Acupuncture may help in the treatment of infertility and will provide support throughout many of the procedures and drug regimes. Acupuncture and herbal treatment may help by:
- Regulating fertility hormones - Factors such as stress can disrupt the function of the hypothalamic pituitary-ovarian axis (HPOA). Acupuncture promotes the release of beta-endorphin in the brain, which regulates gonadatrophin releasing hormone from the hypothalamus, follicle stimulating hormone from the pituitary gland, and oestrogen and progesterone levels from the ovary (Anderson 2007).
- Increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs (Ho 2009, Anderson 2007), which can improve the thickness of the endometrial lining, so increasing the chances of embryo implantation.
- Increasing egg production (Jin 2009) and improving oocyte quality (Chen 2009), which could increase the chance of fertilisation.
- Enhancing luteal function (Huang 2009)
- regulating follicle stimulation hormone-receptor expression (Jin 2009).
- Normalising cortisol and prolactin levels on IVF medication days (Magarelli 2008); reducing stress (Anderson 2007)
- Promoting embryo implantation (Liu 2008).
- Improving the reproductive health of both partners
- Providing dietary advice and herbal supplement support
- Relieving stress and anxiety, a known contributory factor to non-conception
- Regulating irregular menstrual cycles
- Regulating hormonal imbalances
If you have been trying to conceive for more than a year and have run the gamut of tests, the results of which have all come back within normal parameters, you have most probably been diagnosed with "unexplained infertility". This is basically a non-diagnosis, leaving you feeling deeply frustrated, as with no specific diagnosis there is no clear way to address the issue. Luckily Traditional Chinese Medicine has the tools to treat this, using the full TCM consultation and examining process, even minor imbalances in hormones, sleep disturbances, stress diet and lifestyle factors could be identified as causative factors and can be treated accordingly.
Gynaecological conditions that may contribute to infertility
The following conditions may be contributing factors to conception difficulties, but can be effectively treated with acupuncture and TCM.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Ovulation Disorders
- Tubal Blockage
Male Factor infertility
For nearly half of the couples facing infertility a male factor may be involved. Chinese medicine has been treating male factor infertility since the days of the Yellow Emperor, 2,500 years ago. Herbal formulas were devised to support sperm production and recent studies have shown that acupuncture treatment can dramatically improve sperm quality. One particular study's* findings show sperm with fewer structural defects or improved morphology. The same study also showed a significant increase in sperm production and motility after the participants had acupuncture treatment.
* Pei, J., Strehler E., Noss U., Abt M., Piomboni P., Baccetti B., Sterzik K. (2005). Quantitative evaluation of spermatozoa ultrastructure after acupuncture treatment for idiopathic male infertility. Fertility and Sterility; 84:141-147. doi:10.1016/j.fertilnstert.2004.12.056
Acupuncture and herbs can be beneficial in its own right when treating fertility issues, but it is also successfully used as a support therapy to Assisted Reproductive Therapies such as IVF, IUI and ICSI. Studies have shown that acupuncture can increase implantation success rates by up to 65%* TCM is effective support for IVF protocols in the following ways:-
- Increases ovarian responsivity
- Reduces elevated FSH levels
- Increases oestrogen levels
- Enhances follicle / egg quality
- Increases thickness and nutritive quality of endometrium
Ante Natal Care
- Relieves morning sickness
- Naturally relieves the pain of headaches
- Turns baby if not in correct position (after 36 weeks)
- Reduces the chance of miscarrriage
For those wishing to minimise drug and chemical interventions in order to deliver baby, Acupuncture is a natural way to prepare mum for an efficient delivery. Preparation usually starts at around 36 weeks onwards, and is considered as a 'ripening', preparing the cervix naturally. Acupuncture 'inductions' are only undertaken after 40 weeks, unless there is a medical necessity for early delivery.
Supporting Research Reviews/Studies
Anderson et al. In vitro fertilization and acupuncture: clinical efficacy and mechanistic basis. Altern. Ther. Health Med. 2007;13(3):38-48
Ho M et al. Electroacupuncture Reduces Uterine Artery Blood Flow Impedance in Infertile Women. Taiwanese Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 2009;48:148-51.
Chen J et al. Effects of electroacupuncture on in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer (IVF-ET) of patients with poor ovarian response.[Chinese] Zhongguo Zhenjiu 2009;29:775-9.
Jin CL et al. Increased Oocyte Production after Acupuncture Treatment during Superovulation Process in Mice. Journal of Reproduction and Contraception 2009;20:35-44.
Huang HDJ, Zhang MM. Effects of acupuncture on the luteal function of rats with dysfunctional embryo implantation. Zhongguo zhen jiu 2009;29:910-3.
Magarelli PC et al. Changes in serum cortisol and prolactin associated with acupuncture during controlled ovarian hyperstimulation in women undergoing in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer treatment. Fertil Steril 2008; 92(6):1870-9.
Liu XY et al. Preliminary study on the mechanisms of acupuncture in promoting embryo implantation in rats [Article in Chinese] Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 2007;27:633
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