- Supporting women to conceive naturally
- Supporting women through pregnancy
- Supporting women through Assisted Reproduction Therapy
- Enhancing male fertility through acupuncture
Functional fertility is not a question of disease in itself, but reflects on environmental, social and psychological stress as well as disease. The benefits of a natural fertility program utilizing Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture over IVF include
- non-invasive use of herbs and acupuncture
- no side-effects
- no ethical dilemmas
- lower cost
“Acupuncture can allow you to cross the line from infertile to fertile by helping your body function more efficiently, which in turn allows other, more modern reproductive treatments, like IVF, to also work more efficiently.” – James Dillard, MD, assistant clinical professor, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and clinical adviser to Columbia’s Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Supporting women to conceive naturally
Acupuncture can support pregnancy and conception in numerous ways given the necessary time to balance the body. Ideally, treatment should start at least 3 months prior to conception, especially if there are hormone, autoimmune, advance maternal age or other factors to be treated. Benefits include
- Creating homeostasis and balance in the patient so they can respond better to physiological changes
- Calming anxiety, stress and the nervous system overall
- Enhancing blood flow to the uterus and other reproductive organs
- Increasing trilaminar quality of the uterine lining
- Assisting in follicular recruitment
- Enhancing egg quality
Acupuncture can stimulate egg production in women who can’t, or don’t want to use fertility medications to help them get pregnant. When comparing the pregnancy rates for an egg producing drug such as Clomid to acupuncture alone, the rates are equal – a 50% chance of pregnancy in three months for general patients. Because acupuncture generally stimulates the growth and release of one egg however, it can’t be substituted for fertility drugs used in IVF which work to produce multiple eggs. (Ref: Dr. Raymond Chang of the Meridian program together with Dr. Zev Rosenwaks and Pak Chung of the Cornell IVF program who published the widely quoted landmark review on the Role of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Female Infertility in 2003)
We have preliminary data suggesting that acupuncture improves self-efficacy and psychological coping for women experiencing delays with falling pregnant. Further rigorous research is needed to examine the overall therapeutic effect from acupuncture to support women while undergoing the stressful repetitive process of assisted reproductive technology or natural fertility, and to examine the role of outcome and self-efficacy expectations.
Supporting women through pregnancy
We also work with women who are currently pregnant and want to prevent potential miscarriage, are experiencing morning sickness or other symptoms, have a breech issue or need to be induced. Whether you are going through ART or pursuing natural child birth, the elegance of Chinese medicine is that it treats any underlying issue, balances and supports the body to do what it knows how to do from a holistic standpoint, and from that fertility, conception, the journey through pregnancy and birth are supported.
Supporting women through Assisted Reproduction Therapy
Reproductive science has given many couples a chance to conceive when they otherwise would not have been able to. Nevertheless, couples go through an average of seven cycles of ART before they either conceive or give up. Fortunately, acupuncture and herbal medicine can increase the chances of carrying to full term considerably.
Increasingly, women are referred to acupuncturists by reproductive medicine specialists – patients who have failed one or usually more than one attempt at IVF, and their doctor is looking for something to help implement the success of their treatment beyond what their protocols alone are able to accomplish.
It is generally preferable to start treatment at least 3 months before an IUI/IVF procedure, especially if there are hormone, autoimmune, advance maternal age or other factors. For women with a history of responding poorly to medications in particular, acupuncture and herbal supplementation paired with detoxification is recommended. When given time to balance the body, the following benefits occur:
- Improved egg quality (Western medication increases the number of eggs, but does not effect the quality of these eggs. Improving quality reduces the number of poor responders to IVF medications.)
- Creates homeostasis and balance in the patient so they can respond better to medications
- Calms anxiety, stress and the nervous system overall
- Enhances blood flow to the uterus and other reproductive organs
- Increases trilaminar quality of the uterine lining
- Clomid and Femara tend to dry Cervical Mucus (Yin) in the body. Acupuncture and herbs can help lessen this side effect without effecting the benefit of medications.
