For women who are having difficulties getting pregnant, acupuncture might not be at the top of their list of fertility therapies.
Maybe it should be.
Bonnie Lambert, a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine who works at Align in Camana Bay, has been practising acupuncture since 1996, specialising in women’s health and pain management. She has helped many women successfully conceive over the years.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that has been around for thousands of years, and is useful in addressing a variety of health conditions, including chronic pain, anxiety and, yes, fertility.
Lambert, who currently conducts a fertility enhancement programme at Align, will be hosting an event on 17 October that will outline the comprehensive three-month programme, which includes diet, exercise, lifestyle and acupuncture.
The programme is meant to help women understand and embrace their individual set of circumstances surrounding fertility and is designed to prepare the body for a healthy, natural conception, through a combination of acupuncture, supplements, dietary guidelines and lifestyle management.
“When a woman is trying to conceive there are many factors which can inhibit this, both medical and emotional,” says Lambert.
Some of the conditions that can prevent pregnancies include polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, irregular cycles, advanced age, recurrent miscarriages, unexplained infertility or failed in-vitro fertilisation.
“Chinese medicine looks at each individual’s unique fertility type and lifestyle and determines the root of the problem,” says Lambert. “We will talk about her health history surrounding her reproductive issues as well as any other issues, such as digestive complaints, sleep, energy level, PMS symptoms and immune function.”
The examination methods and treatment options can be much different from those of traditional Western medicine.
“I will also look at her tongue and feel pulses, which gives me an idea of what is going on at a deeper level in the body,” say Lambert. “A treatment plan will be created that includes acupuncture, acupressure, possibly supplements and Chinese herbs.”
Treatments and therapies
A typical acupuncture session runs for about 45 minutes and includes insertion of tiny thin needles into specific points throughout the body to restore balance and enhance the free flow of energy — commonly referred to as “qi” — thereby allowing any stagnated areas to be released.
“The treatments are very relaxing, restorative and connect the mind and body,” says Lambert. “Patients report feeling calmer, energised and clear-headed.”
Treatments also differ depending on where a woman is in her menstrual cycle. The first day of menses is considered “day one” and the cycle includes three phases: follicular, ovulation and luteal.
When it comes to conception, Lambert says that the common Western medicine diagnosis of “unexplained fertility” is seen in Chinese medicine as an “imbalance of energy” and would lead to a diagnosis of “weak spleen qi” or “stagnate liver qi.”
“Or you may just be very stressed out,” Lambert says. “Stress and emotions are of high importance as the mind-body connection is paramount when trying to conceive naturally.”
In addition to acupuncture treatments, the fertility enhancement programme also provides special diet and exercise guidelines based on a woman’s unique set of circumstances, lifestyle and energetic body type. These guidelines can include advising clients to gain a few pounds, to abstain from drinking coffee or alcohol, to avoid rigorous exercise, or to maintain a diet low in carbs.
Lambert also advises clients to download a “period tracker” app, purchase ovulation sticks and keep a basal temperature chart, among other recommendations.
Acupuncture and IVF
Lambert says it’s now considered mainstream to have acupuncture alongside in-vitro fertilisation — or IVF — treatment, and many women living in the Cayman Islands undergo IVF here or abroad.
“Studies have shown increased success rates — up to 50 percent,” says Lambert of the combination treatments. “Acupuncture can increase follicle stimulation and allow for better receptivity during embryo transplantation. Personally, it has been a wonderful way for me to connect eastern and western medicine. I get access to the all the information from the tests — like hormone levels, sonograms and ultrasounds — which enhance my diagnosis and treatment.”
Since moving to Grand Cayman in December 2018, Lambert says three patients from her programme are now carrying babies. She’s also successfully treated women who previously had multiple failed IVF cycles.
“With IVF-acupuncture integration a women gets the best of both worlds — holistic care plus modern medicine,” she says. “It’s been a wonderful journey to be able to help so many on this path.”
“Preparing for Pregnancy” will take place at Align on 17 October from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The cost is CI$25 and includes fertility-enhancing foods, kombucha and raffle prizes. Email [email protected] for reservations or contact Bonnie Lambert at [email protected] for more information on the fertility enhancement programme.
This article originally appeared in the October 2019 print edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline “A pointed path to pregnancy.”