Infertility is not just a medical problem… and you are not alone in your battle. In fact, nine million people in the United States are affected by infertility and many of those people deal with medical, psychological, and financial stresses associated with the problem. Recent research shows that 60% of infertility cases are due to female factors and 40% of infertility cases are due to male factors.
Definition of Infertility
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of actively trying. Infertility is classified into two types:
- Primary infertility – no previous pregnancy; approximately 40% of infertile couples.
- Secondary infertility – a previous pregnancy whatever the outcome; approximately 60% of infertile couples.
Causes of Infertility
- Ovulation factors
- Cervical/uterine factors
- Fallopian tube factors
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Ovarian Cysts
- Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)
- Uterine fibroid tumors
- Endocrine Imbalances
- Luteal Phase Defect (LPD)
- Immunology factors or inflammatory factors: both specific and non-specific
- Elevated Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
- Thyroid Disease
- Birth defects due to fetal development from mother taking DES (diethylstilbestrol)
- Advanced maternal age
- Unexplained infertility
- Male factors
How Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Treat Infertility
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine work to enhance both men and women’s fertility by restoring health and balance to the body, mind and spirit. There have been a multitude of research studies in the past decade showing how acupuncture and Chinese medicine increase the success rate of conventional infertility treatments. In fact, in the April 2002 issue of Fertility and Sterility, a German study showed that using acupuncture before and after IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) increased the success rate to 42.5% as opposed to a success rate of only 26.3% by those not using acupuncture. Acupuncture is very effective when combined with assisted reproductive technologies and can also assist in achieving natural pregnancy. For maximum benefits using Chinese medicine, we recommend at least three months of preconception care as well as maintenance treatments post conception.
Western medicine concentrates solely on the health of the reproductive organs whereas Chinese medicine works to strengthen and balance all systems of the body. To achieve this balance we use acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Reproductive Organ Massage, Nutritional guidelines, and nutritional supplements.
Acupuncture reduces stress levels (elevated stress can prohibit conception by blocking blood flow to the reproductive organs and causing an imbalance in hormonal production, thus resulting in irregular menstrual cycles, lack of ovulation, high FSH levels, poor ovarian production, diminished egg quality, and poor sperm production and quality). Acupuncture can also do the following:
- Regulate the stimulating hormones to produce an increased quantity of follicles
- Increase the blood flow to the uterus and increase the thickness of the uterine lining to improve implantation rates
- Improve the blood flow to the reproductive organs and prevent the uterus from contracting
- Diminish the side effects of Clomid, Gonal f and other ovulation and hormonal support drugs
- Prevent hyper-stimulation of the ovaries and address its side effects
- Decrease the chances of miscarriage by relaxing the uterus and providing increased blood flow
- Strengthen the immune system
- Stimulate ovulation
- Diminish morning sickness
- Improve sperm production and quality to increase the fertilization rate of eggs and create better quality and quantity of embryos*
*Get more information on male infertility.
Chinese herbs build strong, nutrient-rich blood for the ovaries which will better nourish the developing follicles and create stronger egg quality and ultimately stronger embryos. Chinese herbs also normalize the function of the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Ovarian axis to regulate and improve the body’s natural hormonal production which in turn improves ovarian function and egg quality. The herbs also nourish the spleen and kidney system which are responsible for our reproductive health.
Reproductive organ massage is a highly specialized form of therapeutic massage that manipulates the fascia of the pelvic cavity to unblock any obstruction in the reproductive organs and improve the blood flow to these organs. The result is a balance of hormonal production, improved ovarian production and ovulation, regular menstrual cycles, lower FSH levels, better egg quality, stronger embryos, and improved sperm production and quality.
Nutritional guidance is customized for each patient based on the health of her or his kidney, liver, and spleen functions, which control our reproductive health and underlie our metabolic processes.
- Basal body temperature (BBT) charting: shows fertile days, anovulation, luteal phase defect, thyroid conditions (ovulation causes a temperature increase of .2 degrees that lasts for 3 days).
- Cervical mucus detection: detects egg white mucus consistency during ovulation signaling fertility.
- Lutenizing hormone (LH) surge urine test: tests the LH surge preceding ovulation. Conception most likely to occur within 2-3 days after the surge.
- Female hormone panel (FHP) test: non-invasive test taken over course of menstrual cycle. Detects estrogen/progesterone/testosterone levels, as well as follicular stimulation, luteal phase indicators, and corpus luteum responsiveness.
- Male hormone panel (MHP) test: detects DHEA, Androstenedione, Testosterone, Dihydrotestosterone, Estrone and Progesterone.
- Adrenal salivatory index (ASI): measures cortisol during a circadian cycle and evaluates the hypothalamic-adrenal function.
- Hair sample test: measures deficiencies or excesses in mineral and vitamin concentrations in the body, as well as toxic metals.
Major Benefits of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
- Overcomes common fertility challenges
- Increases chance of conceiving naturally
- Improves reproductive health and strengthens immune system
- Increases effectiveness of Western procedures
- Reduces side effects of drugs prescribed during In vitro fertilization (IVF), Intrauterine insemination (IUI), and Gamete intra-fallopian transfer (GIFT) procedures
- Reduces chance of miscarriage
- Improves energy and balances emotions
- Diminishes morning sickness
- Shortens labor time
Post Partum Care
- Improves long-term reproductive health
- Decreases post-partum depression
- Improves breast milk quality
How Western Medicine Treats Infertility
Western medicine practitioners tend to treat according to their diagnosis and can offer assisted reproductive technology as a solution. Some examples would be IVF and IUI. About 90% of infertility cases are treatable with medical and alternative therapies like acupuncture and Chinese medicine.
Research and Related Articles on How Acupuncture Improves Fertility
Role of acupuncture in the treatment of female infertility
FERTILITY AND STERILITY® VOL. 78, NO. 6, DECEMBER 2002
Copyright © 2002 American Society for Reproductive Medicine
Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries of infertile women with electro-acupuncture
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Fertility Centre, Scandinavia. Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Department of Physiology University of Gothenburg / S-413 45 Gothenburg, Sweden
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology
Pin and Needles: Could Acupuncture Help Promote Pregnancy?
ABC News, 22 August 2003
Can Acupuncture Help You Conceive?
CBS News, New York, July 24, 2004
The Mind/Body Connection: Its Role in Fertility and IVF
by Christo Zouves, M.D. and Suzanne Duffy