Lammi Lambert is an acupuncturist practicing at Orlando Acupuncture. She is currently the only acupuncturist in the Central Florida area to be Board Certified as a Fellow of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM).She takes great interest in the field of reproductive medicine and gynecological disorders and has experience with both male and female reproductive disorders. She has also extensively studied hormone imbalances and gynecological disorders such as PCOS and endometriosis as potential causes of infertility. Lammi strives to prevent unnecessary hysterectomies that could lead to a greater chance of developing fibromyalgia, as well as premature menopausal symptoms. She draws on her extensive herbal knowledge as well as acupuncture techniques to optimize chances of conception.
Please find more about Lammi and her work at: http://orlandoacupuncture.com/
How does acupuncture help treat infertility?
In a lot of different ways, so it kind of depends on who you ask. You have your traditional
Chinese medicine point of view. Then you've got researchers at Harvard and other research
institutions doing functional MRI scans before and after acupuncture, and you've got
acupuncturists in the field doing research on uterine blood flow. The general consensus is that it
can work by decreasing anxiety levels. Your fallopian tubes have to be able to flex in order to
catch the egg that's been ovulated. So, when you're tense, your fallopian tubes can't flex as
much as maybe they need to, so that's one way in which it can help.
It increases blood flow to the uterus, providing a nice oxygenated atmosphere for the uterine lining to develop. It can help balance out hormone levels. Some studies have shown that it can increase the ATP levels within the mitochondria itself. Women are born with a certain amount of eggs and nothing that acupuncture can do can change that. But it increases the quality of the egg, rather than the quantity.
Who is a good candidate for acupuncture for infertility?
Gosh, who isn't a good candidate? I would say the only person who probably isn't a good candidate is someone of advanced maternal age who is just getting ready to go through menopause. Or if you're looking for natural conception, somebody who has scarred fallopian tubes. Although if you're undergoing in vitro fertilization, acupuncture can help a lot with that.
At what point in someone's infertility journey should they begin acupuncture?
I typically recommend that ideally, you would start three to six months prior to any IVF cycle. Or usually when I see people who are looking to conceive naturally, they've already been struggling for six months to a year, which is medically when the diagnosis of infertility occurs. Acupuncture can help at any point in your journey, but ideally I would say three to six months before looking to conceive. Just to prepare the body.
What are your thoughts on the mind-body connection regarding infertility?
It's interesting, because within Chinese medicine, they say that there is a direct link from the heart to the uterus. The mind-body connection is very important because the decision to have children or not is already kind of a big decision in your life and it can be very stressful. When you're not in the right mindset or you have a lot of anxiety over the process and that can impact your fertility quite a bit.
Are there any special techniques such as moxibustion that you use when treating infertility?
Because of the environment that we're in here, we're in an enclosed building with no external ventilation, we typically don't do moxa here in the office. But moxa has been traditionally used and oftentimes I send my patients home with a stick of moxa to do at home. It can help. Even if you're not looking to get pregnant, it's really good for increasing blood flow, reducing what we can blood stasis, so severe menstrual cramps. There's a condition in Chinese medicine called a cold uterus where everything looks good but for whatever reason, the fertilized egg just won't implant. Moxa can help with that quite a bit as well.
Do you suggest supplements as part of your protocol?
I do in some, everything is on an individual basis. I tend to treat patients, not conditions. In a lot of cases, supplements are warranted. Usually, I say give it a good one to two months. We'll see what happens. Then, depending on their patterns, their signs and symptoms, sometimes I'll suggest traditional Chinese herbal formulas with a few tweaks here and there. Sometimes I'll recommend over the counter supplements, especially in cases with polycystic ovarian syndrome. A lot of times there are elevated levels of testosterone and/or insulin resistance, so I'll recommend something like Myo-inositol or alpha-lipoic acid which can help bring down those testosterone and glucose levels.
Is there anything else that you recommend to complement a patient's treatment?
I usually tell people do whatever works for them. If they enjoy yoga, go to yoga. If they're
experiencing a lot of anxiety, see a therapist. Exercise is always good for increasing blood flow, increasing endorphin levels, bringing down cortisol levels. I tell them to do whatever they need to do to bring their anxiety levels down to make themselves feel good, to get themselves healthier, to get their body ready for pregnancy because pregnancy is not for the faint of heart.
