Acupuncture for Infertility
Acupuncture and IVF
Acupuncture can help increase the uterine lining and can enhance possibilities of implantation during an IVF procedure. It helps to increase blood flow to the uterus. According to a Swedish Study, acupuncture increases blood flow to the uterine arteries, creating a thicker and more regular lining, allowing for IVF to be more successful. Acupuncture also improves ovarian blood flow to increase ovarian response. The timing of these treatments is important. They should start at the beginning of the fertility cycle and continue until the embryo transfer date or until the endometrial thickness is 10-12mm. Acupuncture is also recommended before and after embryo transfer.
Research shows that IVF success rates are higher for women who have acupuncture while undergoing IVF. A recent study found that women receiving acupuncture were able to conceive within an average of 5.5 weeks compared to 10.67 weeks for the control group who did not receive treatment.
Acupuncture can also help reduce some the side effects of the hormone medications that women have to take for an IVF procedure. Some women have auto immune issues or high natural killer cells that affect implantation during an IVF cycle. Acupuncture can help these patients too.
After the embryo transfer, acupuncture should continue once per week for the first trimester to help prevent miscarriage. The Reproductive and Biomedicine Journal recently published that TCM and acupuncture helped to increase the number of live births by IVF patients, an increase of up to 95% confidence. Overall, the study found that IVF with TCM was associated with greater odds of live birth in donor and non-donor cycles.
Acupuncture for Stress reduction
Psychological stress can have a negative effect on couples facing fertility problems. Infertility can also be the cause of psychological stress, thus leading to vicious repetitive cycle for couples experiencing infertility. Stress leads to the release of stress hormones and causes detrimental effects on mechanisms responsible for a normal ovulatory menstrual cycle. The success of acupuncture for reducing stress and anxiety is due to its beta-endorphin release and sympathetic calming effects.
Stress causes the sympathetic nervous system to be over stimulated. Thus, the blood flow is diverted away from the ovaries and uterus to the adrenals (stress coping gland) instead. This can cause irregular cycles, lack of ovulation, and infertility. Acupuncture and massage redirect the blood flow back to the ovaries and uterus, enhancing fertility and regulating your cycle.
Acupuncture and hormone regulation
Acupuncture has been known to control pain through stimulating the release of beta-endorphin. In addition, beta-endorphin works to influence the source of women’s ovulatory and fertility hormones (the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis) and control hormones that regulate a women’s ovulation and fertility releasing hormone (GnRH), follicle stimulating hormone (F.S.H.), luteinizing hormone (L.H.)
Acupuncture for egg quality
Acupuncture normalizes the dysfunction of the Hypothalamus – Pituitary – Ovarian Axis. This improves ovarian function creating more follicles, and better egg production.
Acupuncture Improves Fertility in Men
According to statistics from the National Infertility Association, between 35 to 40 percent of infertility problems among couples are actually caused by male conditions. A recent trial published in Fertility and Sterility has shown just how effective acupuncture can be in the treatment of this condition. It helped to increase the number of normal sperm and equally significantly reduces structural defects. Thus proving acupuncture is effective in increasing sperm count, motility and morphology.
Herbal Medicine for Infertility
Herbal medicines in TCM are often prescribed to address the underlying patterns of imbalance of the internal organs, not just to treat a particular symptom. These herbal formulations rejuvenate the body and correct imbalances of the hormonal system to enhance fertility, as opposed to merely treating the symptoms alone.
Some herbal formulas detoxify the liver and help remove stagnation of the liver chi and will increase the blood flow to the pelvic region. They help with headaches, cramps and breast pain if these symptoms are caused by Liver Chi Stagnation. Other herbal formulas balance the Spleen Chi Deficiency and help regulate the hormones and menses.
There are also herbal medicines that will strengthen the Kidney Chi Deficiency. These formulas nurture the vital energy and prevent miscarriage. For women approaching 40, it is very important to use herbal medicine to help the body produce a healthy ovum.
A recent study treating 173 cases of women with various fertility conditions including PCOS, Endometriosis, Uterine fibroids etc, found that with a combination of Acupuncture and mainly herbal treatment, all of the women were able to successfully conceive. Thus proving the superiority of Chinese medicine in treating the same disease of different causes (infertility), by applying the same treatment principle and achieving a positive result.
Acupuncture for PCOS
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work. The main features of acupuncture are: irregular periods, excess androgen and polycystic ovaries.
Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for PCOS; this is due to the fact that it increases blood flow to the ovaries, reducing ovarian volume and the number of ovarian cysts, controlling hyperglycaemia by increasing insulin sensitivity and decreasing blood glucose and insulin levels, reducing cortisol levels and assisting in weight loss and anorexia.
One study found that acupuncture can improve the clinical pregnancy rate in patients with PCOS undergoing IVF.(Cui 2011) Another found that abdominal acupuncture treatment can improve the endocrine and metabolic function of patients with obesity-type PCOS.(Lai 2010).
In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules, thus resulting in biochemical changes that influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, promoting physical and emotional well-being.
Acupuncture for support during Pregnancy
First Trimester: Acupuncture treatment during the first 12-14 weeks of pregnancy can help alleviating morning sickness, prevent miscarriage and help with fatigue. Many pregnant women experience some morning sickness during the first trimester of pregnancy. As most women are reluctant to use western medicine to help alleviate their symptoms, acupuncture can be a safe drug-free treatment to reduce nausea and vomiting.
Fatigue is also normal during the first trimester of pregnancy. The calming and rejuvenating effect of acupuncture can help pregnant women feel rested and much less fatigued. Acupuncture treatment also helps with insomnia which can contribute to fatigue.
Second Trimester: Most women feel good during their second trimester of pregnancy. However acupuncture is still recommended weekly throughout your entire pregnancy. Some women however have minor symptoms, such as: constipation, heartburn, hypertension, insomnia, sinusitis and skin rashes; all these can be helped with acupuncture treatment.
Third Trimester: The month prior to the birth, weeks 36-40, is the best time to prepare your body for labour and delivery. Acupuncture treatment prior to birth helps prepare the mother-to-be for an efficient labour with less anxiety. It allows the body to be in a more relaxed state, thus lessening the chances of a miscarriage.
An acupuncture study of 167 women in New Zealand found that acupuncture once per week for the four weeks prior to delivery promoted an efficient labour with less medical intervention, decreased labour time, reduced caesarean section rate and reduced pain medication during labour. The women received fewer epidurals and there was less need for the use of the drug oxytosin to speed up contractions.
Acupuncture treatment for labour promotes readiness of the cervix, increases the strength and frequency of contractions, reduces fear, anxiety and exhaustion, and helps with pain management.