Many people use complementary therapies such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to improve their overall physical health.
However, there is limited and variable evidence of the beneficial impact of complementary and alternative medicines on fertility.
If you would like to try alternative therapies while also being treated by western medicine, talk to your fertility specialist about your preferences. Some complementary medicines may interfere with fertility treatments, but generally our fertility specialists will be supportive of steps you take to improve your overall health and wellbeing.
TCM, Acupuncture and Fertility
Acupuncture is a common component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), often used by women and men trying to get pregnant either naturally or through fertility treatment. By stimulating specific points of the body, acupuncture is believed to:
- Reduce stress, increasing quality of life while you’re undertaking treatment, and
- Stimulate blood flow to the uterus, influencing the menstrual cycle and ovulation.
Studies continue into whether acupuncture and other forms of TCM can increase fertility and IVF outcomes:
Virtus Fertility Centre’s Medical Director Dr Roland Chieng is currently collaborating with other interested groups in China to see how acupuncture can improve sperm quality and the likelihood of implantation.
Virtus Fertility Centre’s partner clinic in Australia is currently conducting a controlled trial to determine if acupuncture improves live birth rates for women undergoing IVF treatment. For more information visit the Virtus Health website.
Diet, Vitamins and Fertility
It’s recommended that women take 0.5mg folic acid daily for at least three months before pregnancy and for three months into the pregnancy. This reduces the risk of neural tube defects (most commonly spina bifida) in babies.
Other supplements are usually not necessary if you’re maintaining a balanced, healthy diet. However, nutrients that can help to support a healthy conception include:
- Antioxidants – protect cells from damage by free radicals in environmental and other toxins
- Coenzyme (Q10) – an important antioxidant and ‘energy nutrient’ within every cell
- Vitamin E – an antioxidant that may promote circulation to the reproductive system, including to the placenta
- Vitamin C – an antioxidant important within the ovary itself. As the developing egg needs vitamin C to mature and ovulate, more vitamin C is used up around the time of ovulation
- Mixed carotenoids – Vitamin A (retinoid) is involved in creating DNA. In small amounts it is essential for healthy foetal development, particularly for the immune system and eyes. However, you should avoid taking too much Vitamin A
- Manganese – involved in enzyme functions that have antioxidant effects and transfer genetic information
- Zinc – one of the most important nutrients for a healthy reproductive system. Involved in sexual development, ovulation and the menstrual cycle
- Selenium – an antioxidant that supports normal conception
- Omega-3 fatty acids – improving omega-3 fatty acids ensures that a woman’s fat tissue stores retain a reserve of these fatty acids for the developing foetus, a healthy pregnancy and optimally fed newborn
- B-Vitamins – Vitamin B12, B6 and folate are three B vitamins significant for the reproductive system
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