The overwhelming anguish and sense of loss experienced by women struggling with infertility issues is an unwelcome motivator, driving them to seek other treatment options to overcoming infertility. From home remedies, fertility drugs, and even surgery, to in vitro fertilization (IVF) and donor eggs and embryos, modern healthcare has vastly expanded the array of options available for couples struggling to conceive.
But not all can afford the financial costs of infertility which can range from hundreds of dollars spent on drugs to tens of thousands spent on advanced procedures such as Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and IVF. In the search for affordable and effective health care, alternative and holistic treatments are gaining wider appeal among the general public.
Traditional Chinese medicine, for example, has been practiced for thousands of years and includes techniques and practices such as tai chi, moxibustion, tui na, Chinese cupping, and acupuncture. Acupuncture in particular has rapidly grown in acceptance by the general public and practice among therapists today. Not only is acupuncture valued for stress-relieving and relaxing benefits, but also as a component of fertility treatments.
When used in conjunction with Western fertility treatments, acupuncture increases conception rates by 26%. A recent study from Tel Aviv University reports, ““When combining IUI with TCM treatments, 65.5 percent of the test group were able to conceive, compared with 39.4 percent of the control group, who received no herbal or acupuncture therapy.” For the 4.5 million couples experiencing infertility each year, acupuncture may be just what the doctor ordered.
Acupuncture can increase fertility by reducing stress, increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs and balancing the endocrine system, according to several studies and medical research. “The goal of an infertility treatment from a Chinese medicine perspective is not just to get pregnant, but to stay pregnant and to have a healthy baby,” says Deb Davies, LAc, a Pacific College alumnus. Among many other benefits, acupuncture can provide better blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, creating a stronger chance for an egg to be nourished and carried to term.
Modern acupuncture consists of the gentle insertion and stimulation of thin, disposable sterile needles at strategic points near the surface of the body. Over 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body connect with 14 major pathways, called meridians. Chinese medicine practitioners believe that these meridians conduct qi, or energy, between the surface of the body and internal organs. It is qi that regulates spiritual, emotional, mental and physical balance. When the flow of qi is disrupted through poor health habits or other circumstances, pain and/or disease can result. Acupuncture helps to keep the normal flow of this energy unblocked, thereby increasing a couple's chances of conceiving.
Acupuncture infertility treatment can improve almost every cause of this obstacle. While 40 percent of infertility is caused by problems in the female, another 40 percent is caused by problems in the male, such as low sperm count or motility. The cause of female infertility stems from problems such as anovulation and endometriosis. The remaining 20 percent is caused by unknown factors.
One of the ways acupuncture infertility treatment increases fertility is by reducing stress, which is often a key factor in the fertility of both men and women. When people are under stress, the hormone cortizol is released in the brain. This alters the brain's neurochemical balance, thus changing hormone levels and disrupting the pituitary balance that is key to the reproductive cycle.
If the thyroid is over- or under-functioning, acupuncture can help address the effects on fertility. Acupuncture can also “. . . be used to treat any type of fertility disorder including spasmed tubes. Spasmed tubes are often de-spasmed with acupuncture, though blocked tubes will not respond to acupuncture,” according to the American Pregnancy Association.
However, acupuncture cannot address issues with tubal adhesions. Acupuncture is also contraindicated for the abdomino-pelvic area, which includes the following points: Gallbladder 21, Large Intestine 4, Bladder 60, Stomach 12, Spleen 6, and Bladder 67, as well as any other points on the lower abdomen.
“Chinese medicine can help support a woman through this important time in her life—whether that is emotionally or physically, acupuncture can help with much more than just conception. It can help with morning sickness, nausea, aches and pains (low back pain, for example), anxiety preparation for birth, and insomnia, among many others,” explains Davies.