Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine has been used for thousands of years and found very effective for many many conditions. One area where it has really made strides is within the realm of women’s health and fertility medicine. Chinese medicine consists of a variety of modalities that can be beneficial during this times in a women’s life. So whether you are planning on getting pregnant soon, experienced miscarriage(s) or in the process of IVF/IUI- acupuncture can help!
It is also very important to remember that addressing fertility begins with a focus on healthy lifestyle choices such as diet, stress management and adequate sleep. While also remembering that it takes an egg AND sperm to make a baby so taking into account your male counterparts’ health is very important as well.
How Can Acupuncture Help
Used in conjunction with Western fertility treatments, acupuncture has been shown to increase conception rates by 26%. A study performed at Tel Aviv University reports, “When combining IUI with TCM treatments, 65.5 percent of the test group were able to conceive, compared with 39.4 percent of the control group, who received no herbal or acupuncture therapy.”
Within the United States the CDC states that 12.1% of women age 15-44 are having issues with fertility, so know you are not alone in this process and there are many skilled practitioners willing and able to help! The American Pregnancy Organization endorses acupuncture to help with issues of infertility by helping address “problems that affect fertility such as an under-functioning thyroid (hypothyroidism) or over-functioning thyroid (hyperthyroidism) as well as the potential effect of improved ovarian and follicular function. Additionally, acupuncture can increase blood flow to the endometrium, helping to facilitate a thick, rich lining.”
What to Know
It is important to know that acupuncture is not always a quick fix and tends to be a process as is many peoples’ fertility journey. This process-oriented intervention seems to have cumulative impacts, so it is important to be ready to dedicate some time to it! You should dedicate at least three months to see if this modality is right for you. Find a practitioner that you trust/ enjoy and schedule the appointments to fit in to your life. Your practitioner will develop an individual treatment plan that works for you.
If you are using acupuncture in conjunction with fertility treatments- acupuncturists will tend not to place needles in your lower abdominal area after transfer or insemination. There are also 6 contraindicated acupuncture points which will be avoided when the patient is pregnant. These points are as follows; Gallbladder 21, Stomach 12, Large Intestine 4, Spleen 6, Bladder 60, Bladder 67 as well as any points on the lower abdomen.
Chinese Herbal medicine might also be used to help balance hormones, address constitutional changes or promote a sense of wellbeing and stress relief. The APO states that ”Acupuncture is often combined with herbal remedies to treat elevated follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), repeated pregnancy loss, unexplained (idiopathic) infertility, luteal phase defect, hyperprolactinemia (when not caused by a prolactinoma), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)with annovulatory cycles and male factor including men affected with sperm-DNA-fragmentation.”
Dont Stress! (There’s help out there!)
It is also important to remember to stay calm, centered and positive throughout this process, as stress can be a major negative impact upon your fertility. Click here for some stress relief tips. A study done at Harvard showed that “stress reduces the hypothalamic-anterior-pituitary-ovarian axis function, and should thus be considered in the infertility workup. Acupuncture releases endorphins that mitigate one’s response to stressful stimuli, thus enhancing the possibility of conception. Biologically, since the hypothalamus regulates both stress responses as well as the sex hormones, it’s easy to see how stress may contribute to infertility in some women.”
It is not completely understood how stress impacts the reproductive system, but the study of psychoneuroimmunology shows the connection between the body and mind, how our emotions can actually impact our physiology. This may be due to the fact that when we are under extreme states of mental stress, the pituitary gland can produce increased amounts of prolactin, a hormone which aids breast development (and lactation in pregnant women) and if found in excess may lead to infertility. We do know that extreme physical stress can also impact a women fertility as it can lead to lead to irregular cycles, anovualtion or suppression of a women menstrual cycle. This is often seen in female extreme athletes or marathon runners. Know that stress can lower sperm counts as well.
Factors that can impact fertility (for Men and Women)
Excessive Alcohol intake
High levels of emotional/physical stress
Benefits of Acupuncture
Increases blood flow to reproductive system
Reduces side effects of fertility drugs
Boosts the Immune System
Increases sperm count/ motility
Increases chances of IVF success
Regulate hormones/menstrual cycle
Decrease Insulin resistance
Promote ovulation, improve uterine lining
Foods to help Boost Fertility
Healthy nutrient dense fish- Roe, Wild caught Salmon, cod liver oil
Organic Butter and full-fat dairy
Oysters, clams and mussels
Eggs from Pasture raised hens
Liquid chlorophyll and lemon, especially to start the day!
Dark green leafy vegetables
What to do
It is important to find a practitioner that you trust and has a focus on women health and fertility especially if you are undergoing conventional fertility treatments. Set up a few consultations, or feel free to contact me! Acupuncture is very effective to help promote a state of well-being and stress relief, increasing Qi and blood flow to specific areas, regulating hormones and painful menstruation. Many people have found that acupuncture has been very effective during the fertility process, throughout pregnancy and even postnatal healing and care.
*These statements should not replace any medical advice from your doctor, just ideas to help increase your options. Make sure to check in with a well versed healthcare practitioner to see if acupuncture and Chinese herbs are right for you, especially if you are already undergoing fertility treatments.
Tel Aviv University Study
Cao, :X.D., Xu. S.F. and Lu. W.X. (1983) Inhibition of sympathetic nervous system by acupuncture. Acupuncturc Electro-Ther. Res. Int. J.,8, 25-35.