Acupuncture for Infertility
There are many people who want to have children but experience difficulties with fertility. Infertility is “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.” Roughly 1 in 6 (16%) couples in Canada currently experience infertility, a number that has doubled since the 1980s. Additionally, while most people associate infertility with women, some 30-50% of cases can be due to male sterility.
What are the most common causes of infertility?
There are many reasons why couples may experience infertility.
In women it can be due to:
- Age. By age 40 a woman’s chance of getting pregnant drops to about 50%
- Physical problems in the fallopian tubes or uterus: missing tubes, blockages, fibroids, cysts, or polyps
In men it can be due to:
- low sperm count
- poor sperm quality
People of any gender can also experience infertility because of an STI, hormonal imbalances, drastic treatment for other diseases (for example cancer), chronic illness, lifestyle habits such as tobacco use or consumption of alcohol, and generally being overweight or underweight.
Standard Western medical treatments
Conventional fertility treatments use a number of methods to achieve pregnancy including: monitoring the woman’s cycle, testing for sperm numbers and quality, induction of ovulation, intrauterine insemination (IUI), and even surgery. These can be very costly and have low success rates (15% for IUI).
How can Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture treat infertility?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture treat infertility as an imbalance in the body that is preventing the normal function of the reproductive system. The body functions best when it is fully nourished by oxygen rich blood. Factors such as bodily weakness, overworking, too much physical exercise, pathogen invasion, and lifestyle factors like poor diet and sleep can all contribute to the body’s ability to produce blood and move oxygen to the tissues and organs. An imbalance in any of these factors will directly impact the optimal function of the reproductive organs, thus leading to infertility as a result.
How can Acupuncture help treat infertility?
Acupuncture aims to correct the body’s energy flow and promote overall well being. While the symptom may be a decline in fertility, acupuncture aims to target the underlying cause and strengthen the base functions. In more concrete terms, it can regulate a woman’s cycles of ovulation and menstruation, improve oxygen rich blood flow to the uterus, and induce a state of calmness by enhancing endorphin production and inhibiting the central nervous system – all of which can help a patient achieve conception.
There have been many recent studies that explore the efficacy of acupuncture for treating infertility in women:
- Tel Aviv University researchers found that: “When combining IUI with TCM treatments, 65.5% of the test group were able to conceive, compared with 39.4% of the control group, who received no herbal or acupuncture therapy.”
- A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that “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.”
- Another study in the same journal also found that “Acupuncture on the day of ET significantly improves the reproductive outcome of IVF/ICSI, compared with no acupuncture” (39% success for those who got acupuncture, 22% in the control group)
For men, current research shows that:
- Acupuncture can generally improve sperm quality.
- The number of functional sperm, their viability/integrity, and total motile spermatozoa per ejaculate all improved with acupuncture treatment.
- Acupuncture may be a useful, nontraumatic treatment for males with very poor sperm density, especially those with a history of genital tract inflammation.
When seeking acupuncture treatment for infertility it is important therefore to have both partners diagnosed and treated to ensure maximum benefit and achieve a successful pregnancy. The goal of acupuncture is not only to help couples get pregnant however, but to make sure they and the baby are healthy throughout.
If you or a loved one are having difficulty conceiving, please do not hesitate to contact us to find out if/how Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can benefit you, and help grow your family.