“Acupuncture helps the body to rebalance and relax,” says acupuncturist Jane Johnson. The treatment is now being offered at the Cambridge clinic as an option for Bourn Hall’s Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) patients.
It is not unusual for patients to feel anxious ahead of a FET, as it is an important procedure. But this can alert the body’s natural ‘flight or fight’ reaction to stress, leading to the release of the hormone cortisol.
“Acupuncture helps to calm the sympathetic nervous system, and reduce any stressful feelings,” says Jane who has been treating people with fertility issues for over 15 years following her training at the University of Middlesex, a placement in China and post-grad training in fertility.
She is now providing an optional acupuncture service at Bourn Hall Cambridge specifically for FET patients. Patients have an introductory session and then are booked in for two sessions on the same day before and after the embryo transfer.
“I felt it was important for patients to have an introductory session with me so that acupuncture wasn’t another ‘new’ thing happening for them on the day itself,” she explains.
“My treatment room is a large, beautiful room full of light which overlooks the gardens at Bourn Hall Cambridge and is just a short distance down the corridor from the theatre where they will be having their transfer. The aim is for the patient to feel relaxed so that they can take in the loveliness of Bourn Hall and help them feel calm ahead of their treatment.”
Jane says she was approached by Dr Thanos Papathanasiou, CEO and Medical Director at Bourn Hall to see if she would be interested in participating in the clinic’s integrative approach to fertility treatment. Patients are already offered the support of a nutritionist and counselling and he wanted to include the option of acupuncture.
Patients are fully clothed for the acupuncture sessions which involve fine needles being inserted at certain sites in the body to stimulate sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles which can effectively promote a deep sense of relaxation.
“I used to be a yoga teacher and acupuncture can help you to feel how you would after a yoga session, but much quicker,” says Jane. “Some of my patients tell me that they feel an overwhelming sense of wellbeing.
“My previous yoga teaching experience also means that I can also help patients to manage their breathing. Just a few little techniques can really help.”
Acupuncture helped me relax on our fertility journey
Megan found fertility treatment very emotional and mentally draining.
She says: “I started trying acupuncture. It is a bizarre feeling when you are having it done, but I could feel the warmth.”
As a teenager Megan used to have such painful periods that she would pass out. It was only when she came off the pill to try for a baby and pain returned that she was told it could be endometriosis, a common cause of infertility.
Megan and her husband Kyle were referred to Bourn Hall for IVF treatment.
“We got 14 eggs collected and eight fertilised,” says Megan. “My sister has also had IVF and only got two so I knew how lucky I was, but sadly our first embryo transfer failed which was heart-breaking,”
The couple decided to take a break before attempting a frozen embryo transfer and she decided to try acupuncture to help her cope with the stress. “I just wanted to try and give anything a go,” she remembers.
The couple are now parents to Faith after their frozen embryo transfer was a success. “It still feels surreal,” Megan says.
“I would recommend acupuncture to help you relax.”