The term ‘advanced maternal age’ (AMA) is misleading, as women of ‘advanced age’ are in reality quite young, usually in their late 30s or 40s. Strong, confident, capable women who have already lived a full life or two and are now ready to consider expanding their family and having a child. The term ‘advanced maternal age’ is relative though, and it is known that the chances of falling pregnant decrease as we move into our late 30s, and it is accepted that maternal age plays a significant role in egg quality and ovarian reserve. As well, other aspects of a pregnancy can be riskier, including increased rates of gestational diabetes and cesarean birth or hypertension (preeclampsia and eclampsia) and the increased potential of chromosomal defects. This physiological reality can also be very stressful for some women; as a population we are having children much later in life, instead focussing on things like our careers, personal development, and travel – all of which are fantastic but diminish the time we have to conceive. Today, almost one of every five live births in Canada is to a woman age 35 or over, and between 1% – 2% of live births are from women over 40.
Like unexplained infertility, AMA this is a bit of a catch-all phrase that can be usually specified, understood and often overcome with focus and commitment. As Dr. Pentland reminds us in Being Fertile “while it may be easier to get pregnant in your twenties, as long as a woman is still menstruating there is a potential to bear children”. The primary goal of work here is to optimize the quality of the remaining eggs, improve ovarian and uterine environment and nourish reproductive essence. By addressing these aspects of reproductive health we can optimize chances of a healthy pregnancy. Also we work with women to overcome and manage symptoms that may arise during pregnancy, to ensure a healthy baby and the most comfortable and healthiest experience possible for the mother.
How can acupuncture and Chinese medicine help?
1. Optimize the quality of the remaining eggs.
2. Go into detail about finding what is right for each patient in terms of diet, exercise and lifestyle choices.
3. A commitment to acupuncture one to two times per week is necessary until pregnancy is confirmed.
4. Chinese herbal medicine is often necessary in these cases and this treatment can require six to twelve months to begin to display an effect.
5. Support the pregnancy and manage symptoms of diabetes, hypertension or other conditions as they arise.
Acupressure Point for Daily Home Application:
KD3 – Kidney 3 – TaiXi – “Supreme Stream”
Acupressure is a useful and accessible way to treat yourself at home or on the go. Apply firm pressure on the point with your middle finger or thumbs, at a 90 degree angle from the surface of the skin for about 3 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day on both sides. If you find that your fingers are getting weak or sore, you can substitute a golf ball, pencil eraser or other appropriate object.
This point has a strong effect on nourishing Kidney essence and reproductive energy. It is also useful for lower back pain and urological issues.
Take home tips:
1. Take care of yourself and sleep well.
2. If you are having trouble conceiving, try to get a referral to a fertility clinic from your GP. I believe that information about our bodies is important in order to make informed decisions, all with an awareness of the potential outcomes.
3. Exercise for good circulation.
4. Co-enzyme Q10 – there is evidence to show that this supplement improves egg quality.
5. There are new technologies becoming available, such as “Augment”. Developed in Toronto, “Augment” uses stem cell mitochondria to re-energize eggs, improving chances of survival.
6. As Dr. Pentland reminds us in Being Fertile “don’t wait too long to make decisions, as it is well known that age is the single most important determining factor in IVF success”.