Acupuncture and fertility -
men and women
The ancient practice of acupuncture is one of the most recognized natural remedies for infertility, and is also being used to compliment specialized medical treatments such as IVF. Find out more regarding acupuncture and fertility and how this may even help promote men's sperm production.
History – The origins of where acupuncture originated from are unclear, but there's strong evidence of the Chinese practicing and developing this form of medical treatment for over 3,000 years.
This procedure involves inserting filiform needles (very fine thread like) and manipulating them along certain pathways in the body called meridians. These are believed to follow an energy flow circulating around the body which the Chinese culture refer to as "Qi" (pronounced "chee"). The first needles were made from stone and bone materials. Acupuncture has been used for a wide variety of therapeutic purposes and pain relief throughout the ages.
Sterilized stainless steel (disposable) needles of various lengths are inserted. Surprisingly this is virtually painless! There are fourteen main meridian channels which are associated with different organ systems, and 400 different needle points. The acupuncturist will decide on which are the appropriate areas and depths to stimulate after taking a personal history, list of symptoms, and an initial examination. Often traditional Chinese medicine is used alongside treatments.
The Chinese Yin and Yang symbol (Taijitu) is best known as the complementary opposites, which helps describe the state of balance that the body needs to stay healthy. When this balance is unstable, disease and emotional illness can strike. Acupuncture is based on unblocking/restoring the natural energy channels which all form a network, therefore allowing the body to heal naturally.
The subject of acupuncture is still up for debate with modern medical physicians as they can't give any scientific explanation for how it actually works. However, the results speak for themselves! Many doctors are aware of the success that this treatment is providing, even if they don't yet fully understand the process.
Acupuncture and fertility have an increasingly well known connection which we'll discuss!
Acupuncture treatment for infertility
Western society is now recognizing that acupuncture is becoming a valid aid to help combat reproductive problems, and to just generally boost the chances of conception taking place. How does this method work for fertility?
Most people haven't heard much regarding acupuncture and fertility help for men, but scientific studies are indicating that this therapy can also help promote sperm production and quality! This improvement may occur because of the increased blood circulation, supplying essential nutrients to the pelvis and genitals. The needles have also been shown to trigger hormone regulation so this is extremely beneficial. Of course cutting out any bad habits (smoking, too much alcohol, junk food etc...) also helps with the health of your swimmers, as they are very susceptible to toxins and poor diet!
Research – This involved 40 men diagnosed with idiopathic infertility (unknown cause). Of these men, 28 were given acupuncture twice a week over a period of five weeks. A control group of 12 men didn't receive acupuncture. Semen samples were collected from both groups of men after a three day period of sexual abstinence. One sample the day before the beginning of treatments, and the other after the last acupuncture session.
Evidence suggested that acupuncture raised motility levels from 44.5%-50%. The percentage of healthy sperm per ejaculate increased from 0.06%-0.26%, while the number went up from 40,000–200,000 of healthy sperm cells per sample. Normal shaped acrosomes (enzyme filled cap on the head of the sperm, used for egg penetration) changed from 22.5%-38.5%. Also the percentage of normal exoneme patterns (structure containing tubules arranged in distinct pattern, believed to aid sperm motility) went from 46.1%-52.2%. The control group didn't show the same results as the acupuncture group.
This improved structure and quality of the sperm cells can significantly improve the chances of an egg being fertilized.
Christian-Lauritzen-Institute, Ulm, IVF Center Munich (Germany) and the Department of General Biology, University of Siena (Italy). Fertility and Sterility July 2005, volume 84, issue 1, pages 141-147.
The most obvious way in which acupuncture and fertility levels may be linked for women is by helping increase the blood flow to the uterus, ovaries, and by reducing tension. The pituitary and hypothalamus glands in the brain respond favorably (control center for the reproductive cycle). These reactions may help -
- Re-balance hormone levels
- Enhance cervical mucus
- Promote ovarian function
- Improve egg quality
- Thicken the endometrium - preparing the uterus lining for implantation of a fertilized egg
- Prevent uterus contractions
- Decrease the risks of miscarriage
Many women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
have regulated their ovulation cycles whilst receiving acupuncture treatments.
The increased circulation can sometimes help with the clearing out of blocked fallopian tubes of a functional nature, such as a build up of fluid or a mucus plug.
Often helps alleviate the symptoms of endometriosis and assists with management of the disease.
IVF and acupuncture
Many fertility clinics are now recommending for their clients to undergo acupuncture treatments along with their in-vitro-fertilization procedures.
IVF can be extremely stressful, not to mention expensive. Researchers are suggesting that combining acupuncture along with the clinical methods may have a positive effect on the chances of a successful pregnancy.
Research – Dr. Eric Manheimer from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (U.S.) led a team who examined medical literature of acupuncture on IVF trials. They used seven studies, published since 2002 and carried out in four Western countries involving 1,366 women. These women received acupuncture either immediately before or after the test tube embryos were transferred to their wombs.
Results showed a 65% increase in establishment of a pregnancy, an 87% increase in continuing pregnancy, and a 91% increase in live births. Published online in the British Medical Journal, 7th February, 2008.
Acupuncture for stress relief
Perhaps the most well known aspect of acupuncture and fertility health is stress reduction!
One reason for this is because the needle stimulation helps release endorphins (chemical produced in brain) which are the body's own natural happy drug and painkiller. This effect helps us with relaxation and positive emotions!
The whole endocrine system which includes our hormones is very sensitive to stressors. This can contribute towards reproductive difficulties. Find out more about
stress and infertility.
High stress/anxiety levels are detrimental to our immune system and are responsible for an array of health and mental disorders. The central nervous system responds well to treatments, as well as the regulation of blood pressure and body temperature. Sleep patterns and digestive functions also improve. This stabilization influences how we cope on an everyday basis and how the body reacts to certain high pressure situations.
Please note -
It's still essential to visit your personal physician for a health evaluation before trying to conceive (both partners). Some reproductive disorders may require specialized medical treatments, medications, or operative measures (e.g. for structural irregularities). It pays to know exactly what you may be dealing with!
Make sure you only use a qualified/licensed acupuncturist practitioner who has experience dealing with fertility issues.
Your practitioner may also recommend a change of lifestyle and/or diet to aid the overall outcome.
Acupuncture and fertility success doesn't always happen overnight! Most experts recommend a consistent course of at least three months worth of treatment (x-12 sessions)to help adjust hormonal imbalances. Most couples seem to conceive within six - twelve months from the start of their therapy.
Risks are minimal when dealing with a professional, but there are some people who aren't suitable to receive acupuncture. Check with your doctor before commencing with a course of acupuncture treatments. This is especially the case for anyone who has any bleeding disorders (such as hemophilia) take blood thinning medications, or have a low white blood cell count (risk of infection may be higher).
So now you know a little more about acupuncture treatment for infertility, there are a couple other topics worth investigating...
Related articles –
How to increase sperm count?
There are other factors to consider. Find out more!
plan is essential for all couples who are trying for a baby. This will help ensure optimal fertility and the health of your future offspring!
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