Treating Diminished Ovarian Reserve with Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine
Studies have shown that women are born with about 2 million eggs. However, over time, they gradually lose these eggs. For most of them, the moment they approach puberty, they have just about 400,000 eggs left. By the time they have hit 30, they are most likely to have just 27,000 eggs left. The time menopause sets in, there are about 1000 eggs left in the ovaries. This simply goes to show that as they get old, it is natural that their ability to conceive depreciates. Fewer eggs aside, there are other causes of loss of reproductive potential, such as depreciation of egg quality and development of abnormalities in eggs. As a result, older women are likely to have much lower pregnancy rate and miscarriages than their young counterparts. However, the exact age when women are no longer expected to conceive varies from one woman to another. Stats indicate that women who are beyond 35 years are likely to have trouble getting pregnant. To find out a woman’s child-bearing potential, she can undergo series of tests collectively known as ovarian reserve.
However, when a woman experiences a loss of normal reproductive potential, she is said to be experiencing diminished ovarian reserve (DOR). This is primarily due to lower counts or depreciation of the quality of eggs. As mentioned earlier, this tends to worsen as a female ages, but other factors like genetic defects, aggressive medical treatments, surgeries and injuries can also lead to DOR. In fact, when a woman has DOR, her chances of conceiving through in vitro fertilization (IVF) are slim. In most cases, trying to help them conceive through IVF always results in miscarriages, leading to waste of time, efforts and resources. At this point, it is safe to say that DOR results in infertility. About 10 – 30% of infertile women are due to DOR. In spite of that, acupuncture and Chinese herbs offer a glimmer of hope. Continue reading to learn how that works.
Causes and Symptoms
With respect to the causes of DOR, as explained earlier, aging naturally diminishes egg reserve. In short, few women retain their normal fertility when they hit their mid-40s. To make matters worse, assisted reproductive technology (ART) does not reverse the changes that lead to poor fertility in eggs because success rate among females undergoing the procedure is always poor. By and large, other factors that can worsen the condition include tubal diseases, chemotherapy, smoking, pelvic infection, mumps, genetic abnormalities, radiation therapy, etc. Unfortunately, because this condition is natural, it has no apparent cause. As regards its symptoms, DOR doesn’t have many noticeable symptoms. But then, you are likely to experience the following if you have it: difficulty in getting pregnant, miscarriage, heavy menstrual flow, late or nonexistent menstrual periods, shorter menstrual cycles (as the average is 28 days), etc.
Treating DOR with Acupuncture
There are three tests used to ascertain a woman’s ovarian reserve. These are follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) and antral follicle count (AFC). However, FSH and AMH are two commonly used tests or factors. With FSH level, it is easy to predict pregnancy rate because a level less than 10 miU/mL is considered okay for conception to take place. On the other hand, a typical AMH level for a fertile woman is 1.0 – 4.0 ng/ml. On the flip side, when you experience DOR, FSH goes above 10 miU/ml, AMH levels drop to 0.9 – 1.0 ng/ml and AFC tanks as well.
The role of acupuncture and herbal medicine in treating DOR is summarized below:
- Because TCM sees diminished ovarian reserve as a case of poor reproductive health, it helps to repair the imbalance in reproductive health
- Chinese medicine can also play an adjunct role during in vitro fertilization to facilitate conception
- Committing about 6 – 12 months to Chinese herbal medicine can considerably improve reproductive potential
The good thing about acupuncture is that it is a do-it-yourself therapy, if you know how to apply it. All you need to do is focus on the acupoint known as guan yuan (conception vessel – CV4) to achieve the desired result. Once you do that, it nourishes the kidney and spleen, thereby increasing your chances of conception.
Are Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine Effective?
Now, to better understand how potent acupuncture and Chinese herbs are, let’s look at what researchers have found out over the years. According to clinical and experimental studies, acupuncture can promote the development of the follicle, stimulate ovulation and further improve ovarian function. It is noteworthy that the Chinese traditional remedy has gained global popularity for improving the outcomes of infertile women undergoing ART.
In 2005, acupuncturist and clinical researcher Lee Hullender Rubin teamed up with oriental medicine researcher Benjamin Marx to ascertain the effect of clomid and TCM on a woman with DOR. Note that clomid is a Western drug used to treat infertility. In the end, the researchers noted that clomid may not be ideal for treating DOR. This is because the patient underwent 3 failed clomid cycles. However, once TCM (a mix of acupuncture and Chinese herbs) was administered, the researchers recorded some heartwarming improvements, especially in the forms of reduced FSH and increased AFC.
In a 2017 study, 20 women with DOR who have undergone IVF at different times in their lives but weren’t able to conceive were asked to combine it with acupuncture. These participants had gone through IVF between 1 to 5 times without signs of conception. However, the researchers asked them to undergo acupuncture and closely observed the outcomes. The acupoints used were based on 5 phases of the menstrual cycle. The East Asian medicine was administered for three months. At the end of the exercise, all of the 20 participants conceived – 17 through IVF and 3 naturally.
In conclusion, if the studies above are facts to go by, then there is no gainsaying that TCM can help rewrite your narrative. Nonetheless, this article will be incomplete without a mention of the Chinese herbal formulae for treating DOR. One of the most common herbal formulae for treating the condition is Zi Shen Yu Tai Wan, a variant of Fertile Tonic. In many clinical trials, researchers combined it with acupuncture to improve patients’ pregnancy rates. This formula contains about 15 different herbs.
In truth, every couple in dire need of children deserves to be happy and TCM (from the studies above) helps them to get rid of the obstacles in their pathway to happiness.
Did you put your childbirth on hold for some reason and now that you need a baby you cannot have one?
Have you been diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve?
If your answer to any of these questions is YES, you have absolutely nothing to worry about.
Just get in touch with Zhou Wellness Acupuncture now to learn more about how we can help you.
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- MAO Q. Acupuncture for the treatment of diminished ovary reserve. Akupunktur ved. 2017 Jan: 27 (3): 69 -74.
- Ovarian Reserve. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. https://www.reproductivefacts.org/news-and-publications/patient-fact-sheets-and-booklets/documents/fact-sheets-and-info-booklets/ovarian-reserve/. Accessed June 30, 2022.
- Rubin LH, Marx B. Diminished ovarian reserve, clomid, and traditional Chinese medicine: a case study. Med Acupunct. 2012 Dec; 24 (4): 273 – 280.
- Diminished Ovarian Reserve. Women & Infants Fertility Center. https://fertility.womenandinfants.org/services/women/diminished-ovarian-reserve#:~:text=Diminished%20ovarian%20reserve%20(DOR)%20occurs,means%20those%20factors%20are%20decreasing. Accessed June 30, 2022.
- Ferguson S. What is diminished ovarian reserve and what can you do about it? https://www.healthline.com/health/diminished-ovarian-reserve. Revised Feb. 26, 2019. Accessed June 30, 2022.
- Yang L, Zhang H, Huang D. Effect of electroacupunture on ovarian function of women with diminished ovarian reserve: study protocol for a randomized control trial. Trials. 2021 Dec 14; 22(1): 921.
- Clarke D. Acupuncture for fertility. https://www.cnyfertility.com/demystifying-acupuncture-for-fertility/. Revised March 16, 2022. Accessed June 30, 2022.