Acupuncture and Fertility

Pregnant woman in an acupuncture therapy

Acupuncture and Fertility

Recent studies have shown acupuncture treatments increase the success rate of fertility.

How does acupuncture help fertility?

On its own, acupuncture can be seen as an alternative way of treating fertility problems. It is also often seen as a complementary therapy to modern fertility treatments. Acupuncture is the act of placing hair thin needles within the skin and muscle tissue; physically it stimulates a natural inflammation and draws circulation to the local area.

Acupuncture can therefore help promote blood flow to the reproductive organs, a very common practice in China and has been proven to increase blood flow to the uterus and ovaries to help with lining and egg quality or yield. It will also increase blood flow to the testes and help with increasing sperm and quality. This is very important, as circulation to the reproductive organs is very indirect. During times of stress, the body’s natural reaction is to direct circulation away from the reproductive organs, to the muscle groups, lungs and heart. Unfortunately, fertility is not solely a physical issue – it also affects the patient mentally and hormonally.

Stress levels caused by sadness and the anxiety of fertility issues are ranked as high of those in cancer patients undergoing treatments according to several clinical studies. During times of stress, hormone levels like cortisol are raised and can cause imbalances within the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis – the same reason that stress can affect the length and irregularities of periods. Inserting acupuncture needles in specific points can stimulate the body to release endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones that lower cortisol and balance the HPO axis to help regulate periods and other reproductive hormones such as progesterone and estrogen.

How does acupuncture help with IVF and IUI?

Similar to IVF and IUI cycles, there are stimulating and supporting components. The acupoints and herbs chosen will support menstrual cycles and the IVF/IUI. During menses, treatments will be focused on expunging the old lining so that a new foundation can be laid along the uterine wall. The stimulating stage of IVF / IUI / follicular phase will be focused on egg quality and helping the ovaries with yield and quality. The triggering / ovulation stage will be focused on keeping the fallopian tubes open so the egg can travel down and the sperm can travel upwards for an IUI. Lastly the luteal phase / IVF transfer or IUI implantation is focused on maintaining lining and the pregnancy.

A German study done in 2002 with 160 women showed that of the 80 women who underwent the IVF without any acupuncture treatments, 21 women (26.3%) became pregnant. Conversely, 34 of the 80 women who received acupuncture as well as the IVF became pregnant – a success rate of 42.5%. Recently, an American study involving 114 women had 36% of the women who had IVF alone became pregnant, while 51% of the women who had acupuncture and IVF treatments became pregnant. Furthermore, while 8% of the women in the acupuncture group miscarried, the rate of miscarriage in the IVF-only group was 20%.

Though we usually work with couples three months in advance to their procedure, we do pre and post IVF/IUI treatments on request.

Can it help with miscarriage?

Preconception and miscarriage prevention involves optimizing the health of both parents at least 3 months before conception. This is the approximate length of time it takes for an egg/sperm to mature from germ cells. Increasing the health of the parents and their quality of gametes is essential to lower the chances of abnormalities, it also gives time to create the best possible uterine lining. Though acupuncture and herbal medicine can help to bring your body into balance and help with the quality of egg or sperm, lifestyle choices must also be looked at. Diet, exercise and mental state are all key players in helping achieve a healthy pregnancy.

What about male factor?

It is estimated that up 40% of infertility cases are due to male factor. Though the male reproductive system is doesn’t undergo cyclical change like women, the concepts for treatment are still the same. Help with circulation towards the reproductive organs, lower stress, balanced diet and normalize hormone levels.

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