Acupuncture, Infertility & Egg Quality
One of the most important factors of successful conception is the quality of the mother's eggs. Poor egg health is a common cause of infertility. Poor egg quality means that the egg has a physical defect, chromosomal abnormality, poor cellular mitochondria functioning. Mitochondria are the power plant of the cell, transforming nutrients into energy.
Kidney Jing Deficiency
In Chinese medicine one symptom of poor egg quality is weak kidney meridian energy or kidney jing deficiency, which may manifest as poor blood circulation with the patient feeling as though her hands and feet are often cold, and she tends to feel cold when other people do not. The kidney meridian is associated with energy reserves, genetics, and the reproductive system. Kidney energy or jing commences at age 7, balances at age 21, peaks at age 28, and begins to decline at age 35.
Lifespan of an Egg
Unlike men, who create new sperm through their life, a woman is born with a finite number of primordial follicles containing immature eggs or oocytes. The quality of the environment in which these eggs live - the woman's body - has a profound effect on the quality of the eggs. The eggs' health depends on many factors such as fluctuations in hormone levels, nutritional support, and circulation of blood which delivers nutrients to the reproductive system. In addition, environmental factors impact the health of these immature eggs - stress, pollutants, or life-changing circumstances.
When a young woman first begins menstruation, her follicles begin a process of maturation - which, for each egg, lasts about a year and ends either in the death of the egg or ovulation when the egg leaves the follicle. After about 9 months, the egg begins to be more influenced by the woman's hormonal levels and egg growth accelerates.
The last 90 days completes the egg's development as primordial follicles develop into antral follicles that are ready to grow with hormonal stimulation. The eggs within develop from immature egg to readiness for fertilization triggered by ovulation. In the last 10 days of development follicles compete for nutrients and the healthiest releases the egg. This is a process that is ongoing - with eggs in various stages of development.
Supporting Egg Quality
Support of the developing eggs throughout their 'lifespan' is important, but especially during the last three month period. This support may be provided through:
- Acupuncture treatment to support kidney meridian. By balancing the body as a whole through acupuncture we can
indirectly impact kidney jing.
- Acupuncture treatment to increase blood flow to the uterus. Blood flow to the reproductive
system is essential to bring nutrients to the developing eggs. Acupuncture accomplishes this by mediating neurotransmitter release.
This means that acupuncture stimulates specific the chemical neurotransmitters that affect our health and functioning of reproductive and other
bodily systems. The result is that the body releases hormones that support the reproductive system and stimulate blood flow to the uterus.
- Acupuncture treatment to improve egg quality.
In one study 102 PCOS patients receiving acupuncture treatment had high quality embryo rate compared to 98 control patients receiving medication.
In addition, the acupuncture patients had higher blood and follicular fluid rates.1 Another study assessing acupuncture treatment on
119 patients (compared to 98 controls) found that the quality of immature eggs (oocytes) was much higher than those of the control group.2 A
number of other studies replicate these results.
- Acupuncture treatment to improve sleep and reduce stress.
- Adaptogenic herbs to support the adrenal system. These are herbs which readily adapt to the individual system tend to normalize the body by
supporting the adrenal system and thus supporting our reserves of energy.
- Chinese medicine herbal formulations to balance kidney energy. These have been developed through centuries of experience to nourish kidney energy, to be
taken only with the advice by your licensed practitioner.
- Antioxidant-rich foods and supplemental antioxidants to fight free radicals if your practitioner feels they are necessary. Antioxidants fight free radicals which cause cellular oxidation damage. Other nutrients such as CoQ10 behave like antioxidants.
A pilot study found that myo-inositol and alpha-lipoic acid intake by PCOS patients undergoing in-vitro fertilization improved ooctye quality. 36 patients were treated with these nutrients over a three month period and the number of "grade 1" embryos was markedly increased.3
- DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a mild male hormone which in some cases has been useful in helping reversing the effects of the aging ovary.
Its use is controversial, but there have been some demonstrated benefits in improving better oocyte yield and quality.4
- Healthy diet is essential. Avoid processed food and where possible, eat organic foods that are uncontaminated by herbicides, pesticides and
artificial fertilizers which contain endocrine disrupters and other toxins. Brightly colored foods - dark green, yellow, orange, red, blue and purple contain bioflavonoids that are powerful antioxidants as well as
containing other important nutrients and vitamins. If you eat eggs, try to get pasture-raised organic eggs - which are much higher in essential
- Exercise supports all aspects of women's health. A brisk 20 minute walk, or its equivalent, will support every aspect of your physical and mental health. Lifestyle habits of 12,000 IVF patients were evaluated. The researchers concluded that patients requiring IVF were more likely to have lifestyle habits such smoking, drinking alcohol or coffee. Less than half of those patients got enough exercise.5
1. B.Z. Yang, et al., Effects of electroacupuncture intervention on changes of quality of ovum and pregnancy out- come in patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome, Zhen Ci Yan Jui, April, 2015.
2. J. Li, et al., Effect of electro-acupuncture on the spindle and oocytes quality in patients with PCOS, Zhonqquo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi, March, 2015.
3. R. Rago, et al, Effect of myo-inositol and alpha-lipoic acid on oocyte quality in polycystic ovary syndrome non-obese women undergoing in vitro fertilization: a pilot study, Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents, October-December, 2015.
4. N. Naredi, et al, Dehydroepiandrosterone: A panacea for the aging ovary?, Medical Journal of the Armed Forces of India, July, 2015.
5. A.D. Domar, et al., Lifestyle habits of 12,800 IVF patients: Prevalence of negative lifestyle behaviors, and impact of region and insurance coverage, Human Fertility, December, 2015.