Acupuncture involves the insertion, and on occasions, manipulation of filiform needles into specific points in the body. This treatment is similar to physical therapy in that it is a process-oriented (i.e. ongoing) method of intervention. The sticking of an acupuncture needles is believed to help activate (enhance or slow down) the flow of life energy which the Chinese refer to as Qi or Chi. Acupuncture is used to treat both female and male infertility; female IVF infertility treatments usually last 3 – 4 months, from the period before insemination to post-IVF treatment. When you commit to an acupuncture treatment, it should mean more than willingly subjecting yourself for needle insertion and manipulation. Commonly, traditional acupuncturists will perform a thorough physical workup that includes the taking of the pulse and examination of the color of the tongue of the patient. The findings from this workup aid the acupuncturist in determining the energy levels, balance of body fluid, and blood circulation of the patient.
How Can Acupuncture Assist a Woman in Getting Pregnant?
It seems that acupuncture has the ability to boost blood circulation to specified vital organs. Because of this, it can aid in the stabilization of hormone levels, and even better follicular and ovarian function, which results in healthier eggs. Moreover, the circulation of blood to the uterus can also improve allowing for a thick lining of the endometrial wall (endometrium). This means that there is zero chance of a miscarriage because the uterus is better able to hold the implanted eggs to term. All these indicate that acupuncture has the ability to increase the rate of success of assisted reproductive therapies such as IVF (in vitro fertilization).
However, there are certain infertility cases in which acupuncture is not going to help a woman get pregnant. These may include issues that require surgical correction, such as an obstruction in her fallopian tubes although if the fallopian tubes are spasmed (and not blocked), this problem can be resolved by acupuncture treatment. There actually has been acupuncture treatments done that opened up the spasmed tubes. If you want to get pregnant, the fallopian tube needs to be open in order for the ovum (egg) to travel past the cervix where it can be either harvested or inseminated.
Acupuncture can also be complemented with herbal medicine in order to resolve a woman’s irregular menstrual cycle, hormonal imbalances, and even treat some types of male infertility.
What Clinical Studies Reveal
Adherents of acupuncture claim that the treatment can resolve almost any medical condition. There is definitely a wide consensus that acupuncture can at least relieve pain in a temporal basis and even stabilize blood pressure through the stimulation of the central nervous system. These achievements are possible because of the fact that acupuncture stimulates the production and release of “feel-good” chemicals called endorphins which are known to relieve pain and cause the body to experience a feeling of wellness. Endorphins also have the ability to release certain neurohormones and neurotransmitters, which aids in the self healing process of the body.
Studies have shown the benefits of acupuncture in treating infertility especially when it’s used in combination with IVF. In 2002, a small German showed an almost doubling of the rates of pregnancy for women who were treated with acupuncture both shortly prior to and shortly post embryo transfer. One other study done in Britain manifested similar outcomes. The study revealed the chances of conception rose by 65% for women who were given acupuncture shortly prior to and post IVF therapy. Dr. Diane K. Cridennda, a licensed acupuncturist and Dr. Paul C. Magarelli, a doctor of infertility at the Reproductive Medicine & Fertility Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. co-authored an ongoing study into the use of IVF with acupuncture. Dr. Magarelli, an acupuncture skeptic at first, now believes that acupuncture has the ability to resolve some types of infertility. He bases his evidence from his review of the study. He now believes that acupuncture indeed has the ability to improve the chances of a woman getting pregnant through IVF, and holding that pregnancy to term.
What Should I Do If I Want Acupuncture to Be a Part Of My Treatment?
More and more fertility centers throughout the United States are beginning to offer acupuncture as a way to become pregnant or as a complementary therapy to an IVF treatment protocol. For those who are considering acupuncture to be a part of their overall treatment plan, they should commence treatment 3 – 4 months before IVF, artificial insemination or any assisted reproductive therapy procedure. Then, they should continue with treatments both prior to and post embryo transfer or insemination. Just make sure you get treated by a licensed practitioner who has experience in infertility treatment. It is important that the acupuncturist knows that it is not safe to stick needles in the abdomino-pelvic area after transfer or insemination. Doing so could lead to a miscarriage.
Zuobiao (Roy) Yuan is a licensed acupuncturist in Edina, MN, and the founder and clinical director of Bhakti Acupuncture.