- Enhancing follicular recruitment
- Supports the implantation process
- Relaxes the uterus at the time of transfer, diminishing uterine contractions
In a study of 160 women, published April 2002 in the reproductive journal Fertility and Sterility, a group of researchers found that adding acupuncture to the traditional IVF treatment protocols substantially increased pregnancy success.
In this study one group of 80 patients received two, 25-minute acupuncture treatments — one prior to having fertilized embryos transferred into their uterus, and one directly afterwards. The second group of 80, who also underwent embryo transfer, received no acupuncture treatments.
The result: While women in both groups got pregnant, the rate was significantly higher in the acupuncture group — 34 pregnancies, compared with 21 in the women who received IVF alone.
Result(s): Clinical pregnancies were documented in 34 of 80 patients (42.5%) in the acupuncture group, whereas pregnancy rate was only 26.3% (21 out of 80 patients) in the control group.
Conclusion(s): Acupuncture seems to be a useful tool for improving pregnancy rate after ART.
Enhancing male fertility through acupuncture
This has proven to be highly effective increasing quantity, quality and motility of spermatozoa. This is often overlooked as a prerequisite in terms of creating the most healthful and vital sperm possible to generate healthy offspring.
“The aim of this prospective controlled study was to assess the effect of acupuncture on the sperm quality of males suffering from subfertility related to sperm impairment. Semen samples of 16 acupuncture-treated subfertile patients were analyzed before and 1 month after treatment (twice a week for 5 weeks). In parallel, semen samples of 16 control untreated subfertile males were examined. Two specimens were taken from the control group at an interval of 2–8 months. The expanded semen analysis included routine and ultramorphological observations. The fertility index increased significantly (p≤. 05) following improvement in total functional sperm fraction, percentage of viability, total motile spermatozoa per ejaculate, and integrity of the axonema (p≤. 05), which occurred upon treatment. The intactness of axonema and sperm motility were highly correlated (corr. =. 50,p≤. 05). Thus, patients exhibiting a low fertility potential due to reduced sperm activity may benefit from acupuncture treatment.”
“Statistical evaluation of the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) data showed a statistically significant increase after acupuncture in the percentage and number of sperm without ultrastructural defects in the total ejaculates. A statistically significant improvement was detected in acrosome position and shape, nuclear shape, axonemal pattern and shape, and accessory fibers of sperm organelles. However, specific sperm pathologies in the form of apoptosis, immaturity, and necrosis showed no statistically significant changes between the control and treatment groups before and after treatment.”
“The treatment of idiopathic male infertility could benefit from employing acupuncture. A general improvement of sperm quality, specifically in the ultrastructural integrity of spermatozoa, was seen after acupuncture, although we did not identify specific sperm pathologies that could be particularly sensitive to this therapy.”
Sperm Health and Scrotal Temperature; 2004 study in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health
Acupuncture normalizes hormone levels (E2, FSH, LH, PR). Shen. J Tradit Chin Med 2005 Mar.25 (1) 3-6
Acupuncture improves ovarian response to gonadotropins. Quintero. Fertility and Sterility Volume 81: Supplement 3 April 2004
Acupuncture & IVF poor responders: a cure? Magarelli P, Cridennda D, Fertil Steril,2004;81 Suppl 3 S20 Fertility and Sterility
Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Paulus W et al, Fertil Steril 2002 Vol 77, pg 721-724 Fertility and Sterility
Acupuncture with in vitro fertilisation. BMJ 2008; 336 doi: 10.1136/ bmj.39503.643727.80 (Published 6 March 2008)
Acupuncture improves ovarian blood flow. Steiner J Appl Physiol. 2006 Jul: 101 (1): 84-91. Epub 2006 Mar 2.
Though we have cited a number of studies here, it is worth noting that whilst empirical and statistical studies have proven the efficacy of acupuncture, Western medical science is at the relatively early stages of validating and embracing the effectiveness of acupuncture through it’s own studies. (See Empiricism and Traditional Chinese Medicine in our Blog section.)