Acupuncture as a Treatment for Infertility
For a couple struggling with infertility issues, the sense of loss and helplessness can be overwhelming. Many couples are willing to try anything to conceive. Expensive and often risky treatments, like fertility drugs, in vitro fertilization (IVF), intrauterine insemination (IUI), and even surgery are being used to improve fertility. But, what about acupuncture? Could acupuncture be an effective treatment for infertility?
Holistic remedies have become more and more popular in recent years. In fact, many couples are turning to holistic remedies first, especially acupuncture, mainly because it’s more affordable, safer, and less invasive traditional Western methods. Acupuncture is becoming much more widely accepted as a many medical problems, including stress, cancer, and pain. Not only can acupuncture increase fertility on its own, it can increase conception rates drastically when working alongside of traditional Western medicine. Using acupuncture treatments and other holistic treatments, such as Chinese herbal medicine and massage, increases its effectiveness even more.
The History and Theory Behind Acupuncture
Acupuncture has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, and physicians in the United States have been practicing acupuncture since the 1800s. Acupuncture is based on the theory that energy flows through our bodies in channels called Qi. Sometimes, that energy becomes blocked. The blocked energy causes pain and illness. Acupuncture treatments are used to release the blocked energy, allowing it to flow freely throughout the body.
It is believed that there are more than 2,000 acupuncture points in the human body. These points connect with 14 major pathways that conduct Qi throughout the body. During an acupuncture treatment, acupuncturists use super fine needles to penetrate the skin at very specific acupuncture points. The stimulation of these acupuncture points unblocks the flow of Qi so that it can move through the body.
How Does Acupuncture Work to Improve Fertility?
Acupuncture improves fertility mainly by balancing the hormones and relieving stress. It is also believed that acupuncture can increase the chances of ovulation and implantation by improving blood flow to a woman’s reproductive organs. Acupuncture can be used to treat infertility in men, too. It can increase sperm count and improve the quality of sperm.
What Specific Causes of Infertility Can Be Successfully Treated with Acupuncture?
Infertility issues can happen for a lot of different reasons, and it is believed that acupuncture can help with almost every one of them. In fact, sometimes doctors are unable to determine the cause of the infertility. Acupuncture can even help in the case of unexplained infertility because it focuses on regulating a woman’s periods, balancing hormones, and reducing stress levels.
Let’s look at some of the most common causes of infertility and how the use of acupuncture has helped to fix these problems.
Lack of Viable Eggs
It is becoming more and more common for couples to wait until later in life to start a family. However, as a woman ages, her ovaries will release fewer and fewer viable eggs. This is called Decreased Ovarian Reserve. This reduction in viable eggs can make it difficult for a woman to become pregnant. Acupuncture can help women with decreased ovarian reserve get pregnant.
Cases of Irregular Periods and Amenorrhea
In the cases of irregular menstrual periods and amenorrhea (complete lack of menstrual periods), acupuncture treatments are often combined with Chinese herbal medicine to make a woman’s periods more predictable. Once a woman’s periods are regulated, the likelihood of fertilization and ovulation are increased since it’s easier to predict when a woman will be fertile. An acupuncturist may also recommend making changes to diet and lifestyle, such as eating healthier and reducing stress, as part of the treatment plan.
Uterine Fibroids Can Interfere with Ovulation
Uterine fibroids are growths on the wall of the uterus. Although they are usually non-cancerous, a woman suffering from uterine fibroids may experience heavy and painful periods, as well as abdominal swelling and pain during intercourse. In some cases, no symptoms are present at all. These growths can sometimes interfere with ovulation and implantation. Often, acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and Western medicine are used together to treat this condition, depending on its severity.
Recurrent Miscarriage Due to Hormonal Imbalance
Hormonal imbalances often cause recurrent miscarriages. A licensed acupuncture physician will combine Chinese herbs along with acupuncture to treat these hormonal imbalances. Balancing the hormones will often prevent miscarriages from happening in the future.
Poor Diet and Stress Can Lead to Stress Related Hormonal Imbalances
The usual American lifestyle centers around poor diet, stress, and lack of sleep. These factors combine to cause stress related hormonal imbalances brought on by unnatural reactions in the body due to stress. If these imbalances continue over a period of time, it can affect fertility. Hormones can be balanced through a series of acupuncture treatments and Chinese medicine. Acupuncture can also reduce stress levels. Lifestyle changes will also be recommended.
Endometriosis, a Leading Cause of Pain and Infertility
One of the top causes of pelvic pain, heavy periods, and infertility is endometriosis. This condition occurs when uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus. A combination of acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbal medicine will be used for pain relief, reducing inflammation, and improving the flow of blood to the ovaries and uterus. Incorporating changes to diet and lifestyle will speed up the healing process.
PCOS or Ovarian Cysts Caused by Fertility Drugs
Ovarian cysts can occasionally happen on their own, but often they occur when using drugs commonly used to treat infertility. PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and ovarian cysts can cause fertility problems, and these conditions can sometimes cause a lot of pain. Not only painful, they can cause irregular menstrual and ovulation cycles which leads to infertility issues. Acupuncture can successfully regulate these cycles to improve the chances of getting and staying pregnant.
How Can Acupuncture Improve the Success Rates of IVF and IUI?
Acupuncture treatments have been shown to improve the flow of blood to the reproductive organs and relax the uterus, thereby improving the chances of fertilization and implantation, even in cases where Intrauterine Insemination and In Vitro Fertilization are being used. In fact, acupuncture can provide additional support by reducing levels of anxiety and stress, and even combat the effects of drugs used to improve fertility that are commonly used in these procedures, such as nausea.
Acupuncture, when used in conjunction with other holistic methods, really can improve fertility in both men and women! The lack of side effects, easy access, and affordability make it a great place to start for most couples struggling to get pregnant.