The Clinic

Female fertility

Over the past 17 years many hundreds of women and men have been supported by us in their journey to become parents. This includes people from all walks of life and with different stories to tell, often after a long and difficult fertility journey.

Female Fertility

At the clinic we offer each person an individually tailored approach, unique to their situation following an in-depth Fertility Support Consultation.

We develop together a plan of action and way forward which may include acupuncture alongside nutritional and lifestyle advice, specific fertility information and support, Chinese herbal medicine and relaxing fertility-focused massage. Small differences in our reproductive status and general wellness prior to conception can lead to bigger and more important differences for mother and baby later.

We have years of experience in working with all types of male and female fertility issues and in working alongside medical protocols. Up-to-date acupuncture treatments are constantly refined and reviewed based upon information from research*. Our practitioners are members of the Zita West Affiliated Acupuncture Network and the Acupuncture Fertility Network.

Support is available for both men and women, for those who are finding it is taking a while to conceive, those who have undergone hospital testing who may come to the clinic aware of underlying physical factors such as PCOS or endometriosis, as well as those preparing for IVF, ICSI, IUI or taking medication such as clomid.

It takes four and a half months from the time the follicle in the ovary starts to develop to the moment where the egg it contains is mature enough for ovulation. There’s a lot you can do during this time, which will influence the development of that egg.

Improving blood flow and reducing stress

Research indicates that acupuncture may help female fertility on a number of levels.

This includes improving blood flow in the uterine artery which both enhances the environment follicles are developing in and also increases blood flow to the uterus, improving the thickness of the endometrial lining and increasing the chances of embryo implantation 1.

At the clinic we offer sessions of gentle electro-acupuncture based on this and other research. Our fertility treatment protocols, which have been designed by us, are unique to the clinic.

Acupuncture also has an effect in reducing the stress hormones cortisol and prolactin. This has positive effects on egg quality and implantation, on pregnancy and live birth rate 2. The majority of people coming to the clinic say they feel more relaxed and have a greater sense of well-being for having acupuncture.

In one study the maximum effect of having acupuncture on women suffering with heightened anxiety was measured 72 hours after their acupuncture treatment. The positive effects of a course of acupuncture were still evident a month after it was completed 3.

1 Stener-Victorin 1996, Huang 2008

2 Magarelli and Cridennda 2009

3 Arranz 2007

Improving markers for PCOS and endometriosis

PCOS is one of the most common causes of female infertility.

Women with PCOS, particularly those with irregular or infrequent periods, have their own particular challenges when it comes to conceiving. Acupuncture protocols can help to reduce some of the factors that operate and which prevent polycystic ovaries working properly.

For example, acupuncture can help reduce testosterone and LH levels and help to promote more frequent ovulation and better quality eggs. Acupuncture may also help to decrease insulin resistance and reduce sympathetic nervous system activity, both of which are often abnormally high in PCOS. Working at all these levels, acupuncture can help to improve ovarian function and increase ovulation frequency restoring more regular menstrual cycles. 1

The clinic uses specific acupuncture treatments and protocols based on this research, designed for our clinic when working with women with PCO.

Endometriosis reduces fertility by damaging ovary function (AMH is reduced) and negatively impacting on the immune milieu (inflammatory cytokines are raised) as well as affecting the lining of the uterus and its implantation sites. Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective treatment for reducing the symptoms of endometriosis and for improving fertility.

Chinese herbs have been shown to improve response to IVF drugs and fertilisation rates in endometriosis patients. Research done in China and Australia reveals that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can effectively reduce symptoms of endometriosis such as pain, improve fertility and reduce immune and inflammatory markers. 2

1Stener-Victorin 2000, 2008, 2009, Zhang 2009

2Lim CED 2009, Yu Xiao-Li 2010, Lian Fang 2009

Egg quality and immune issues

Eggs need a good blood supply, the right nutrients, the right hormone signals and the capacity to supply enough energy to the embryo.

While no treatment can turn back the clock, or change the DNA, acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be used to rejuvenate some oocyte characteristics by improving delivery of nutrition to the developing egg and enhancing its capacity to make energy, thus increasing its chance of making a viable embryo.

Acupuncture has been shown to promote the growth of new blood vessels 1 and to specifically increase blood flow to the ovaries 2 and the time when the follicles and the eggs inside them are developing is a critical time for acupuncture.

