Many more couples are turning to acupuncture to cure infertility problems and help them make a baby.
What is acupuncture and how does it work?
Acupuncture is an ancient medical practice that originated in China over 2000 years ago.
In acupuncture, sterilized needles that are thin and hollow in shape are placed at specific points (sometimes referred to as acupuncture points) in the body in order to realign the body’s natural forces. The needles are then twisted or vibrated (it is not as painful as it sounds!) so as to rebalance the body and to decrease feelings of pain, disease and other illness.
Acupuncture works by restoring energy flow to the body. Chinese medical practitioners believe there are 20 distinct energy pathways that travel throughout the body. When one of these energy pathways becomes blocked, disease, illness or pain occurs.
By placing needles at specific points, the blockage is minimized, restoring health. There are over 2 000 such points in the body.
Western medicine now recognizes the benefits of acupuncture. Studies have shown that acupuncture causes the release of hormones, such as endorphins, which cause the body to relax and therefore heal.These hormones can also increase blood flow, enabling antibodies to attack viruses and infections in the body.
Acupuncture and Infertility – Men
Male infertility can also benefit from acupuncture. Acupuncture can be very effective at treating sperm health problems such as a low sperm count. Studies have shown that acupuncture can increase the amount and quality of a man’s sperm.
Acupuncture also be used to cure erectile dysfunctions.
Acupuncture and Infertility – Women
Many women choose acupuncture infertility treatment either on its own or in conjunction with assisted reproduction procedures, such as IVF.
There is a growing amount of anecdotal evidence that acupuncture can be effective in treating infertility in women. Whilst not enough medical research has been done, some scientific studies have also proved the effectiveness of acupuncture for infertility.
A 2004 study conducted by the Reproductive Medicine and Fertility Center in Colorado found that 51% of women who underwent both IVF and acupuncture treatment at the same time became pregnant, while only 36% of those who only underwent IVF did. The latter group also had higher rates of miscarriage stillbirth (20%) compared to those women who had received acupuncture (8%).
Acupuncture seems to work best when a functional problem is the cause of infertility, specifically when endometriosis, ovulatory problems or hormonal imbalances are the cause for not getting pregnant.
On the other hand, acupuncture has not been proven to be effective when structural problems, such as an improperly formed epididymis or a blocked fallopian tube, are the cause of infertility.
This condition, in which endometrial tissue (the uterine lining that sheds with each monthly period) grows outside the uterus, is a major cause of infertility in women. Symptoms include painful menstrual periods, irregular or heavy bleeding and possibly, repeated miscarriages. Edometriosis can be cured by laparoscopic surgery. This will remove abnormal tissue or unblock tubes. 40-60 per cent conceive within 18 months after surgery. IVF can also be used to enable pregnancy.
This is usually a hormonal condition that prevents the release of a mature egg from an ovary. Symptoms include absent or infrequent periods and excessively heavy or light bleeding. Many ovulation problems can be cured by ovulation-stimulating drugs such as clomiphene, andf follicle-stimulating hormones. 70 per cent ovulate and of those, 20-60 per cent get pregnant. IVF can also be used to enable pregnancy.
Poor egg quality
Some women have eggs that become damaged or egss that develop chromosomal abnormalities that cannot sustain a pregnancy. This problem is usually age-related as egg quality declines significantly in the late 30s and early 40s. IVF combined with egg donation is an option. Or surrogacy.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCO is when a woman’s ovaries contain many small cysts. It is often linked with hormone imbalances. Symptoms include irregular menstrual periods, excessive hair growth, acne and weight gain. PCO can be helped by the use of ovulation-stimulating drugs such as clomiphene and follicle-stimulating hormones. Appoximately 70 per cent of women who take fertility drugs ovulate and of those, half go on to conceive within six to nine months.
Female tube blockages
Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes prevent eggs from getting to the uterus and sperm from getting to the egg. Leading causes include pelvic inflammatory disease and sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia. Laparoscopic surgery can be used to open tubes, If surgery fails IVF is an option.
As much as a third of all female infertility is unknown. Lifestyle in particular can play a huge part in infertility. Stress, smoking, bad eating habits (over eating and under eating) will all affect a woman’s fertility. If you have been trying for over 12 months to get pregnant your first step should be to consult a professional.