Acupuncture for Endometriosis:

By Dr. Daniel N. Lee, L.Ac, OMD, Ph.D.

Endometriosis can be one of the major causes of infertility.  Many women who failed multiple artificial inseminations and IVF cycles had various degrees of endometriosis– diagnosed or undiagnosed.  Dr. Lee has helped hundreds of these woman reclaim their fertility with his time-tested protocol of acupuncture and Chinese herbs.

What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is the presence of endometrial cells (which make up the inner lining of the uterus) outside of the uterus in the pelvic cavity.

What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
The common symptoms are menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), severe ovulation cramps, difficult or painful intercourse (dyspareunia), prolonged menstrual bleeding, lower back pain, irregular bowel movements, nausea and vomiting in severe cases.  Not everyone who has endometriosis experiences menstrual pain.

Why should I care about endometriosis if taking 4 Advil can take away the pain?
True, it is easy to take away the pain, but it is hard to overcome infertility and to avoid miscarriage.  The reason is that the uterine environment becomes unfavorable to sperm, eggs and embryos when our body’s immune cells (such as large white blood cells called macrophages) start to clean these normal endometrial cells in the abnormal places.  The immune cells, once activated, will become “mad” and start to destroy other normal cells such as sperm and even live embryos.  Medically, it is called auto-immune disease or “terminators on the loose”.  This is where acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help.

What are the treatments for endometriosis?
The common western treatments include birth control pills, lupron and laparoscopy.

Taking birth control pills will diminish the menstrual cramps by temporarily putting the endometrial cells on a “diet”.  But, these hungry cells will have a feast when you try to get pregnant on your own, and even worse when you try to develop more eggs with stimulation drugs.  Lupron will try to starve these endometrial cells to its death-bed by putting woman in temporary menopause.  It is impractical for the treatment of infertility.

Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure to diagnose and to have a chance to remove some to most of the visible large colonies (implants) of the endometrial cells, adhesions, and cysts.  It involves inserting 3 long metal straws into abdominal cavity under general anesthesia.  Patients often experience a reduction of menstrual cramps from zero to complete elimination of the cramps while maintaining their regular menstrual cycle.  The difficulty lies in cases in which the endometrial cells are invisible or they reside on the ovaries where the eggs are stored.  When they are invisible, there will be no removal.  When they are located on top of the ovaries, they are gently scarcely burned or lasered off, with the main goal of preserving the eggs as the physician’s first priority.   In such cases, the fertility outcome may only improve a little.  This leads to some physicians into thinking that endometriosis does not cause infertility.  Others, like Dr. Lee, believe that such lack of improvement of fertility is due to the limited ability to remove all the endometrial cells outside the uterus.  Let’s look into acupuncture.

Dr. Lee’s acupuncture treatment of endometriosis.
Armed with knowledge from over 2000 years of Chinese medical literature and research on acupuncture and Chinese herbs, Dr. Lee has developed a comprehensive and effective set of acupuncture points and Chinese herbal treatments to reduce or eliminate menstrual cramps while maintaining regular menstrual cycles for both fertile patients as well as for infertile patients, in order to improve their chances of getting pregnant either on their own or with IVF, and to maintain the pregnancy.   The principle he applies is that of achieving and maintaining the optimal balance for fertility.  Examination with Traditional Chinese Medicine does not always show a clear pattern of imbalance for people with endometriosis.

As discussed earlier, some patents with endometriosis may not have cramps at all.  Unseen immunologic factors, excessive activated macrophages, interleukin-1, and TNF (tumor necroses factors) are invisible to state of the art ultrasound imaging and is very difficult and clinically impractical to detect.  But, fortunately, our body gives out some subtle signs.  Dr. Lee has extensive knowledge and experience in searching and detecting such subtle signs and has developed an effective combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs.

One of the important goals of using acupuncture for treating endometriosis is to achieve and to maintain the maximum uterine blood flow, and to reduce the overactive immune response– thus providing a “friendly” environment to achieve pregnancy and prevent miscarriages.  Patients can help their reproductive endocrinologists by getting themselves “optimized” first before the next artificial insemination or IVF cycles.  One of the many aspects of being ready is the reduction or elimination of menstrual cramps.  Many of Dr. Lee’s patients became pregnant with his comprehensive approach, despite multiple failures of insemination and IVF cycles. The lesson learned from many of his patients consistently point to the necessity of being optimized is in the long run, the quicker way of achieving and maintaining pregnancy – even though it may take 3 to 6 months to achieve the optimized state.

There are no hormones used in Dr. Lee’s acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatment protocol.  Most of the time, patients will stop taking the herbs before the start of IUI or IVF cycles.  But, acupuncture will continue during and after the cycles.

Acupuncture for Endometriosis in Action:

2010 Record: A 39 y.o. began to see Dr. Lee after failing 10 IVFs.  Yes. Ten IVFs.  She saw 2 other acupuncturists without success due to lack of focus of the underlying cause.  Dr. Lee diagnosed her with immune rejection of embryos as result of severe endometriosis.   After seeing Dr. Lee for acupuncture and herbs for 3 months to decrease endometriosis, she got pregnant with twins from another IVF and delivered the twins in Sept. 2010.

Pregnancies with IUI or IVF and Acupuncture
Acupuncture for infertility in action in 2006. 02/9/06 update.
A 38-yr-old patient from Orange County who had failed 4 IVF cycles prior to seeing Dr. Lee.  She had both of her tubes removed due to severe endometriosis. So IVF was her only way to get pregnant.  She had only 4 treatments of acupuncture with herbs in 20 days before she started her 5th IVF.  She had to cancelled the 5th IVF cycle due to lack of the growth of the follicles.  She did not continue acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatment until one week before she started her 6th IVF stimulation.  Again, because she was not optimized, there were no growth of follicles.  After she cancelled the cycle, she agreed to get her body ready by taking three month of Chinese herbs.  In Jan. 06, after Dr. Lee decided that her body was optimized, she started her 7th IVF stimulation.  Along with 7 more acupuncture treatments, She got pregnant on 2/9/06.  She is on weekly treatment program with Dr. Lee to prevent miscarriages.

Lesson to be learned: Get prepared first before starting IVF.   When the body has a chance to get optimized, it will do what you want naturally.  Do not force yourself to get pregnant.  Instead, focus your energy on the preparation between IVF cycles.  When your body is ready, pregnancy will be achieved.

Acupuncture for infertility in action in 2006.

02/13/06 update.
A 40-yr-old patient from Orange County who had failed 2 IUI and 2 IVF cycles prior to seeing Dr. Lee.  She had 2 laparoscopies for severe endometriosis prior to the IVFs.  But still not able to get pregnant.  She had 20 acupuncture treatments with herbs and tried her 3rd IVF without success.  She did not give up and tried her 4th IVF with 3 more acupuncture treatments 6 months later.  She is now pregnant as of 2/13/06. She is on weekly treatment program with Dr. Lee to prevent miscarriages.

Endometriosis acupuncture