The use of certain acupuncture point combinations, used in our protocols at the clinic, plus a particular frequency of gentle electrical pulse promotes blood supply, and delivery of nutrition and oxygen to the follicles improving their potential to fertilise and create embryos.

Recently the crucial role that the immune system plays in the process of embryo implantation and the development of the placenta has been demonstrated, indicating that subtle imbalances in the immune environment of the uterus can impact upon establishing a healthy pregnancy.

Recent reviews on the effect of acupuncture on the immune system have concluded that appropriate and frequent acupuncture treatment can provoke sustained anti-inflammatory activity, without stimulation of pro-inflammatory cells 3 .

We know that stress also affects the immune system and acupuncture has been shown to exert a beneficial modulatory effect on such immune imbalances caused by anxiety and stress.

1 Du 2011

2 Stener-Victorin 2003

3 Zijlstra 2003, Sun 2010

Zita West Network for Reproductive Health

Zita West is acknowledged as one of Europe's leading experts on how couples can improve their prospects for conception and pregnancy, through harnessing the natural power of the human body. She has written many best-selling books on fertility and pregnancy. The Zita West Clinic, based in central London, is the largest clinic in the UK specialising in all aspects of reproductive health.

As a founder affiliated member of the Zita West Network for Reproductive Health, Caroline has received training in the holistic approach used by Zita at her London clinic. This approach helps to achieve optimum reproductive health and covers a wide range of treatments to help boost fertility, enhance IVF, improve pregnancy and support post-natal recovery. It includes being linked to a nationwide network of fertility acupuncturists.

As an experienced fertility acupuncturist, Caroline was invited by Zita to lecture this experienced group of fertility acupuncturists from across the country, focusing on using acupuncture to improve IVF outcome and she has facilitated specialist sessions on using electro-acupuncture in fertility subsequent to this for acupuncturists in Zita’s clinic as well as the national acupuncture network.

At the clinic, we have a range of Zita West factsheets, containing valuable advice about how to improve reproductive health for both partners. We stock a full range of Zita West premium supplements at a 20% discount and can refer to the London clinic for any clinical services with a 20% discount.

Fertility Training in China

In September 2010 Caroline had the unique opportunity to attend a specialist Fertility and Traditional Chinese Medicine course in Beijing, China. She was one of a small group of 14 experienced Acupuncturists with a specialist interest in fertility chosen from across the UK and Southern Ireland.

The course was led by Zita West, fertility expert, and was hosted at the prestigious Xiyuan Hospital of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing. The hospital is part of the International Collaborating Centre for Traditional Medicine with the World Health Organisation (WHO), being both a national centre both for TCM, and for integrated Traditional and Western Medicine.

The course provided a unique opportunity to see fertility acupuncture and other forms of TCM practised in China, the home of Traditional Chinese Medicine and to see the benefits of integrating western and traditional medicine on such a large scale.

Specialist fertility lectures were given by a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and also by Zita West, providing invaluable additional learning which Caroline believes has been a unique learning opportunity directly benefiting her work here at the clinic.

Caroline at the Xiyuan Hospital in Beijing

Caroline at the Xiyuan Hospital in Beijing

IVF, ICSI and IUI

The use of acupuncture alongside assisted fertility has become widespread over the past few years. Acupuncture is a safe adjunctive therapy for women undergoing IVF,ICSI and IUI as there are no adverse effects from treatment. Many people coming to the clinic comment that they are convinced having acupuncture alongside their fertility treatment has made a difference and that it has also helped their overall feeling of relaxation and well-being throughout the process.

We have many years of experience and understanding in using acupuncture alongside assisted fertility protocols and use traditional methods combined with a modern evidence-based approach.

Preparing properly for IVF or other assisted fertility treatments is important and embarking on them can be very demanding and stressful. The right physical, nutritional and emotional support, before and during the treatment, can help off-set these stresses and enhance your overall well-being. Support from the clinic can keep you positive and in the right mind set too. All of which will help you during the treatment.

Sessions are suitable for everyone, including same sex partners and those undergoing IVF with donor eggs or donor sperm. Many men choose also to have acupuncture in order to maximise sperm parameters for IVF, ICSI or IUI.

At the clinic we carry out specific protocols for treatment which are based upon research and aim to support you at every step of the way. A plan will be devised at the initial Fertility Support Consultation looking at your unique situation. This includes specific sessions prior to commencing IVF, during IVF, pre and post embryo transfer and during the two week wait. 1, 2.

1 Paulus 2002

2 Magarelli and Cridennda 2004