Fertility issues can be devastating and frustrating when you feel like you’ve tried everything. One modality you may not have considered yet is acupuncture – a scientifically-backed modality that can not only help with fertility issues but can also assist with a multitude of conditions, including inflammation and stress.
Claire Norton is an acupuncturist who specializes in fertility for couples. You can learn more about Claire and her work here:
About Claire and her work:
I’m a licensed acupuncturist and a member of the British Acupuncture council. Before its closure, I was awarded a degree in acupuncture from the College of Traditional Acupuncture, the oldest acupuncture college in Europe. I also hold an advanced diploma in fertility support and have over 12 years of experience in acupuncture and supporting women in their fertility journeys.
My specialism chose me, and after years of practice, I noticed that most of my clients were coming to me for fertility support and gynecological issues. To support my patients, I focused my CPD and post-graduate training on deepening my knowledge and skill set in this field. Helping couples and individuals grow their families is a lovely and rewarding aspect of my work. Then, through my fertility challenges, I gained a whole new perspective. I became even more determined to support people on their fertility journey.
I have had the opportunity to work with the most incredible women, it’s an honor to be a part of their journey. Uncovering a potential cause or reason for the patient’s fertility struggle, especially when it’s treatable and can restore fertility. It’s beyond rewarding when a fertility client shares the joy of pregnancy and birth.
All about acupuncture:
Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points to facilitate a healing response. But, I hope you can see so much more to what we do from the end of this.
Initially, I take the time to find out which investigations have been carried out and to understand where the patient is on their fertility journey. This will involve reading through blood tests, semen analysis, and any scans should the patient have had this level of investigation.
Then, taking the patient’s full health history, menstrual information, secondary complaints, and family history enables me to create a working diagnosis. In Chinese medicine, we use tongue and pulse diagnosis to inform our treatment and other information and physical examinations.
Then, acupuncture points are carefully selected based on the patient’s constitution and considering all information gathered. Sometimes they are retained for a short amount of time, sometimes they are inserted, stimulated, and removed, and sometimes a combination of both methods. In addition to acupuncture, I may use appropriate auxiliary techniques such as moxibustion, Gua sha, cupping, infrared devices, red light therapy, and ear seeds and offer dietary and lifestyle recommendations.
How acupuncture can help:
Acupuncture can be helpful for many conditions, from acute and chronic pain conditions, mental health struggles, menstrual disorders, allergic rhinitis, and pregnancy care to chemotherapy-induced nausea.
How does acupuncture work? The effects of acupuncture can be attributed to mechanisms such as (but not limited to) the release of endorphins, adenosine, and nitric oxide, the regulation of the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, the modulation of parasympathetic activity, and also the modulation of the immune system.
But, that’s just the needles!
When using adjunctive methods, for example, gua sha (which I often use), we can create additional positive biochemical changes. Mainly, up-regulation of heme oxygenase 1 (HO1), this gene significantly reduces inflammation, modulates the immune system, and offers cytoprotection against oxidative stress.
Acupuncture can help reduce stress and anxiety, and if we look at stress alone we can understand the inflammatory response stress has on the body. Imagine an anxious patient who may be struggling to sleep, prolonged lack of sleep can lead to chronic, systemic, low-grade inflammation and contribute to an increased risk of various conditions such as:
- Weight gain
- Fertility issues
- Heart disease
Improving just one complaint, such as a patient’s anxiety or sleep experience, can therefore have HUGE benefits on overall well-being.
In terms of styles, my initial training was in Five Element acupuncture, and I was lucky enough to obtain my degree from the college of traditional acupuncture, considered the western ‘home’ of Five Element acupuncture. This has always been a part of my training and treatment method, but not exclusively. Regarding adjunctive techniques, I’m a huge fan of gua sha and photobiomodulation. My patients love it too!
From the patient’s point of view:
Generally relaxing. I’ve asked my patients to share their experiences, and they have all commented on how relaxed they feel after treatment. I often hear from patients, ‘I feel better in general, and I can’t put my finger on it.’
[Skepticism is] an outdated opinion as acupuncture is evidence-based, and a growing body of research shows positive effects. It is undeniable that scientifically there is a biochemical change from simply inserting a needle into an acupuncture point. We have to look at acupuncture in relation to current treatments available and ask if it outperforms current treatment strategies or even provides a similar cost-effective solution or a beneficial adjunctive therapy.
We have doctors training and offering acupuncture, and skeptics are less skeptical when discussing acupuncture with doctors and consultants who are pro-acupuncture.
That being said, I don’t tend to attract skeptical patients. I prefer to work with clients on board with my strategy and invest in their care. I do, however, find it quite amusing when I have a secret skeptic who shares their surprise when they do have miraculous results, especially if it’s instant, like in the case of pain relief.
Claire’s overall health and well-being tips:
Prioritize your sleep,
Eat the rainbow in terms of fresh fruits and vegetables (ideally organic)
Avoid plastic containers/ bottles (especially those heated or washed in a dishwasher). Opt for glass storage and cooking containers, and stainless steel bottles.
Get out in nature, often.
Claire’s advice to someone who is struggling with fertility:
It’s not often I come across a patient who really has had ‘all the tests’ to get to the bottom of fertility issues. More often than not, I see couples where the female has had some investigations and the partner has had a basic semen analysis, if anything at all. Male factor infertility can account for 40-50 percent of infertility cases, but the focus is often on her. Couples spend thousands on IVF when the issue was an undiagnosed and repairable varicocele.
Claire’s recommended resources:
- Rebecca Fett- it all starts with the egg
- Alan beer- is your body baby friendly
- Shanna Swan- Countdown
Interested in trying acupuncture to reduce inflammation, stress, or even to improve fertility but have a fear of needles? No problem! Claire Norton’s patients report that the entire experience is very relaxing and feel rejuvenated afterward.
Acupuncture is a time-tested modality that is also backed by science and can be beneficial for a multitude of conditions. Learn more about Claire and her work by visiting her website and Instagram page below:
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