I recently took a class from Swedish physician scientist Elisabet Stener-Victorin who discussed her research in the effectiveness of using acupuncture to stimulate ovulation in women who have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS.) Dr. Stener-Victorin has been conducting acupuncture research since 1991 with her main focus being the effect of electro-acupuncture (EA) in reproductive medicine both in clinical and experimental studies. She has identified the effect of EA on the sympathetic nervous and endocrine symptoms as well as the immune system. Her lasted study on the effect of EA on PCOS was published in 2012 and you can find the link here.
Symptoms of PCOS vary with each woman but include:
- irregular or no menstrual periods
- male pattern hair loss with hair growth on the face, chest, stomach due to elevated androgens such as testosterone.
- elevated insulin or insulin resistance
- Recurrent miscarriages or difficulty getting pregnant
Dr. Stener-Victorin’s research consisted of one group that was instructed to exercise to lower their BMI as abdominal weight has an effect on hormone production and ratios, one group who only received acupuncture and another who had acupuncture and exercised 3 times a week raising their heart rate to 120 for 30 minutes. 14 treatments with EA at twice a week for two weeks and then once a week for another 8 weeks. Blood work was obtained before the initiation of the treatments, again after the 10 weeks of treatment and then again 4 months later. The study showed that low frequency EA was superior to physical exercise alone but the combination of low frequence EA and exercise had the highest rate of improving menstrual frequency and lowering testosterone. Testosterone levels lowered after the acupuncture treatments and then maintained those levels 4 months after acupuncture had ceased, thereby increasing ovulation and menstrual periods which improved fertility for these women!
It was exciting to see the data and learn the protocols that have been tested for the treatment in PCOS as well as her studies using acupuncture to treat other complex gynecological conditions: hot flashes, pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy, pre and post embryo transfer to increase pregnancy success. Many of these protocols have been used for years by acupuncture fertility specialists so it is encouraging to see the research that backs up our clinical success.