If you are reading this, chances are you are either thinking about pregnancy, or actively trying to become pregnant. We hope that the information below is helpful for understanding what acupuncture is, and whether it may help you.
The process of conceiving, carrying and delivering a baby is one of life’s most important and meaningful experiences. Throughout this process, it is common for individuals and couples to experience questions, uncertainty, changes and challenges that affect them physically, emotionally and relationship-wise.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been used for centuries to support fertility, and includes several modalities. The most well-known of these modalities is acupuncture, which involves the stimulation of the body through the insertion of fine, solid needles at specific points on the body. In addition to acupuncture, other modalities include herbal medicine, therapeutic massage, as well as dietary and lifestyle modifications. These modalities are commonly combined to support the various stages of conception and pregnancy, as well as postpartum health for the mother and baby.
Traditional Chinese Medicine can be used to treat many types of fertility disorders both for women and for men. While acupuncture and herbs will not work for all causes of infertility, individuals can still benefit from treatment because of the potential effect of acupuncture for reducing stress, increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs and balancing the endocrine system.
Acupuncture for Women
Acupuncture can be used by women seeking to get pregnant naturally, as well as in conjunction with assisted reproductive technologies (ART) including but not limited to intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), donor-egg transfer, and cryopreservation.
Acupuncture may be used to help women with diagnosed elevated follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), repeated pregnancy loss (RPL), unexplained (idiopathic) infertility, luteal phase defect, thin uterine lining, hyperprolactinemia (when not caused by a prolactinoma), and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) with anovulatory cycles.
Acupuncture for Men
Although there is less research on the effects of acupuncture on male fertility, studies suggest that acupuncture may improve the overall quality and structural integrity of sperm, improve sperm motility and morphology, and increase the overall number of normal sperm in a group of men with infertility problems, including sperm-DNA-fragmentation.
Stress, Infertility and Acupuncture
One of the key ways that acupuncture treatment increases fertility is by reducing stress, which is often a key factor in infertility for both men and women. When people are under stress, the hormone cortisol is released, which alters the brain’s neurochemical balance and changes overall hormone levels, which in turn can disrupt the pituitary balance that is key to the reproductive cycle.
Stress is capable of preventing a woman from ovulating entirely, and can also create spasms in both the fallopian tubes and the uterus, which can interfere with movement and implantation of a fertilized egg.
In men, stress can alter sperm counts, motility, and cause impotence. Acupuncture infertility treatment counters the effects of stress and cortisol by releasing endorphins in the brain. Herbal treatment for impotence is also an option for men and can reduce stress.
What Are the Risks of Using Acupuncture for Infertility?
Although the risks in using acupuncture for fertility treatment are minimal, it is important to be treated by an acupuncturist with experience in treating fertility disorders. Finding an experienced provider that you can trust and can visit regularly is important both for minimizing stress and maximizing treatment potential.
What Does Treatment Involve?
The specific modalities, frequency and duration of treatment are tailored to match each individual’s or couple’s needs and are determined through a thorough consultation. The consultation includes an examination and review of individual’s’ medical history, health condition and lifestyle.
In general, a healthy person (male or female) of childbearing age should prepare for three to four months of continuous treatment of one to two weekly visits in order to address any underlying conditions impairing fertility. The ability to conceive and carry a baby will vary between individuals and couples, but maintaining a regular frequency of treatments generally increases the chances of healthy fertilization.
The majority of miscarriages typically occurs within the first three months of pregnancy. Therefore, it is generally advised that treatment be continued for women through week twelve to help prevent miscarriage. Many women choose to continue beyond and throughout the pregnancy to support the overall comfort and well-being. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help with many conditions that occur during pregnancy, including morning sickness, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, painful urination, urine retention, constipation, back pain, abdominal pain and sciatica.
How Much Do Acupuncture Treatments Cost?