Premature Ovarian Insufficiency;
Could acupuncture preserve your fertility?
Firstly, what is Premature Ovarian Insufficiency NOT?
It is NOT premature menopause.
Women with Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI for the rest of this article) still have functioning ovaries – they’re just only working intermittently. The ovaries are not “deficient” in follicles, they are “deficient” in their ability to function.
Menopause is the very last period (and it can only be identified retroactively after 12 months). Menopause occurs with the follicle store starts to get really low on follicles.
What is Premature Ovarian Insufficiency?
Aka premature ovarian deficiency or primary ovarian failure, it is a condition that effects women under the age of 40.
What is my fertility outlook if I’m diagnosed with POI?
- It is characterised by high levels of estrogen and high sex hormones (LH and FSH).
- It negatively impacts reproductive health and fertility potential
- The symptoms are changes in menstrual cycle – like very long cycles, absent periods, problems sleeping, hot flashes and lack of cervical fluid
- The causes are many, and often unknown
A whole host of pharmalogical and hormone infertility treatments have been studied but there is currently no sufficient evidence determining a gold star treatment option for infertility in POI patients, and currently donor egg is suggested for those TTC.
Could acupuncture help restore fertility?
Research suggests that YES, acupuncture could help.
A 2014 pilot study investigated the use of acupuncture in POI and found promising results. Comparing baseline findings to results after a 3 x weekly, 12 week course of acupuncture, they found;
- Lowered levels of sex hormones - LH and FSH (remember, a high LH and FSH are part of the diagnosis of POI)
- Overall, estrogen levels had dropped
- Decreased stress and anxiety as per a Self Rating Anxiety Scale (SAS)
- Most patients had a reduction in their “menopausal symptoms”.
- 6 of 31 patients resumed menstruation either during the program or in the follow up three months later.
What was the treatment method?
The diagnosis of POI does not exist in traditional Chinese medicine. The researchers chose a treatment method of treating for loss of periods, and used acupuncture points with functions of
How is this study limited?
- reinforcing liver and kidney,
- regulating Qi and blood, and
- calming the mind.
Most studies have some limitations - and it is always important to keep these in mind. This particular study was a pilot study, this means it is kind of a practise run to evaluate the feasibility of running a larger scale examination.
The study had no control group to compare its findings with and has a small sample size. There was also a follow up at 3 months, but no further to investigate pregnancy success.
A larger study with a control group and further follow ups on conception numbers needs to be planned, funded and carried out before we can definitively say that the benefits found extend to conception and are applicable to a larger population.
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