Infertility, which is defined as the failure of a couple to become pregnant after 12 months or more of sexual intercourse without the use of contraceptives, is becoming an increasingly commonplace problem in the United States. Factors of modern living such as more advanced maternal age, high stress, and unprecedented levels of environmental toxins all contribute to the statistic of approximately 7.3 million women in the U.S. experiencing some form of infertility.
In China, couples have long turned to acupuncture and Chinese Medicine as a natural form of treatment to boost fertility and ultimately achieve a successful pregnancy. In the West, this type of therapy is increasingly gaining popularity, both used on its own and in conjunction with assistive reproductive techniques, such as IVF and IUI, and for good reason. Acupuncture is a safe, natural, and effective way to treat infertility without side-effects. In addition to abundant anecdotal evidence that acupuncture can help couples conceive, a recent review of several well-conducted studies concluded that acupuncture could increase the success rate of IVF by 65%.
While the stresses of daily living can adversely affect fertility, acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help restore it by influencing the reproductive and endocrine systems of the body. In women, the reproductive cycle is made up of various phases that each play an important role in overall fertility. By improving functions of the reproductive organs and endocrine system and addressing any imbalances in these phases, acupuncture can help create a more ideal environment for conception and successful pregnancy. In men, environmental and constitutional factors can contribute to lower sperm quality, and acupuncture can help address those factors and improve sperm quality.
Specifically, acupuncture can help a couple achieve a successful pregnancy by:
- Improving blood flow to the reproductive organs, such as the uterus and ovaries
- Increasing the thickness of the uterine lining
- Normalizing levels of and improving responsiveness to reproductive hormones
- Promoting deep relaxation and decreasing the negative effects of stress, which can be a huge hindrance to fertility
- Regulating menstrual cycles and ovulation
- Helping to address gynecological issues such as PCOS, endometriosis, and fibroids, which can negatively affect fertility
- Helping to address thyroid problems, which can contribute to infertility
- Increasing the success rate of IVF by boosting the number of follicles produced, improving the quality of the uterine lining, and encouraging implantation
- Addressing male factor infertility by improving sperm count, sperm motility, and sperm morphology
Increasingly, couples are turning to Assistive Reproductive Techniques (ART), like Invitro Fertilization (IVF) to help with conception. Studies have shown that acupuncture can significantly enhance the effectiveness of IVF. A recent review of several well-conducted studies concluded that acupuncture could increase the success rate of IVF by 65%. When used along with IVF, acupuncture can improve outcomes by:
- Increasing ovarian response to follicular stimulating hormones
- Improving estrogen levels if they are low
- Enhancing egg quality by increasing blood flow and nutrients to follicles
- Improving sperm quality
- Reducing the side effects of IVF drugs
- Increasing thickness of the uterine lining
- Encouraging implantation
- Minimizing stress associated with the IVF process, which can hinder success
- Reducing post-transfer uterine cramping, which may have a negative impact on implantation