September 3, 2008 — Getting pregnant with her first child was difficult, and when Rebecca Killmeyer of Charlottesville, Va. experienced a miscarriage during her second pregnancy, she wasn't sure if she would ever have another baby. She decided to enter a study testing the impact of acupuncture on women with polycystic ovary syndrome at the University of Virginia Health System, and came out with a miracle.
"To our great surprise, we were blessed with a third pregnancy during the PCOS study," said Killmeyer. "I'm absolutely certain the acupuncture treatments helped me ovulate regularly, which allowed me to become pregnant."
Lisa Pastore, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the U.Va. Health System and principal researcher of the study, said her goal has been to help women with PCOS have regular menstrual cycles. PCOS causes a hormonal imbalance, interfering with ovulation and ultimately, fertility. With several women in the study reporting pregnancies, Pastore believes that acupuncture could be an important drug-free therapy for women with this disorder.
"Over the last year we have seen women who never had a regular menstrual cycle start having regular periods. We can also boast several pregnancies since the study began," she said. "Now we would like to recruit more people in order to complete the study. It is important for research to have enough participants to ensure that the results are scientifically credible and not due to chance."
Killmeyer said she was initially skeptical about the experimental treatment..
"When I saw those tiny little needles coming at me, I thought to myself, 'I didn't sign up for this!,' but I tried it and after a few minutes I was asleep on the table," Killmeyer said. "The sessions were completely refreshing after awhile."
Killmeyer learned of her PCOS in 2005. Over the past five years she did not have regular, monthly periods. One month after she started acupuncture treatments, she got a period and for the next three months, they continued.
"I had finished all my acupuncture treatments and was in the end stages of the study when I became pregnant," Killmeyer said. "We had already scheduled our follow-up appointment with our fertility doctors when we found out we were pregnant."
Five percent of reproductive-age women are affected by PCOS. Symptoms may include small cysts on their ovaries, infrequent or irregular vaginal bleeding, male-pattern hair growth and acne. Insulin resistance and pre-diabetes also can develop.
While many traditional drugs and therapies may manage this syndrome, Pastore's research is assessing whether acupuncture can be successful in regulating hormones and curing the symptoms of PCOS.