Having problems with a thin endometrial lining or is your period shorter and scantier than usual?
Here are my top tips to improve your endometrial lining whether you are trying to conceive naturally or via IVF.
A thin endometrial lining can be very problematic when trying to conceive, whether that be naturally or via assisted methods.
If you are going through IVF, the best success rates are seen when the lining has reached over 8mm by the time of transfer, ideally over 8.5mm.
(See study in Fertility & Sterility medical journal; http://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(06)04546-8/fulltext
Some clinics are happy to proceed with transfer when the lining has only reached 6mm by the day of the trigger injection.
While the use of blood circulation meds can be helpful e.g. viagra, they aren't always effective, so what else can be done?
One of the best methods to increase blood flow to the uterus and surrounding tissues is with acupuncture treatment.
Case examples with acupuncture treatment
In my own clinical practice I have seen huge improvement in endometrial lining thickness using acupuncture combined with a TENS machine.
I recall one particular patient who's lining increased from 4.6mm to 7.8mm on her first cycle of acupuncture treatment, which resulted in a successful pregnancy and delivery of a healthy baby girl later that year. All of her previous cycles had been unsuccessful or were cancelled as the lining was never thicker than 6mm.
Another patient who I treated earlier this year had been taking a combination of sildenafil (viagra) and trental (a medication used for those with blood flow problems). In spite of these medications, on the mock cycles she went through the lining never made it past 6.5mm. She had a history of unsuccessful IVF cycles so was not willing to proceed with another transfer unless she could reach at least 8mm. On the mock cycle where acupuncture was included in the treatment protocol, along with the same medications she had used previously, her lining thickness reached 8.4mm.
On the actual transfer cycle a couple of months later, using the same protocol (i.e. acupuncture + meds) the lining improved even further and reached 9.3mm, so the transfer was able to proceed.
Sadly, this cycle did not result in pregnancy but it provided my patient with valuable information e.g. if the endometrial lining thickness wasn't the issue, then perhaps it was the quality of the embryo instead.
Diet, exercise & supplements
It's very important to do everything possible to keep blood flow moving freely in the body when trying to conceive. This can be difficult to achieve if, like so many people, you spend upwards of 8 hours per day in a seated position.
Here are my Top 8 ways to improve your circulation and endometrial lining quality
- Take a 'movement' break every 30 minutes. This could be a bathroom break, or to run up the stairs to get something you need at work. If you're at home, then you can do a minute of jumping jacks before sitting back down again. I know this might feel silly, but it's vital to prevent blood pooling in the lower limbs and ensure proper circulation of nutrient rich blood to the reproductive organs.
- Exercise- while getting up from your desk and moving around is important, taking time to exercise properly is also necessary. The good news is that it doesn't have to be for very long. A quick, but intense interval training workout (e.g. Tabata method) would be ideal. This means taking 20-30 minutes x 3 times per week to get your heart rate up and blood flowing. This type of exercise positively impacts your hormonal balance, with further supports endometrial lining quality and thickness.
- De-stress- please don't hate me for mentioning the 'stress' word, but unfortunately, it does have a very real effect on the body. When we are stressed it triggers the 'sympathetic' nervous system response. i.e. increased heart rate, digestion is shut down and most importantly, blood flow is diverted from 'non-essential' organs to the muscle tissues for 'fight or flight'. Guess what qualifies as non-essential? Yes, it's the reproductive organs. This is why taking time to breathe deeply (yoga is great for this as it combines movement with deep breathing), listening to a meditation app (e.g. Headspace) or doing whatever puts you into a chilled-out head space (e.g. walking, gardening, listening to music), should help switch you back to the para-sympathetic state and allow blood to flow freely to the reproductive organs and tissues.
- Keep warm- I know this may seem obvious, but it still amazes me, the amount of women I see wearing low cut jeans, or tops that don't quite cover the lower abdominal area. We live in a country that is pretty darn cold for most of the year so keeping well wrapped up is essential. On that note, when going to bed at night, avoid the use of electrical blankets as they can make you too hot while you sleep. Instead, favour fleece socks, pjs, and hot water bottles.
- Massage- don't worry, you don't have to go to a professional masseuse for this, you can do it from the comfort of your own home. In spite of best efforts with exercise and de-stressing techniques, some women still find that their lower abdominal area is colder to the touch than other areas of the body, even if the area has been well covered in clothing all day. If you notice this, it's important to correct it, pronto! Lying in bed at night or first thing in the morning when you wake are good times to massage the abdomen. Ensuring your hands are warm, use some coconut or jojoba oil to firmly, but smoothly massage the areas of your abdomen from just above the pubic bone all the way up to the lower portion of your ribcage. The whole process should take about 5-10 minutes and if performed correctly, the skin should appear slightly pink due to the increased blood flow.
- 'Warming' diet- what does this term even mean? I'm referring to the properties of the various foods you choose to eat on a daily basis. We all know how we feel after eating chilli and it's no surprise that in many cuisines, something spicy is combined with something cooling, such as cucumber or mint. Some of the best 'warming' foods and spices to include in your diet are; ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, paprika, beetroot,
- Supplements- nutrients that are known to help thin the blood and also support improved vasodilation include; omega 3 essential fats, L-Arginine, vitamin E, ginkgo biloba, magnesium and niacin. It is always preferable to consult with a professional before taking certain nutrients and if you are going through an IVF cycle, it's vital as particular nutrients/herbs may be contraindicated with medications that you are taking.
- Acupuncture- I know I mentioned this already, but I have seen amazing improvements in patients circulation after regular acupuncture sessions. From Raynaud's syndrome (poor circulation in the extremities) to improved follicle growth and improvement in endometrial lining thickness. If you are trying to conceive, two sessions per month could make a big difference to your symptoms. Equally, if you are going through IVF, remember that the medications are of little benefit unless the blood flow is circulating them to where they are needed i.e. the ovaries and uterus. In most cases two sessions during the stimulation phase would suffice, although some women may require a third session if the follicle growth is very poor or the lining too thin.
I hope these tips help you with trying to conceive and if you're still not achieving the desired result, that's what I'm here for, to treat, support and guide you through the process, so I can help you reach that happy outcome of a healthy pregnancy.