bladder 60 Acupuncture Point

Bladder 60 is located on the outside of the ankle, just behind the ankle bone and in front of the achilles tendon. This point is most often used for low back pain as it is considered a highly effective point for opening up, creating space, and increasing movement in the low back. However, this point can also be considered problematic for pregnancy for the same reason. Holding a pregnancy requires a good deal of strength and holding in this same are of the body.

Gallbladder 21

Gallbladder 21 Acupuncture PointUnless you’ve mysteriously avoided using the computer for the last 10 years, you probably have a tight spot at the acupuncture point Gallbladder 21. This point is usually a favorite focus of any shoulder massage, and it feels great to have this area worked on. This point is generally considered to have a regulating effect on the pelvic floor, meaning it can be used to strengthen weakness and to relieve excess tension. The concern in pregnancy is that it will cause weakness in the pelvic floor, which is responsible for supporting the weight of pregnancy. If you have a history of incompetent cervix or preterm labor, it’s probably wise to be cautious and gentle when working this area. If you’re having a normal pregnancy, go ahead and get that shoulder massage. Especially in the third trimester, I find that most women are actually holding too much tension in the pelvis (which can be a source of weakness) and would really benefit from using this point. (When in doubt, ask your practitioner!)

Large Intestine 4

Large Intestine 4 Acupuncture Point

The last ‘forbidden point’ for pregnancy is Large Intestine 4. This point is located on the hand, in the thicker muscle between the thumb and pointer finger. It is typically quite sore with pressure. Large Intestine 4 is used in many different situations, but always has the general effect of getting things moving. It can be used to relieve and headache or aching neck and shoulders, get the digestion moving, clear blocked sinuses, and many other ailments. It is that strongly moving quality of the point that also makes it great for getting labor moving and helping the uterus to contract more strongly. Large Intestine 4, along with Spleen 6, are the major points for inducing labor or speeding up stalled labor. For these reasons, this point is avoided until mom and baby are ready for labor. This point does require a good deal of pressure to be effective, so unless you’re pressing hard enough to feel that achy soreness, it won’t have much of an effect.

Would you like to connect with me to see if I can help you with my unique and effective approach to pregnancy care?

Request a free consultation and we’ll meet to discuss your case. We’ll sit down, review your health history and goals, and see if you are a good fit for our services. You will have an opportunity to ask any questions about our approach and if you feel confident that I can help, you’ll have an opportunity to learn how to move forward and work with me.