Acupuncture is often times suggested to help our body align the proper hormones and blood flow to the reproductive organs, therefore, increasing success rates. In this article I would like to share some of the research articles I have found promoting acupuncture during the IVF and IUI process. I personally have had acupuncture done and I can’t express how much better I feel once it is done. It is also very relaxing. There is little to no pain involved. The needles used are so small you don’t even realize they are in you until you actually see them sticking out of your body. If you just can’t handle the “needle” part of acupuncture, (which by the way is a great way to get used to the needles since you will be giving and receiving a lot of shots), some acupuncture groups now offer cold laser acupuncture as an alternative. I have had both and I feel that they both have helped me personally, so it will be up to you on what you choose do have done.
Research on Acupuncture for Fertility
Research has shown that acupuncture increases the success rates for women having in-vitro fertilization – IVF – by almost 50%. The studies show that acupuncture reduces stress and increases blood flow to the reproductive organs, all of which improves the success rate of IVF and IUI. Importantly, acupuncture helps prevent cramping in the womb after IVF treatment, and this not only helps prevent expulsion of the embryo after IVF but it is also important in helping to prevent ectopic pregnancy, as well as assisting implantation of the embryo.
Acupuncture can counteract the effects of polycystic ovaries or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, commonly known as PCOS.
It can help women with higher than normal FSH levels to conceive naturally.
Acupuncture promotes ovulation, whether you have anovulatory cycles or amenorrhea with polycystic ovaries.
Acupuncture provides more subtle enhancements such as reducing anxiety and hot flashes, all of which is helpful for those who are taking fertility drugs.
In endometriosis the endometrial tissue found outside the womb can trigger an immune response which can prevent successful conception. In these cases acupuncture can help by dampening the specific immune response, as well as reducing painful periods commonly associated with this condition.
Many clinics had also successfully used acupuncture for low sperm count, poor morphology and slow motility.
In one study it was shown that women who used acupuncture without any other fertility treatments were just as likely to conceive in the same period of time as women who took a fertility drug.
What is Acupuncture
Acupuncture is in the insertion of ultra-thin, sterile needles into specific acupuncture points on the body which reside on channels or meridians; these are pathways in both the exterior and interior of the body. These points when needled, can regulate the way in which the body functions. Acupuncture helps the body by addressing problems that affect fertility such as the thyroid, with hypothyroidism under active thyroid or hyperthyroidism, over active thyroid.
Acupuncture combined with herbal medicine has been used for centuries to treat most causes of infertility. For example, acupuncture will not be able to treat tubal adhesions, which result from PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), or endometriosis. However, in this situation one may benefit from acupuncture and herbs, because of the potential effect of improved ovarian and follicular function. Additionally, acupuncture can increase blood flow to the endometrium, helping to create a rich thick lining inside the uterus.
There are minimal risks involved with acupuncture for fertility treatment. The risk of miscarriage may increase if the incorrect acupuncture points are used during pregnancy. This is one reason why those choosing to include acupuncture in their treatment regimen should only be treated by an acupuncturist who specializes in treating fertility disorders. Acupuncture is generally safe regardless of the patients medical history.
When should I start?
Acupuncture is similar to physical therapy, the problem is not resolved after one session, it is a process-oriented method of medicinal intervention. It is better to do more sessions, then less. Patients are commonly treated for three to four months prior to IUI or IVF. This pacing of treatment seems to have a great effect.
In a study by Stener-Victorin et al from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Fertility Centre, Scandinavia and University Gothenburg, women are encouraged to have acupuncture treatments pre and post embryo transfer.
Clinical observations from the Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness suggest that most effective fertility treatments involve a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicines and traditional medicine. However, conception occasionally occurs when acupuncture and herbal medicines are used without traditional medicine.
When should I stop?
Most miscarriages occur within the first trimester (first 3 months) of pregnancy. Consequently treatment of patients through the first 12 weeks is done to help prevent the occurrence of miscarriage.
What type of Acupuncturist should I see?
Always try to find someone who is licensed in the state in which you reside. Do your research and make sure they have a knowledge base of dealing with patients that are infertile. Don’t pick someone who mostly specializes in pain management and general problems, make sure they have a steady patient grouping dealing with fertility issues. You can visit http://www.nccaom.org to find a licensed and board certified acupuncturist in your area.
[Source: Reuter’s Health: Fertility and Sterility 2002;78:1149-1153, Dr. Mike Berkley for APA. Dr Mike Berkley is an expert in Acupuncture, herbal medicines, and traditional medicine to treat infertility.].