Whether you’re already trying for a baby, or you’re just starting to think about it, complementary therapies can also be helpful when used prior to undergoing conventional treatment or alongside other treatments for conception. Although they can’t repair damaged tubes or produce more eggs, they can boost your general health, reduce stress levels and help you to feel more in control of your situation.
Acupuncture to aid conception
Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine which has been used for over 2000 years and involves placing fine needles over specific areas, known as acupoints, to basically adjust the energy in your body so the proper amount reaches the proper place at the proper time.
If just the thought of needles turns you to a quivering mess, you’re not alone but acupuncture is surprisingly painless and incredibly relaxing. In the same way as Western medicine treats the blood flowing through our veins, acupuncture works on the basis that we have an ‘energy flow’ running along pathways, known as meridians, within our body.
Kathleen Kenneally has been a licensed acupuncturist for over a decade and has successfully treated many women with gynaecological and fertility issues. She says that traditional acupuncture points used for female infertility increase the blood supply to the womb which in turn increases the lining of the uterus which is responsible for nourishing the fertilized egg.
“In addition,” she says, “the stimulation of acupuncture points has been shown to almost double the success rates for in vitro fertilization (IVF).”
Chinese medicine considers many things when diagnosing infertility, including stress, diet and exercise.
“To achieve pregnancy the body must be in balance. Acupuncture and herbal medicine work hand in hand with traditional medical approaches by regulating periods, reducing cysts, helping with endometriosis and fibroids, increasing sperm counts, balancing hormone levels and reducing stress. By bringing the body back into balance on all levels, couples have a better chance at becoming pregnant and maintaining that pregnancy.”
After months of infertility, Bobbi fell pregnant just six weeks after her first acupuncture treatment.
“I was a bit concerned about the actual ‘needle’ part of acupuncture,” she explains, “but figured it was much less intrusive than in-vitro.” In fact she says she barely felt the needles at all. “After about ten minutes, I could actually feel the blood flowing through my body. It was an amazing feeling – peaceful and relaxing, yet very exciting because I felt a definite change in my body.”
Less than a year later Bobbi welcomed her newborn son into the world. “While we may never be able to point to the acupuncture as the main reason for our conception, I would like to say a very special thank you to Kathleen for helping us become a family.”
Kathleen explains, “Acupuncture stimulates pain-relieving endorphins, neurotransmitters, enzymes, and hormones, relaxes muscles and increases blood circulation. As a result, balance is restored to the body, mind and spirit.”
Reflexology and conception
Reflexology is a traditional healing art dating from the ancient Egyptians and Chinese, which involves manipulation of pressure points in the hands and feet. It is based on the idea that there is a map of the inside of your body on the soles of your feet, linked to your inner organs and systems, including the fallopian tubes and ovaries. Massaging the corresponding points on your foot can unblock energy pathways in the body and so help the body to regain its natural balance and heal itself. Although there is very little scientific evidence to support the claims of reflexology, the indulgent pampering of the most neglected part of our bodies is certainly worth experiencing.
However, Jane Holt, a reflexologist for more than 15 years, explains, “Infertility is a complex problem and I think that often what is needed is something that gives the system a bit of a kick start and that’s what reflexology can do. This gives women the option to try something else while they are going through hospital procedures and even if it only works for some of them that’s a bonus.”
And Dr Jonathan Lord, clinical lecturer in reproductive medicine at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, agrees. “At the moment there is no evidence to say whether reflexology works or not,” he says, “although there are several reports of patients in whom it has worked.”
One of those is auxillary nurse Beccy Wellington who was treated by Jane after trying for more than a year to get pregnant.
“I had four treatments and was pregnant within three weeks,” she says. “I am convinced that the reflexology got my body in working order so I was ready to conceive. I also felt ten times better, more positive and a lot happier in myself.” After giving birth to her son Luke she says, “I would definitely advise other women to try reflexology. It may not work for everyone, but it worked for me and it is worth trying.”
Polly Hall, of the Association of Reflexologists, says, “We don’t make any claims to cure any conditions but we have anecdotal evidence that reflexology can help with infertility problems and bring the body back into balance.”
Hypnotherapy and conception
Ask any doctor and most will tell you that conception is fifty per cent science and fifty percent luck, so it’s no wonder that one of the most common questions asked by women planning a pregnancy is ‘Can I do anything to improve my chances?’. Baby guru Zita West believes that many forms of complementary therapy can be beneficial to getting pregnant. In her book Plan to get Pregnant. 10 steps to maximum fertility, Zita says, “I believe in an integrated approach to health, and therefore getting pregnant. Hypnotherapy is a deep form of relaxation that can benefit your psychological and physical health. Hypnotherapy reduces the impact of stress, so it can be particularly beneficial if you are still suffering as a result of a past event, such as a miscarriage or termination”
Dr. Elizabeth Muir, a clinical psychologist working with hypnotherapy for infertility explains that hypnosis affects the hypothalamus-the neural centre at the base of the brain linked to the pituitary gland-and controls the flow of hormones in the body. Hypnotherapy therefore aims to target negative feelings and unexpressed emotions which can often compound reproductive problems.
Pauline admits that after more than a year trying to get pregnant, and with no success, the stress was beginning to take its toll on her, physically and mentally, as well as her relationship with her husband. Having focused on her career in real estate, she was wondering if, at the age of 38, she had left it too late to start her family.
“I was at the stage where I was thinking I’d never have a baby, but at the same time I’d heard that those sort of thoughts would be the very thing to stop me conceiving.”
After a lot of research, Pauline found Suzannah Meza, a doctor and hypnotherapist who specialises in pregnancy and fertility.
“I was half expecting to fall pregnant after my first session with Sue, but hypnotherapy doesn’t work that way. I left feeling much calmer and more relaxed. I think it was that peace of mind that finally led to my pregnancy several months later.”