Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Women with PCOS, particularly those with irregular or infrequent periods, have their own particular challenges when it comes to conceiving.  We don’t yet fully understand the causes of PCOS however we do know that certain acupuncture protocols can reduce some of the factors that operate to prevent polycystic ovaries working properly. For example acupuncture reduces testosterone and LH (Luteinising Hormone) levels which promotes the conditions for more frequent ovulation and better quality eggs.

If you have PCOS and are trying to conceive naturally or planning to do IVF, you can benefit from doing a course of acupuncture over 3 to 4 months to improve ovary function and egg quality. For those PCOS patients who do IVF, certain acupuncture protocols during the stimulation phase and after embryo transfer will reduce the risk of hyper-stimulation.  Low intensity gentle electro-acupuncture is applied to points on the abdomen and the legs.

References

Acupuncture for ovulation induction in polycystic ovary syndrome: A randomized controlled trial.

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 Johansson J et al. (2013).  American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism. May 1, 304 (9), E934-43


This trial showed that repeated acupuncture treatments increased ovulation frequency in PCOS patients and abnormally high ovarian and adrenal hormone levels were reduced.

 

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Effects of acupuncture on the outcome of in vitro fertilisation and intracytoplasmic sperm injection in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Rashidi B, H., et al (2013).  Acupuncture in Medicine 31 (2), 151 -156
A group of women with PCOS who were undergoing IVF were given 5 acupuncture treatments once they commenced the IVF drugs. Compared to a group who had no acupuncture they produced higher quality embryos but did not achieve a higher pregnancy rate. In our experience PCOS patients require several months of treatment in order to make a noticeable change in hormone levels and ovary activity.
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Sui, Y., et al.  (2012).  Obesity Reviews. 3, 409–430
PCOS patients are not always overweight but for those with insulin resistance getting on top of weight gain can be difficult. This review reports that in terms of weight loss, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are better than placebo and lifestyle interventions and have similar efficacy to antiobesity drugs (including Metformin), but with fewer side effects. This review also noted that those who used acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine to lose weight had a lower risk of relapse.
True and Sham acupuncture produced similar frequency of ovulation and improved LH to FSH ratios in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
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Pastore L et al, 2011 Jnl Clin Endocrinol Metab Aug online jc.2011-1126 The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism
A reduction in LH levels and an increase in ovulation frequency was found in PCOS women having acupuncture using either real needling or sham needling (which pricks rather than penetrates the acupuncture points in a manner similar to Japanese acupuncture). As we have seen in a couple of other studies reported on these pages, mild stimulation of acupuncture points without penetration is not an inert control. True acupuncture but not sham acupuncture reduced levels of testosterone and insulin in the women who ovulated.

 

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Jedel E et al., (2011). American Journal of Physiology & Endocrinology Metaboloism. 300:(1) E37-E45
This trial found that 4 months of acupuncture effectively reduced testosterone and improved ovulation frequency in PCOS patients, and was superior to exercise in achieving these aims.