Acupuncture is a popular form of alternative treatment that many people are turning to in order to help with fertility.
Having been around for thousands of years, acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine, which in its own right is a complete medical system. Used to treat a variety of conditions from back pain, insomnia, IBS and even depression, acupuncture is now being used to assist with fertility.
Acupuncture is a natural form of treatment and involves inserting tiny, hair-like needles into specific places known as the acupuncture points at specific locations on the body.
By stimulating various points, acupuncture is said to stimulate the bodies own powerful healing responses by triggering various reactions within the body. By this token, acupuncture is said to be able to have an effect on different systems such as the immune system, respiratory, digestive, nervous, hormonal and reproductive system.
How Does Acupuncture Help For Fertility?
According to the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC), acupuncture impacts fertility by increasing the flow of blood to the womb and ovaries and bringing about increased nourishment to the reproductive system. The BAcC also state that acupuncture can have a regulating effect on the hormones and also provide stress and anxiety relief, which are counterproductive to fertility.
Furthermore, acupuncture is also used to treat polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is a common cause of infertility in females.
Acupuncture and IVF
According to a study that was carried out to assess acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating female infertility, acupuncture was found to increase the chances of conception by 65% when used in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment.
This study was a collaboration of three prominent medical universities, the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington and the University of Amsterdam, Holland, and published in the British Medical Journal.
IVF is a popular and successful form of fertility treatment in which, egg and sperm are extracted from the female and male respectively and mixed in a dish in a laboratory for fertilization to occur. Once the sperm has fertilized the egg, the embryo is then transferred back into the woman where it can implant in the womb.
When acupuncture is administered during an IVF cycle, the timing of the acupuncture treatments are very important. During the early stages of an IVF cycle, the woman is usually given drugs to suppress the immune system followed by drugs used to stimulate the ovaries in order to produce eggs. Sometimes these drugs are given simultaneously.
During this phase, the acupuncture treatments will be for the purpose of supporting the aim of the administered drugs while also trying to assist with any side effects that the patient may also experience from the medication.
Acupuncture is then given prior to egg collection, where the primary focus of treatment is to nourish the ovaries with oxygenated blood in order to assist with healthy egg production.
Then, the two most important acupuncture treatments occur around the time of implantation. At this time, one treatment is given immediately prior to implantation and the final treatment after implantation.
The intention of the pre-embryo transfer treatment is to relax the patient, assist the cervix to open, and invigorate blood in the reproductive organs.
The post embryo transfer treatment focuses on closing the uterus and stimulating a lifting effect in order to help the embryo embed into the uterus lining.
With the rise in popularity of acupuncture for fertility over the last few decades, many fertility clinics also have acupuncturists working at their centers in order to help with the process. For the clinics that do not offer this service, they are often willing to refer their clients to a local, trusted practitioner for acupuncture treatment.
When Should You Start Acupuncture Treatment For Fertility?
Most commonly, people have acupuncture treatment in conjunction with mainstream fertility treatment such as IVF or Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). However, for cases of unexplained fertility, often acupuncture may prove effective as a stand alone treatment.
In the cases where the cause of infertility is “unexplained”, acupuncturists say that in most cases the cause from their perspective is due to either an insufficiency of the energetics of the kidney qi or a lack of blood circulation in the reproductive organs. By working to either nourish the kidney energy and or to improve the quality and movement of the blood flow in the womb and ovaries, fertility can occur.
When having acupuncture in conjunction with IVF or IUI treatment, typically the patient contacts an acupuncturist for help at the beginning of their fertility treatment. However, in most cases, it can be beneficial to seek out the help of an acupuncturist several months before commencing the IVF or IUI treatment. In this way, the acupuncturist will be able to work more efficiently on the infertility issue, reduce stress levels and help to prepare the body in order to be more receptive towards any fertility drugs and treatments that may follow.