Monday, November 30, 2009

Acupuncture for Fertility

Here is a small summary of the use of acupuncture for fertility issues from, October 2009. I was particularly struck by the comment on a study from the British Medical Journal showing nearly twice as many live births for IVF when acupuncture is added.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be used in combination with conventional reproductive medical care or as a primary treatment approach. Acupuncture can be effective for women taking fertility drugs or reproductive technology techniques (such as IVF or IUI). Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine can also be effective as a stand-alone approach to treat infertility for those not undergoing conventional medical treatment. Acupuncture helps to regulate hormonal activity, thus regulating menstruation, ovulation, and pregnancy. A recent study from the British Medical Journal found that among women who received acupuncture and IVF, the pregnancy rates were 65% higher and the rates of live births were nearly twice as high than among women who received IVF with sham acupuncture or no acupuncture.

Acupuncture helps to reduce stress and decrease the hypersympathetic nervous system response. Studies have shown that high stress levels decrease the likelihood of conceiving. Acupuncture has been shown to stimulate chemical changes within the uterine lining, thickening the endometrium, and preparing the uterus for implantation.

In men, acupuncture can improve sperm motility, volume and concentration as well as increase libido. From the perspective of Chinese medicine, optimum fertility enhancement would involve a course of treatments with the aim of nourishing the Kidney Essence and regulating the menstrual cycle as well as clearing any pathogens that may be interfering with the natural process of conception.

Byron Russell

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ancient Chinese Secret May Help Overcome Jet Lag and Insomnia

Many of my fertility patients have jobs that involve regular air travel -- and one of the issues of regular travel is stress, jetlag and insomnia.

Here is an article by Allison Neves on Tango Diva, a website for women travelers. In this article Allison interviews me about the use of Chinese Medicine for treatment of jetlag and discusses her treatment and results. The focus of the article is insomnia resulting specifically from jetlag, but the impact of the treatment is to reduce stress and normalize hormone levels and settle and ground the body. All these things are very important for improving fertility.


As a travel writer, I find myself in and out of different time zones a handful of times each year. I’ve had my occasional bouts with jet lag and usually, within a day or so, all is right with the world and my internal time clock has acclimated. I’ve never experienced anything major when it comes to sleep issues until a trip to London last winter. During that time, I was stuck in what seemed to be a perpetual limbo of two full weeks of sleepless misery. Ever since that trip, my sleep has been an issue. I thought I had tried EVERYTHING… that is until a friend of mine mentioned acupuncture. I had tried acupuncture treatments in the past for facial rejuvenation and chronic neck pain. Both treatments were successful. But I guess it never occurred to me that this ancient Chinese secret just might be the cure to my current ailment.

In my relentless search for a few good Zzzzzzz’s, I enlisted the help of Byron Russell, a San Francisco-based acupuncturist who was not only enthusiastically referred to me by four different people but was also recently named one of the top three acupuncturists in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Chronicle. So, not too shabby, right?

continue reading

Byron Russell

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

UCSF Women's Reproductive Center Mt. Zion

I had a great experience a few days ago -- doing an acupuncture treatment for a patient in the UCSF Women's Health Center at Mt. Zion Hospital. My office is across the street from the UCSF Mt. Zion center; so, I believe I am the closest acupuncturist to their very busy Women's Reproductive Health Center. It is a big office with some of the best fertility experts in the Bay Area, including Dr. Marcelle I. Cedars. She is the Director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and many of my patients have gone to her for help with fertility problems and IUI and IVF procedures, and all speak very highly of her.

The surprise for me was that the Center now keeps a room reserved for use by acupuncturists. Though they don't have their own acupuncturists on staff, they keep space free for patients who want to bring an acupuncturist with them for treatment immediately preceding their IUI and IVF procedures. I got a call from a patient whom I had not seen in a few years who now lives out of the area, but was coming in to San Francisco for her fertility procedures. She asked me to meet her there for a treatment. It was too far away for her current acupuncturist to travel, but very convenient for me to accompany her.

The staff at the center is very friendly and accommodating. My patient was in great spirits and very excited about the procedure. It was interesting to note that her excitement translated into a very wiry (read: STRESSED) pulse. Stress -- even the excited kind -- is not helpful in achieving good fertility results. A forty-five minute electro-acupuncture treatment calmed her pulse and put her in a sleepy, mellow mood for the procedure.

