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Diminished Ovarian Reserve: Causes, Effects and Acupuncture’s Benefits
When fertility experts talk about ovarian reserve, they’re referring to the number and quality of eggs inside a woman’s ovaries. It’s a rough measure of a woman’s fertility, and roughly tied to the “biological clock” that’s unique to each patient.
Ovarian reserves vary greatly from woman to woman. Some women maintain high egg quantity and quality into their 40s, and some start experiencing issues in their 20s. In the typical woman, though, diminished ovarian reserve doesn’t start impacting fertility until they reach their 30s.
In most cases, though, when a Houston doctor refers to diminished ovarian reserve, they mean that the patient has a lower egg quantity and quality than is normal for their age.
What Does it Mean to Be Diagnosed with Diminished Ovarian Reserve?
If you’ve been diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve, it will impact your chances of getting pregnant. The situation isn’t hopeless, though, because 33 percent of patients are eventually able to get pregnant using their own eggs. That’s according to data from the Center of Reproductive Health. Some studies also show that women diagnosed with the condition have the same chance of conceiving within 12 months of diagnosis, compared to women with normal egg supplies. However, the research still needs to be developed in this area.
There are also a couple of important considerations if you have been diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve and wish to get pregnant. For example:
- It’s important to talk to a fertility expert as soon as possible – If you are diagnosed and wish to get pregnant, it’s recommended that you consult with a fertility expert before moving forward with treatment. If you’re over 40 and are trying to get pregnant, it’s recommended that you schedule this appointment as soon as possible.
- Treatment will likely involve balancing hormone levels – Although the exact causes are unknown, diminished ovarian reserves are typically accompanied by elevated levels of certain hormones. Your treatment will likely include modalities aimed at restoring these hormone levels.
- IVF can be used in conjunction with other diminished ovarian reserve treatments – If you’re receiving treatment for diminished ovarian reserves, you can still undergo in vitro fertilization. In fact, some studies show that treatment can improve the chances of pregnancy in women receiving IVF.
Early diagnosis is important with the condition, and to confirm that diminished ovarian reserve is present, your physician will perform some tests.
How Do Doctors Test for Diminished Ovarian Reserve?
To confirm diminished ovarian reserve, doctors have a couple of standard tests that they may run, including:
- Biomarker testing – Blood and serum testing can determine what your hormone levels look like. This includes follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and anti-mullerian hormone (AMH), both of which indicate how eggs are maturing in the ovaries. These hormones are released as oocytes (the eggs) grow and mature. Too much FSH or too little AMH may indicate fertility problems.
- Ultrasound counting – Your physician may order an ultrasound for you. During the ultrasound, your healthy oocytes will be counted and compared to a healthy baseline. Too few mature oocytes could indicate diminished ovarian capacity.
How Can Acupuncture Help Women with Diminished Ovarian Reserve?
If you are diagnosed, your Houston doctor will likely prescribe hormone supplements. Some research shows that these supplements can increase the likelihood of getting pregnant. In addition to western medical modalities, though, many women seek eastern forms of treatment. This includes herbal therapy and acupuncture, both of which can help women with diminished ovarian reserves. Here’s how:
- Acupuncture can help restore hormone levels for ideal ovarian development – Acupuncture is believed to stimulate the production of many hormones. Several studies suggest that treatment can also stimulate the pituitary gland into correcting FSH levels and helping with better oocyte development.
- Acupuncture can help regulate blood flow into the ovaries and uterus – Another benefit of acupuncture is its ability to improve microcirculation into various organs. As we age, parts of our capillary network narrow and restrict blood flow. This includes blood flow into the ovaries and uterus. Acupuncture can stimulate certain capillaries into dilating and increasing blood flow.
- Acupuncture can improve mental state and reduce stress – Stress is a noted drag on pregnancy chances and reducing negative emotions is part of a fertility treatment regimen. Acupuncture can help with this, as it produces a relaxed mental state that reduces anxiety.
Acupuncture can deliver these benefits without significant risk of side effects. Every needle is lightly inserted into the skin’s top layers, so the chances of adverse effects – minor discomfort, bleeding, or bruising – are minimal. In fact, acupuncture is often used to counter the side effects of drug treatment because of its effectiveness in treating pain, anxiety and GI symptoms.
What About Herbal Therapies for Diminished Ovarian Reserve?
Beneficial botanicals are frequently used in conjunction with acupuncture to achieve better results in patients with diminished ovarian reserves. While more research is needed in this area, several studies show that some herbal mixtures (Cuscutae Semen, Dipsaci Radix, Angelicae Gigantis Radix, etc.) can help balance FSH and AMH. Trained acupuncturists believe that this could be due to how the herbs improve function in certain organs, including the kidneys and spleen.
If You’ve Been Diagnosed with Diminished Ovarian Reserve, Pregnancy is Still Possible
Diminished ovarian reserves can impact fertility, but there are treatments available that can improve your chances of getting pregnant. This includes western and eastern treatments – and together they can improve follicle counts and improve their quality.
If you’re considering a combination of eastern and western modalities, there are Houston practices licensed in both medical philosophies. By teaming up with a dual-licensed Houston practice, patients receive the best fertility treatments that both medical schools have to offer. And every treatment regimen is tailored to the patient, so it’s optimized for your body and health.