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Infertility and Acupuncture

Read more about Acupuncture.

Overview

Acupuncture consists of the usage of sterile, disposable, single-use, and hair thin needles inserted into points on the body that have scientifically and empirically validated therapeutic effects on the brain, nervous system, blood circulation, internal organs, and hormones.

The stimulation of these points impacts specific energy imbalances in the body and can create a harmonious environment in a woman’s body that can successfully achieve fertility. It is fairly well agreed on that Acupuncture helps with relaxation and increases beta-endorphins, known as the “feel good” hormones. Other benefits noted in use of Acupuncture during the fertility process are:

• Improvement in sperm quality and counts in infertile men

• Improvement in the lining of the endometrium and increased blood flow to the uterus

• Regulation of hormone levels

• Improvement of thyroid problems

Effect of Acupuncture on Infertility

Acupuncture may significantly improve both male and female fertility. The brain and spinal nerves send branches out to all regions of the body, especially to the skin, and these nerves, when stimulated with acupuncture needles by a qualified Acupuncture specialist in treating infertility and gynecology, can enhance fertility by balancing the 'qi' or energy flow within the body.

Acupuncture & Accupressure is increasingly recommended by fertility clinics as a complimentary solution along with medical treatment such as in-vitro fertilization and artificial insemination. In Chinese Medicine, fertility is believed to be caused by “Patterns of Disharmony”, which is a condition that affects the kidney, liver, blood and uterus as well as other bodily systems. The goal of the treatment is to restore the body’s hormonal balance and biochemical functioning.

"It 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," says 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

Research Evidence on Acupuncture

Numerous scientific studies have been conducted that demonstrate the effectiveness of acupuncture therapy in the treatment of infertility, including in women with anovulatory cycles, and those receiving IVF. The results of these clinical studies conclude that acupuncture increases the effectiveness of IVF, as well as being effective as a stand alone treatment for male and female infertility.

  • Women who received Acupuncture with IVF had 66% more successful fertilizations than the control group who did not receive acupuncture in a sample of 160 women, in a peer-reviewed study conducted at Columbia University in 2002.
  • Pregnancy rates in 60 cases of uncomplicated lacteal phase defects was 56% after 3 months in Nan Jing Treatment hospital in a peer-reviewed study conducted in 2008.
  • In a study of 28 men receiving acupuncture for infertility, the control group was unchanged, while the treatment group had significant changes in sperm counts, normality, motility and apoptosis.
  • In a study of 10 women conducted in China, acupuncture replaced HMG and HCG to induce ovulation in 10 of 11 months without causing any side effects.
  • In a study of 53 women conducted in China, 41% women with significant lacteal phase infertility became pregnant with the use of Chinese Herbal Medicine alone. The remaining 68 % required Acupuncture.

How to Use Acupuncture

  • The Acupuncture specialist will spend about 2 hours of one on one time with you in your first visit assessing and diagnosing the causes of your infertility, utilizing TCM medical diagnosis that includes a series of in-depth health questions, emotional questions, tongue, pulse, listening to your breathing, and observing your responses. It is important to bring all of your blood reports, scans, and list of medications for this key, diagnostic session.
  • After arriving at a diagnosis, the Acupuncture specialist will select a series of about 12-15 points to insert the painless needles based on their diagnosis for infertility. Every treatment may be a little different, as each the doctor will check your tongue and pulse, as well as ask questions regarding your progress. As you progress, the selected needle sites will change. It is a very dynamic process, and one that is typically customized to your condition. The needles are usually retained in the body for 20-30 minutes, usually while you are relaxing under soft lighting and listening to calming music.
  • The Acupuncture specialist will write and perhaps fill a prescription for Chinese Herbs for infertility in 75% of cases. 50% of the efficacy of TCM in resolving infertility lies in the use of "Traditional Chinese Herbs", and is the most scientifically researched and elaborate herbal medicine system in the world. You may receive bags of herbals that are raw, and require boiling into a tea, powders that are mixed with warm water, syrups, or small "tea pills", or preparations of the tea that have been spray-dried and formed into a small pill.
  • The Acupuncture Physician will give you a diet based on his or her diagnosis of infertility, since the digestive system always plays a central role in causing infertility in TCM, and hence, the importance of ingesting the herbal teas and diet therapy that promotes fertility. TCM diets are usually non-vegetarian, although can be modified for vegetarians who eat eggs.
  • The Acupuncture Physician may apply a therapeutic massage called Tui-Na along with a warming liniment to stimulate micro-circulation around the abdominal region, and especially the uterus, ovaries, and digestive system. This will increase the effectiveness of the infertility treatment.
  • The Acupuncture specialist may utilize several warming and natural infrared therapies while your needles are retained to treat your infertility. These are especially effective in dissolving endometrial growths, uterine blood clots, and ovarian cysts without causing any pain.
  • Finally, you may expect to see the Acupuncture specialist for 3-6 months on a weekly basis. Your herbal and diet therapy will be followed in between visits. About 50% of infertile couples conceive after 3 months of acupuncture for infertility, and 75% after 6 months of following acupuncture for infertility.

Side Effects and Warnings

#Safety Issues

Serious adverse effects associated with the use of acupuncture are rare. [1],[2] The most commonly reported problems include short-term pain from needle insertion, tiredness, and minor bleeding. There is one report of infection caused by acupuncture given to a person with diabetes. ^[3] Some acupuncture points lie over the lungs and insertion to excessive depth could conceivably cause a pneumothorax (punctured lung). Because acupuncturists are trained to avoid this complication, it is a rare occurrence.

A recent report from China contained an example of another complication caused by excessively deep needling. ^4] A 44-year-old man was needled on the back of the neck at a commonly used acupuncture point just below the bony protuberance at the base of the skull. However, the acupuncturist inserted the needle too deeply and punctured a blood vessel in the skull. The client developed a severe headache with nausea and vomiting; a [CAT scan showed bleeding in the brain, and a spinal tap found a small amount of blood in the cerebrospinal fluid. The severe headache, along with neck stiffness, continued for 28 days. The man was treated with standard pain medication, and the condition resolved itself without any permanent effects.

Infection due to the use of unclean needles has been reported in the past, but the modern practice of using disposable sterile needles appears to have eliminated this risk.

References

  1. Lian, F. "TCM Treatment of Luteal Phase Defect-An Analysis of 60 Cases", Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Jun;11 (2):115-20, 1991
  2. Cai, Xuefen "Sunbstitution of Acupuncture for HCG in Ovulation Induction", Journal of Tradtional Chinese Medicine, 17 (2): 117-20, 1997
  3. Pei, L J, Strehler, E., Noss, U., Piomboni, P., Baccetti, B., Sterzik, K. "Quantitative Evaluation of Spermatozoa Ultrastructure After Acupuncture Treatment for Idiopathic Male Infertility" Longhua Hospital, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, People's Republic of China
  4. www.westlakecomplementarymedicine.com/research/research.10.infertility.pdfZhang, H.Y., Yu X. Z., Wang G.L., "Preliminary Report of the Treatment of Luteal Phase Defect by Replenishing Kidney. An Analysis of 53 Cases", Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Aug; 12 (8): 473-74, 352-53, 199
  5. Paulus W., et al. "Influence of Acupuncture on the Pregnancy Rate in Patients Who Undergo Assisted Reproduction Therapy. Fertility and Sterility April 2002; 77 (4):721-4.Reproductive Journal Fertility and Sterility, April 2002

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