The research on the benefit of acupuncture at the time of fertility procedures is very strong and I'm glad to see fertility centers like UCSF's making space for this in their program. Pacific Fertility does the same thing, and I will be doing an on-site treatment for another of my patients there next month.

Byron Russell

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Stress and Fertility

One of the best things you can do for yourself when dealing with problems in fertility is:

CUT DOWN on the STRESS in your life.

That, of course, is very easy for me to say -- and I say it a lot -- but getting rid of stress can be very hard to accomplish. So, I'd like to mention a few things that can help.

To start with, let's define what stress is. I get quite a few patients (very successful people with demanding jobs, who are well-organized, and who do strenuous exercise daily) who insist they they don't have stress. They don't feel stressed, at all, and they don't want to talk about it. Really, they do NOT want to talk about it.

For these people, the idea of being 'stressed' sounds like a criticism, a suggestion of incompetence -- and that isn't what I mean. Stress in TCM is a bodily reaction to the demands of life. So, someone who is very competent is actually likely to have and to handle more demands, and in a sense, to experience a more stressful life.

So, the first thing to realize is that "being stressed" is not a judgment about your life. Good events can cause stress. Excitement can be stressful. Winning the lottery can be stressful. Getting a promotion can be stressful. Strenuous exercise can be stressful. Any situation that involves change and adaption by your body can be seen as stress -- and it does affect your hormone levels and could affect your fertility.

In a way, that is good, because we want to affect your fertility positively -- through exercise, diet, meditation and attitude, as well as acupuncture and herbs.

What can you do to minimize the effects of a busy and demanding life? Here's an idea: try making space for a baby now. Pretend you already have a child. What do you give up in your life to make time for that? How do you change your work and socializing? Begin making those changes (cutting back) and then use your new free time to relax more, eat better, exercise slowly, and breath. Then take that calmer, more expansive attitude into the rest of your life.

Byron Russell

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sulfa Drugs Linked to Birth Defects

While the most common antibiotics were not linked to birth defects, the study shows that sulfa drugs and nitrofuranritoins were. Something to keep in mind during pregnancy. Here is an excerpt from the article and a link to the full report.

CDC Study Links Two Antibiotics to Birth Defects. No added risk was found, however, for most commonly used infection-fighters

However, the study found that two types of antibiotics were linked with a higher risk for several birth defects: nitrofurantoins and sulfonamides, sometimes called "sulfa drugs," which are prescribed for urinary tract and other infections.

Women whose children had anencephaly, a fatal malformation of the skull and brain, were three times more likely to have taken sulfonamides, the study found. Sulfonamides were also tied to an increased risk for such heart defects as hypoplastic left heart syndrome and coarctation of the aorta, choanal atresia (a blockage of the nasal passage), transverse limb deficiency and diaphragmatic hernia, an abnormal opening in the diaphragm that results in severe breathing difficulties.

Nitrofurantoins were also associated with multiple birth defects, including anophthalmia and microphthalmos (eye defects) and several congenital heart defects. Mothers whose children were born with a cleft lip or cleft palate were twice as likely to have taken nitrofurantoins, the study found.


Byron Russell

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fertility Talk: Propecia May Reduce Male Fertility

One of the goals of this blog is to collect news stories about fertility issues. There certainly is more information out there than anyone can keep track of. But, it is nice to have some of the more unusual or interesting stories collected in one place.

This one surprised me, and is something I could easily see causing problems for some of the couple who come in to see me for fertility issues. Propecia (used to prevent hair loss, and a very commonly prescribed drug)can reduce semen volume and affect fertilty in men.

A back ground quote from NetDoctor:

Primary infertility is an extremely common problem, affecting more than one in seven (15 per cent) couples attempting their first pregnancy. Among those experiencing difficulty with conception, a male fertility problem is considered important in around 40 per cent of couples. In 15 per cent of couples it will be solely a male fertility problem and in around 25 per cent, there will be a problem in both partners.
And a comment from Dr. Turek, one of the leaders in the study and treatment of male infertility:
“The FDA does not require fertility studies of these drugs, and it has been the suspicion of most of us in the field that if you take this drug for more than five years then you might consider stopping it because it does look like a player in decreasing spermatogenesis.”

click below for the full article:
Renal&Urology News

Byron Russell