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Article | Acupuncture and Infertility

Acupuncture is quickly becoming more popular among couples to address fertility concerns (Weiss  et al, 2011). On its own, acupuncture can be seen as an alternative way of treating fertility problems.  However it is also often seen as a complementary therapy to modern fertility treatments.

Why acupuncture works for infertility problems is still debatable. However, the general belief is that acupuncture helps by regulating your body’s system (Huang et al, 2011). This aids in blood flow to the reproductive organs and stabilizes hormone levels. This in turn will increase ovarian function in women as well as sperm production in men.

Additionally, used as a complementary form of therapy for women undergoing other fertility treatments, acupuncture has been proven to be especially beneficial. Some believe that acupuncture works by helping women stay more relaxed through stressful fertility treatments. In particular, studies have shown that acupuncture definitely increases the rate of pregnancy in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF)( Zheng et al, 2012).


Unfortunately, infertility is on the rise and modern day living may be contributing to this. With many couples facing constant stress from work, finances or other obstacles in life, health is usually compromised. Often sleeping patterns alter, dietary and lifestyle choices are affected and stimulants are consumed in order to enhance work productivity.

Although used for thousands of years, acupuncture is relatively new to western society. Recent years has seen an explosion of interest among westerners to address their health concerns through acupuncture. This has led to more interest amongst health care providers and researchers hence providing information of its effectiveness for various health concerns

 

How can acupuncture improve fertility?

With regards to fertility, acupuncture aims to regulate the following:

For women:

  • Regulates the menstrual cycle via correcting any hormonal imbalances
  • Enhances follicular development in order to improve egg quality
  • Thickens the lining so when fertilisation of an egg has occurred the uterus is ready to assist in implantation of the embryo
  • Helps to regulate the effects of stress on the body – stress can effect the regulation of ovulation and menstruation, therefore is detrimental to conception
  • It’s also very important to improve the general health of a woman as possible inflammation caused by other illnesses can also contribute to infertility
  • In relation to IVF, modern day research has found acupuncture improves success of fertility by 40 – 60 per cent when administered before and after embryo transfer.

For men:

  • Sperm quality can be enhanced by improving sperm count, motility and abnormality – many factors can contribute to poor quality sperm. Acupuncture addresses these health concerns and assists with improving general health leading to improved sperm quality.
  • Stress is also dealt with in men as this too can negatively affect sperm which may promote infertility in men.

 
It is important to understand that while participating in a treatment regimen of acupuncture, dietary and lifestyle choices are effectively addressed to enhance results gained from the acupuncture.


Do both partners need acupuncture?

It is best that both you and your husband attend the first consultation. This allows specific concerns to be discussed with your acupuncturist to determine the most effective strategy to improve your chances of success. Acupuncture has been found to improve sperm quality momentarily for 3 days so some men opt to have acupuncture around the time of their partner’s ovulation.


It must be remembered that it takes two to conceive a baby therefore the health of both parents is paramount to success.


How long before you can conceive?

The answer to this question is determined by variations that exist among each person. Age, current health status, dietary and lifestyle choices all contribute to the duration of treatment and the number of treatment cycles required. Generally, one cycle of treatment is 12 acupuncture sessions.

Accurate information can be provided after 4 – 5 sessions as this allows enough time for your body to demonstrate how it responds to the treatment. Each individual has different needs and this will be discussed through the course of treatment.

More information on particular functional problems relating to fertility can be found in the gynaecology section.

 

References

Dong-mei Huang, Guang-ying Huang, Fu-er Lu, Dieterle Stefan, Neuer Andreas and Greb Robert. (2011) Acupuncture for infertility: Is it an effective therapy? Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine Volume 17, Number 5 (2011), 386-395, DOI: 10.1007/s11655-011-0611-8

Cui Hong Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., Guang Ying Huang, M.D., Ph.D, Ming Min Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., & Wei Wang, M.D., Ph.D. (2012). Effects of acupuncture on pregnancy rates in women undergoing in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Fertility and Sterility Volume 97, Issue 3, 599-611.

Weiss, D., Harris, C., & Smith, J., (2011) The use of complementary and alternative fertility treatments. Current Opinion in Obstetrics & Gynecology. Volume 23 - Issue 3 - p 195–199 doi: 10.1097/GCO.0b013e3283455246