Fertility acupuncture and Chinese medicine in Brisbane for pre-conception care to support optimal reproductive health
What is fertility acupuncture and what distinguishes it from other acupuncture?
Fertility acupuncture is a concept – a style of clinical practice – that involves Peter Kington, an experienced and registered acupuncturist in Brisbane, creating a Chinese medicine diagnosis, which is based on your unique presentation of signs and symptoms.
Who would benefit from fertility acupuncture?
Fertility acupuncture may be of benefit to women (and couples) who:
- have been trying to conceive without success
- have been given a medical diagnosis which might impact conception
- identify issues with their menstrual cycle which bother them or cause distress or discomfort
- are about to undergo assisted reproduction with ovulation stimulation or IVF
If your situation involves male factor fertility issues this page will be of interest to you.
It is important to always remember that the fertility acupuncture practitioner, while interested in your medical diagnosis, does not rely on your medical diagnosis (for example PCOS or endometriosis or uterine fibroid) as your cause of disease.
The primary instrument for the fertility acupuncture practitioner is the Chinese medicine diagnosis which is based on careful analysis of your presenting signs and symptoms.
What is a Chinese medicine diagnosis and how does it relate to fertility acupuncture?
The Chinese medicine diagnosis is unique to the practice of acupuncture, fertility acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
The Chinese medicine diagnosis is individualised and unique to each person. It does not replace a medical diagnosis (read below to understand the difference between the two) but it sits alongside the medical diagnosis and gives the fertility acupuncture practitioner a framework to work within.
The Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has some excellent information for patients and prospective patients about the medical approach to the treatment of infertility, but for the purposes of this page the focus is exclusively on Chinese medicine and fertility acupuncture.
The fertility acupuncture-gynaecology focused Chinese medicine diagnosis will involve enquiry around:
- The timing of menstruation: this relates to the predictability of your period and the overall length of your menstrual cycle: is your cycle short, long or unpredictable?
- The volume of menstruation: this relates to the pattern of your menstrual flow. How often do you change your pad or tampon on your heaviest day or days? How many days do you bleed? Is your period heavy, moderate or light and have you observed any changes in your menstrual flow over the preceding weeks and months?
- The colour of your menstrual blood: blood is blood, right? Well, yes, that is true but fertility acupuncture practitioners look for discrete changes in the colour of your blood across the menstrual bleed – is it dark like plum jam or is it pale pink like a rose? The colour of the blood tells us – from a Chinese medicine perspective – a little bit about the uterine lining.
- Menstrual pain: Peter will ask questions about the timing of pain (before, during or after menstruation), the nature of pain (dull, stabbing, constant or intermittent) and the location of the pain (in the belly or lower back, in the thighs or somewhere else).
- How you feel before your period comes: this time is known as the ‘pre menstrual phase’ and Peter will be interested to know if you experience any regular or predictable signs and symptoms at this time. These changes might include headache, irritability, a glum mood or tears, abdominal bloating or changes in how your bowels function.
Because Peter works in a holistic framework, he will also ask questions about other aspects of your health and well-being. The information will add to and confirm his overall Chinese medicine diagnosis which will inform how he proceeds with therapy.
When you say the Chinese medicine diagnosis doesn’t replace a medical diagnosis, but ‘sits alongside it’, what do you mean?
In fertility acupuncture and Chinese medicine, the concept of infertility is also known as Bu Yun Zheng and has been a part of the theory of Chinese medicine since at least the Shang dynasty (1500BC – 1000BC). It is considered, more broadly, as a gynaecological disorder. Gynaecological disorders are known as Fu Ke.
In Chinese medicine, ’infertility (Bu Yun Zheng)’ is classified as a menstrual disease but this is a very broad classification and requires sub-classification based on signs and symptoms.
Fertility acupuncturists and Chinese medicine practitioners look for patterns of signs and symptoms and they recast those patterns of signs and symptoms into ‘main complaints’.
In each diagnosis there may be more than one ‘main complaint’. For example, someone with unknown infertility (a medical diagnosis) might have a Chinese medicine diagnosis of ‘sometimes early and sometimes late menstruation (Yue Jing Qian Hou Wu Ding Qi)’ and ‘scanty menstruation (Yue Jing Guo Shao)’.
