This article pertains to women who do not respond to medicated hormonal drugs and have normal FSH levels. If you have high FSH levels, please click here.

Sally is 34yrs, gets her period regularly and her FSH is 7. She has been trying to conceive for 2 years. In her first IVF cycle she only had 2 mature follicles. In the second cycle, Sally produced 1 mature follicle. Her doctor informed Sally she has ovarian insufficiency, the beginning stage of premature ovarian failure. Can a young woman with a regular cycle, have problems producing follicles? Sally is frustrated with IVF and angry at her body for deceiving her with regular menstrual cycles.

This is a common hurdle for some women. Though IVF is very effective, Western medicine has limited methods to stimulate the ovaries. Even with large doses of fertility drugs, the ovaries can be unresponsive and follicles do not mature. Thus, women can end up with the diagnosis of POF or the poor responder. Though it is still under debate, it is believed that some fertility drugs given to poor responders can degrade the quality of their follicles, which can complicate the problem. When women don’t respond appropriately they are told to move onto the process of donor egg.

Unfortunately, Western medicine does not understand all the dynamics of follicular growth and current medicines cannot stimulate all follicular growth pathways. Thus couples are labeled the “poor responder” but they only poorly respond to Western drugs. One example would be a pathway involving hormones fluctuate within the pituitary-hypothalamus-ovarian axis sending inadequate messages in the ovaries, creating follicles that cannot be stimulated by medical drugs.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs provide a treatment option for women who have a poor response to drug protocols.

From a combined perspective of Chinese medicine philosophy and modern medicine, ovarian insufficiency can be a lack of communication between the brain, the pituitary gland and ovaries resulting in follicles that are poorly stimulated by internal hormones and enzymes. Pathways for follicular growth are seen as energetic channels that need balancing and enhancing for optimal development. For women with the above diagnosis, treatment involves encouraging proper signaling along the HPA and supporting appropriate developmental pathways. Acupuncture has been clinically proven to enhance the sensitivity of ovaries through increased pelvic flow and hormonal circulation, thus potentially impacting fertility. With regular treatment women have a chance of improving the number of follicles produced during IVF or conceiving naturally.

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