How many of your patients use acupuncture in addition to medical treatment?
I would say it's maybe a 60/40 split. 60 percent of my infertility patients are undergoing some kind of medical procedure or seeing a reproductive endocrinologist, whether it's for just additional medical testing or going through IUI or full IVF. Although I do have quite a few who say, “I don't want to take all the hormones, I just want to see what happens naturally.”
What kind of success have you seen working with infertility patients?
My personal experience has been mixed, I'll be honest. The reproductive system is very complex and it can be very complicated, and everything can look fine and you still for whatever reason just can't get pregnant. Of my patients who chose not to undergo any additional therapies, any assisted medical therapies, I would say about 50 percent of them have gotten pregnant on their own.
There have been studies done on patients who have gone through full IVF cycles. Back in 2002, the Paulus Protocol was published in an issue of Fertility and Sterility, which showed that of the group that underwent acupuncture right before and right after embryo transfer, almost 46 percent of them were successful versus I believe 24 percent in the control group.
Do you treat men?
Even within conventional medical testing, a lot of times because of how easy it is to manipulate women's cycles versus men who are constantly producing sperm, it's typically easier for reproductive endocrinologists to work primarily with women. Especially with the advent of ICSI, or intracytoplasmic sperm injection, even severe male factor infertility can kind of be overcome. So the short answer is yes, I do work with men to improve the quality of their sperm, but compared to women it's a very, very small percentage.
Can you describe a typical visit for someone taking acupuncture for infertility? Is there a typical visit?
We usually start with the history, and it's a pretty comprehensive intake. It can sometimes be a little bit uncomfortable because we go into, you know, do they have any history of sexually transmitted diseases, and if it’s a heterosexual couple looking to get pregnant, what is their sex life like? I do have a few same-sex couples who come in looking to get pregnant as well. But we generally go over their menstrual cycles, their age, any testing that they've had, the quality of the menstrual blood, any clotting, cramping, pre-menstrual symptoms. It can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half.
What do you wish all patients knew before coming to an appointment?
That there's no reason to be ashamed. A lot of people struggle with infertility but it's still kind of
considered a personal failing, which is absolutely not the case. That and the needles don't hurt as much as you think they will.
Why do you think there is shame surrounding infertility and pregnancy loss?
I think women, especially, tend to internalize things. They consider it a personal failing, that they can't get pregnant. That they can't carry a pregnancy to term. When the reality is, it's complicated. It's not just them. It is a very personal experience. But there's no fault.
Are there any misconceptions about acupuncture for infertility or in general that you'd like to put to rest?
That we don't actually put needles in the area of the genitalia itself! That every case of infertility is different. Everybody's experience is different. The treatment that you get is going to vary depending on your personal circumstances.
What are the top three most frequently asked questions you hear from fertility patients?
The top one is, how long is it going to take? There's really no easy answer to that one. It could be one month, it could be three months, it could be a year or more. Although usually after three months, if they haven't achieved a pregnancy I usually recommend additional testing and then six to eight months after that I usually recommend that they talk to a reproductive endocrinologist, if they haven't already.
Another question that I get a lot of times is, if I do get pregnant, is it safe to use while I'm pregnant? The answer is absolutely yes. Acupuncture can help strengthen a pregnancy as well as alleviate some of the symptoms of early pregnancy, like morning sickness and fatigue.
What is your favorite thing about working with your patients?
By far the favorite thing is getting to know them, hearing their stories, and then, ideally, seeing
their success. Because it's a big, emotional roller coaster for everybody. As much as you try to separate yourself from it, when they're frustrated or when they're kind of at their wit's end, or conversely when they've achieved this amazing success, you feel for them. That's by far the favorite thing about working with my patients. Not just for infertility. I do see quite a few infertility patients but historically, the majority of my patients have been pain relief and stress relief.
The American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine is an organization, “devoted to teaching, research, and the practice of Oriental Medicine as it relates to the treatment of reproductive disorders.” Lammi Lambert, AP, FABORM, explains that the ABORM was founded in order to educate others about the use of Oriental Medicine in the reproductive field, and to bring about a more comprehensive collaboration between traditional medical practitioners and Qualified Practitioners utilizing Oriental Medicine.
Practitioners utilizing Oriental Medicine.