The importance of blood for fertility
In Chinese Medicine we think and talk a lot about blood. It’s essential for all of life and without adequate amounts, or if it can’t flow smoothly, we struggle to make, sustain or adequately grow another life. Some of the obvious signs we frequently see in the clinic include thin uterine linings, endometriosis, adenomyosis and periods which are short and light or heavy and clotty.
Disharmony in the blood can result from a variety of factors which can deplete the blood so there is not enough of it or disrupts its flow. These can include long-term contraceptive use, working long hours, lack of sleep, excessive exercise, poor diet, and certain medications (including clomid).
The good news is that blood can be replenished and it’s flow can be restored. In our clinic we use acupuncture, supplements, and dietary and lifestyle advice to help you do this. There is no one treatment or piece of advice for everyone as all our treatments are tailored to the individual.
Acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow to the uterus which may help your endometrium to grow and thicken. Endometrial lining thickness is associated with positive pregnancies. Clinical pregnancies and live birth rates increase linearly with the increasing thickness of the endometrium.
Studies which measured the uterine artery blood flow between control and electroacupuncture groups have shown uterine blood flow impedance (resistance in the blood flow) is reduced in the acupuncture group. It is hard to determine if these results assist in our practice, as one study did not find this increased pregnancy rates (1) and the other did not measure the endometrial thickness (2). In another small study, 4 women who previously had inadequate uterine linings received both acupuncture and vaginal viagra. All 4 women developed a uterine lining of greater than 9mm (including those who had taken viagra in previous cycles without success) (3). In 2013, a randomised controlled trial was published that showed women who received acupuncture during the stimulation phase of their IVF cycle had significantly thicker endometrial linings compared to the control and sham group (10.3mm vs 8.7mm vs 8.5mm) (4). All these study have been very small but do demonstrate that acupuncture may help the thickness of your lining.
There are also several supplements which have been researched and some have shown to increase endometrial lining, including Vitamin E and L-arginine. We have also found anecdoctally that small actions can help some women grow their endometrial lining to a thickness adequate for embryo transfer, such as applying heat packs and eating pomegranates.
We may ask you to start or adjust an exercise program. Some women over-exercise which can deplete their bodies of nutrients and energy. We would suggest these women tone down their exercise regimes. Other women need to get out there and get their bodies and blood moving! We can help you get and stay motivated if that’s what you require.
Lastly, we often recommend dietary changes. One piece of dietary advice which will help all clients is a good whole food based diet. Whole foods can be defined as unprocessed or unrefined foods with few or no additives. Essentially, they are the foods you buy from the markets, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and meats. Depending on the particular client we may also suggest a diet with more cooked or raw foods. This is because how foods are cooked and the method with which they are cooked affects how readily they are digested and absorbed. For example, foods cooked in a slow-cooker are already partly broken down and, therefore, more easily digested making them preferable for someone who is blood-deficient.
Good blood-building foods include meat (red meat and poultry), stocks, bone broths, eggs, legumes, grains, green leafy vegetables, beetroots, carrot, mushrooms and sweet potato.
1. Ho M, Huang LC, Chang YY, et al. Electroacupuncture reduces uterine artery blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries in infertile women. Taiwan J Obstruct Gynecol 2009;48:148-51, http://www.tjog-online.com/article/S1028-4559(09)60276-X/pdf
2. Stener_Victorin E, Walderstrom U, Anderson SA, et al. Reduction of bood flow impendance in the uterine arteries of infertile women with electroacupuncture. Human Reproduction 1996;11:1314-7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8671446
3. Yu W, Horn B, Acacio B, et al. A pilot study evaluating the combination of acupuncture with sildenafil on endometrial thickness. Fertility & Sterility 2007;87:23.
4. Isoyama Manca di Villahermosa D, Dos Santos LG, Nogueira MB, et al. Influence of acupuncture on the outcomes of in vitro fertilisation when embryo implantation has failed: a prospective randomised controlled clinical trial. Acupuncture Medicine 2013;31:157-61.