A western medical diagnosis is of interest to a fertility acupuncture practitioner but it doesn’t change the way we might use acupuncture to support you. Here are some more examples to help explain this concept:
- Disorders of ovulation caused by PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), PCO (polycystic ovaries).
In Chinese medicine, the fertility acupuncture practitioner is more interested in how PCOS might manifest in that woman.
If her ‘main complaint’ is that she does not menstruate then her Chinese medicine diagnosis would be ‘menstrual block (Jing Bi)’ and this diagnosis would be supported by the classification of signs and symptoms.
Therefore, the PCOS isn’t being addressed per se, rather the unique presentation of signs and symptoms is what is addressed.
- Endometriosis characterised by period pain and heavy periods
The western medical diagnosis of endometriosis might guide Peter in his line of questioning, because he understands what endometriosis is, but of greater interest to him will be how the endometriosis impacts this particular woman.
If period pain and heavy periods were the main complaints this woman is experiencing, the Chinese medicine diagnosis will be ‘painful menstruation (Tong Jing)’ and ‘excessive menstruation (Yue jing Guo Duo)’.
Therefore, in a woman who is experiencing endometriosis, the focus is not on the endometriosis rather how that presents according to the traditional classification of signs and symptoms in the Chinese medicine diagnostic process in that woman.
- Early menopause or intermittent ovarian failure in women of an age where menopause may not be expected
In Chinese medicine there is a classification of disease called ‘menopausal syndrome (and it’s Chinese name is a real mouthful – Jue Jing Qian Hou Zhu Zheng)’. The main symptom associated with the Chinese medicine classification of menopausal syndrome is the presence of hot flushes.
If, in a woman with a medical diagnosis of early menopause or intermittent ovarian failure, there are no hot flushes then the Chinese medicine diagnosis might be more one of ‘menstrual block (Jing Bi)’.
This is a good example of how the medical diagnosis, while useful, is not essential to the fertility acupuncture and Chinese medicine practitioner.
Similarly, Uterine fibroids which can cause discomfort and heavy periods might be ‘excessive menstruation (Yue Jing Guo Duo)’ and ‘painful menstruation (Tong Jing)’.
In addition to disorders associated with menstruation, the Chinese medicine disease states relate to broader areas too – not necessarily associated with infertility
- PMS (premenstrual syndrome) or PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) including all the usual signs and symptoms associated with this time in the cycle, are classified in Chinese medicine as ‘menstrual movement breast distention and pain (Jing Xing Ru Fang Zhang Tong)’
- Primary dysmenorrhoea or period pain (functional pathology not associated with endometriosis or some other cause of disease) is also classified as ‘painful menstruation (Tong Jing)’ as Chinese medicine does not distinguish between primary and secondary dysmenorrhoea.
Once all the signs and symptoms are classified and a Chinese medicine diagnosis has been created, what happens next?
The Chinese medicine diagnosis then guides Peter in which fertility acupuncture points he selects and where appropriate, which Chinese herbal formula he might recommend.
A word about evidence and treatment claims
The most important thing to understand about fertility acupuncture is that it is not a therapeutic claim to cure or treat infertility or fertility problems.
The distinction for the fertility acupuncture practitioner is that therapy is targeted towards the unique presentation of signs and symptoms associated with the Chinese medicine diagnosis.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine research is an emerging area. At the moment, the best we can say is that the evidence is unclear around the role of fertility acupuncture.
To the casual observer, this might seem odd given the long history of acupuncture and Chinese medicine being used for gynaecology and fertility related conditions. But there is a reason for the distinction…
The gold standard for research is a systematic review. There has not been enough data gathered for any robust systematic review to be published in this area and where such data exists, often the study size is too small or research methodology poor.
More information on the role of evidence in acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be found on the FAQ page of this website.
 While there are many texts available which discuss the Chinese medicine approach to gynaecology or fertility, an example (and the one used to inform this page) is Ting-liang Z, Flaws B. A Handbook of Traditional Chinese Gynecology (sic). 1995 (fourth revised edition).
 Smith CA, et al. Acupuncture for period pain. Cochrane Library. 2016. [accessed, 21 February, 2018: http://www.cochrane.org/CD007854/MENSTR_acupuncture-period-pain]