Advances in reproductive medicine these past two decades have offered women the incredible option of fertility preservation by way of freezing their eggs. The benefit extends from women preparing for cancer treatment to those that just want to leave their family planning options open for later on. In all circumstances it can relieve some of the pressures around our biological clock, and the known decline in egg health that takes place as we age.
If you’re considering freezing your eggs there are some steps you can take to improve your overall health that will benefit how your body responds to the medical process.
So what can be done to maximize this egg freezing process for the best possible outcome?
Most women planning to freeze their eggs:
- Have no known fertility issues at the time
- Are likely on the younger side
- They may have done some fertility testing to reveal a low AMH level (diminished ovarian reserve), which is a measure of how well your ovaries are producing eggs (the higher the number for certain age group, the better).
In either scenario, there is no true way to gauge a woman’s egg health. That means it’s all the more an important factor to keep in mind for the egg freezing cycle outcome. What we know is that the 90 days leading up to any ovulation cycle are impacted by environmental influences, which can be strongly positive or negative depending on your lifestyle and dietary habits.
We also know that the quality of developing eggs in that 3 months time can be greatly improved by:
- acupuncture treatment
- herbal support
- diet & nutrition
In my 12+ years of experience in supporting women with fertility issues, I've seen this to be true time and time again, with notable positive changes taking place from adjustments to diet/lifestyle and the incorporation of hands on care.
Keep in mind that the initial process of IVF - ie. hormonal stimulation of the ovaries to harvest eggs for extraction - is exactly the same process in egg freezing. It’s just the second step that’s different, instead of fertilizing and creating an embryo(s) the eggs are frozen and stored away for later use.
You don't just want to get as many eggs as possible for the freezing process, though a high yield is great, but you want to make sure they are of quality so the steps the eggs go through later on - ie. freezing, storing, thawing, fertilizing, and eventually developing into healthy embryos - all happen smoothly.
The growing body of research around acupuncture benefiting IVF (and thus egg freezing) is profound. The data show how acupuncture and a “whole systems” approach of Chinese medicine (including herbal medicine, dietary, and lifestyle recommendations) strongly increases live pregnancy rates in IVF (i)(ii), indicating improved outcomes due to the benefit on the reproductive environment.
A large literature review of RCTs (randomized control trials) concluded that there are 4 mechanisms by which acupuncture improves IVF outcomes; modulating neuro-endocrinological factors (this basically means how the nervous system interacts with the endocrine system, ie. stress affecting your hormones); increasing blood flow to the uterus and ovaries (this is a tremendous benefit!); modulating cytokines (regulating immune system and inflammation); and reducing stress, anxiety, and depression (we need that!).(iii)
What this is telling us is that acupuncture and Chinese medicine can positively affect how the body communicates, mitigate how stress impacts your hormones, and improve circulation to your very precious reproductive tract. All these factors provide an enriched pelvic environment, due to more nutrient influx from improved blood flow to the ovaries, and a robust system better able to respond when medications are introduced that will put your ovaries to work!
What’s the plan?
Much like my 3 Month Holistic Fertility Plan the goal is to create a vibrant program to optimize egg health in the 3 month lead up to egg freezing. This involves arming you with a nutrient dense diet, quality supplements, the right forms of movement, regular acupuncture, customized herbal formulas, and a guide for cleaning up your home of endocrine disrupting chemicals.
This plan also allows for ample time to deal with any apparent hormonal imbalances - which can greatly interfere with how you respond to the egg freezing process - as well as resolving painful periods, addressing gut health issues, sleep, stress management, and any other fine tuning your system may need.
Ensuring healthy eggs in the ways available to us improves outcomes later on. Remember the eggs that get frozen still have to one day thaw, get fertilized, and transform into healthy embryos. There are no guarantees when it comes to fertility, but there are options and opportunities, and there is piece of mind in knowing “I gave it my absolute best.”
Who is this appropriate for?
Anyone looking to maximize their egg freezing cycles and fertility, whatever their current situation. Our focus is to set up your egg freezing plan in a way that’s accessible and empowering for you in the short and long term.
(i)Hullender Rubin, L. E., Opsahl, M. S., Wiemer, K. E., Mist, S. D., & Caughey, A. B. (2015). Impact of whole systems traditional Chinese medicine on in-vitro fertilization outcomes. Reproductive biomedicine online, 30(6), 602–612. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rbmo.2015.02.005
(ii)Zheng, C. H., Zhang, M. M., Huang, G. Y., & Wang, W. (2012). The role of acupuncture in assisted reproductive technology. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2012, 543924. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/543924
(iii)Anderson, B. J., Haimovici, F., Ginsburg, E. S., Schust, D. J., & Wayne, P. M. (2007). In vitro fertilization and acupuncture: clinical efficacy and mechanistic basis. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 13(3), 38–48.