Gerard Wherity
BSc, LicAc, MBAcC, DipCHM, MRCHM



Acupuncture

Chinese Herbal Medicine







gerard@poole-acupuncture.co.uk

Dover House, 2 Dover Close,
Poole, BH13 6EA (map)

Tel: 01202 798616
Mobile: 07513 340681

The use of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to assist fertility and during pregnancy has become increasingly well known in the UK over the past decade, indeed it is not particularly unusual for midwives to use acupuncture. The same may be said of some other European countries e.g. in Sweden around three quarters of midwives receive some training in acupuncture, while in Germany acupuncture is used in 80-90% of maternity hospitals, and it is relatively common for German doctors to use acupuncture and herbs as part of their practice.

Treatment is very much tailored to fit each person. Everybody is unique � one of the beauties of Chinese medicine is that there is no one size fits all solution, instead the treatment takes into account all aspects of the person�s health with the focus on fertility or any other particular problem. Treatment is available to assist natural conception or to support IVF. It can help to reduce stress and support relaxation, something which many mothers find particularly beneficial.



Did you know?

Chinese herbal medicine and pregnancy

In 2011 researchers in Adelaide carried out an investigation of 30 trials and studies involving nearly 2000 women. They concluded that "management of female infertility with Chinese Herbal Medicine can improve pregnancy rates 2-fold within a 4 month period compared with Western Medical fertility drug therapy or IVF". The researchers found that improving the quality of the menstrual cycle, which forms an essential part of the Chinese medical treatment, played a crucial role in the improvements.


Acupuncture and IVF

A number of trials around the world have shown that acupuncture can improve the results of IVF treatment.

An American review of 7 trials involving over a thousand women was published in the British Medical Journal in 2008. The review noted that "complementing the embryo transfer process with acupuncture was associated with significant and clinically relevant improvements in clinical pregnancy, ongoing pregnancy and live births".

A study involving over 200 women in a German IVF centre was published in the international journal Fertility and Sterility in 2006. It found that acupuncture during the second half of the menstrual cycle more than doubled the clinical pregnancy and ongoing pregnancy rates.

An earlier German trial of 160 women found that acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer improved the pregnancy rate. 34 out of the 80 women who had acupuncture fell pregnant, compared to only 21 of the 80 who did not.

More recently, in 2013, a group of women in Brazil who had already been through two unsuccessful IVF cycles tried again while being treated with acupuncture. Over 35% fell pregnant, compared to less than 10% of those who did not have acupuncture. The results were reported in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine


Male fertility

The old assumption that infertility is "the woman's problem" has long been discredited. It is now accepted that male fertility plays an important role in 40 - 50% of cases where couples are having difficulty, and in 15% of cases the problem lies solely with the male partner. A German study found that "a general improvement in sperm quality" was apparent after male patients were treated with acupuncture twice a week for five weeks. There was an increase in "the percentage and number of sperm without ultrastructural defects" and a "general improvement in sperm quality".



Morning sickness

A trial in Melbourne involved nearly 600 women who were less than 3 months pregnant. They were split into four groups. Three had different forms of acupuncture whilst the fourth had no acupuncture. All of the acupuncture groups experienced less nausea and less dry retching than those in the no acupuncture group. No adverse side effects were reported in any of the groups.



Dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain)

A German study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that women treated with acupuncture for period pain had "significant improvements in pain intensity and quality of life compared to patients who received routine care alone", and added that "acupuncture treatment was associated with better quality of life". The main acupuncture point for such pain is found on the inside of the leg below the knee and is known as "Earth pivot".
A wider review published by the Cochrane library in 2007 found that Chinese herbs, particularly when they were individually tailored to the patient, "resulted in significant improvements in pain relief, overall symptoms and use of additional medication when compared to use of pharmaceutical drugs". The reviewers felt that there was "promising evidence for the use of Chinese herbal medicine in reducing menstrual pain in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhoea compared to conventional medicine". They also noted that they did not identify any significant adverse effects. This is another example of the best results being obtained when prescriptions are given specifically for individuals rather than using a general prescription.


Menopause

A study published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine concluded that "acupuncture was successful in reducing menopausal complaints". In particular "the severity of hot flushes was found to be significantly decreased". The researchers also measured the levels of oestradoil, which is the most potent natural oestrogen and which is sometimes prescribed for menopausal symptoms. They found that after acupuncture the oestradoil levels were "significantly higher".
One of the western herbs that is sometimes taken to alleviate menopausal symptoms is black cohosh. The Chinese name for this is sheng ma, and the first reference to its use in Chinese literature was as long ago as the sixth century. Its main use in Chinese medicine would be to treat the early stages of measles or a cold with headache, however long term use or high doses should be avoided (in very high doses it can be dangerous). A Chinese herbal prescription for menopausal problems would depend on the specific symptoms of each person. It would be unlikely to include sheng ma, but one of the likely herbs is called shu di huang (Chinese foxglove root). This is prepared by mixing with rice wine, steaming and then drying in the sun, which makes it sweeter and more nourishing. An old Chinese classic advises that it should be used "whenever there is internal injury or insufficiency, excessive mental or emotional activity that exhausts the spirit, or continual worry...".


Endometriosis

Endometriosis can cause pain, irregular periods and infertility. A review of Chinese trials found that after surgery to remove abnormal tissue, treatment with Chinese herbs was as effective as a pharmaceutical drug in one trial and more effective in another. Importantly, in both trials the use of herbs was associated with fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs.



History

The earliest known Chinese book dedicated entirely to obstetrics, the "Treasure of Obstetrics", was compiled around 850 AD, a time when England was being invaded by the Vikings. It included discussions on morning sickness, bleeding, miscarriage and postnatal diseases, as well as herbal prescriptions for promoting labour.


Gerard Wherity is a fully qualified member of the British Acupuncture Council and the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine. He practises in the Poole and Bournemouth area.

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Lime flower photograph by FreeImages.com/Zsuzsanna Kilian (source).