Let’s talk fertility.
More and more people are searching for additional help on their fertility journey. Chinese Medicine has been helping with such issues for over two thousand years. Yes, the terminology has changes slightly and what was called balance of Yin and Yang energy is now sometimes called hormonal balance in the body, but the powerful results speak for themselves – research shows that acupuncture given with embryo transfer improves rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilisation.
Acupuncture uses thin needles to stimulate points around the body to activate the nervous, endocrine, and neuroendocrine systems to produce chemicals, hormones, and neurotransmitters. Acupuncture helps the body to get back into homeostasis (or balance) and heal naturally.
The case study Acupuncture Treatment for Fertility - PMC (nih.gov) gives an example of successfully using acupuncture treatments to assist a young couple with conception.
It’s been my pleasure during the last couple of years to assist my lovely patients of their fertility journey. Sometimes all it needs is gentle push in the right direction so that both partners’ bodies return to their natural balance we all born into, other times it takes more adjustments and lifestyle changes. There is a lot of information out there, some of it contradictory.
I thought I’d list some of the ways acupuncture can be of use with conception here:
· Improve Egg Quality
Stress can impede blood flow to arteries in the pelvis, which means that blood flow to the ovaries is also reduced.
Acupuncture switches off “fight or flight” mode in our body and improve blood flow to ovarian arteries, which benefits follicle development and egg quality. Egg quality is improved as the ovaries get more blood; therefore, the follicles get more nutrients.
· Balance hormones
The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that sends messages via the pituitary gland to the ovaries. Feedback loops between the brain and the ovaries ensure that the right amounts of hormones are produced at the right time for ovulation, fertilisation, and embryo implantation. Stress, toxins, and other factors can disrupt levels of hormones and cause infertility.
Acupuncture releases endorphins in the brain, which activate the hypothalamus to produce gonadotrophin-releasing hormones, the pituitary to secrete follicle-stimulating hormone and the ovaries to produce oestrogen and progesterone.
It also has a significant effect on male hormones and, given time, can dramatically improve libido and decrease stress levels.
· Thicken womb lining and promote embryo implantation
The womb lining needs to be at least 8mm thick for successful embryo implantation and pregnancy. Stress, diet, toxins, and hormonal imbalances can result in a thinner womb lining.
Acupuncture and acupressure improve blood flow to the womb, which help increase the thickness of the womb lining and supports implantation.
· Improve Male Fertility
Male factor infertility can include problems with sperm quality, sperm quantity, testosterone, obstruction, or ejaculation.
More and more research indicate that acupuncture can help with circulation and increase blood flow around the testes to improve sperm development. Studies suggest that acupuncture can increase sperm concentration, motility, sperm vitality and total motile count by increasing testosterone levels, improves sex drive and ejaculatory disfunction.
In addition, increased stress levels can result in sperm morphology issues. While acupuncture can’t remove the stressors, it can assist with forming better stress coping mechanisms and switch off “fight or flight” mode promoting rest and relaxation state.
· Reduce PCOS Symptoms
PCOS is one of the main conditions that stop women from getting pregnant. PCOS symptoms include disrupted hormones, cysts on the ovaries, no ovulation and long or irregular cycles.
Acupuncture can help offset PCOS by reducing stress hormones, balancing sex hormones, reducing the number of cysts, stimulating ovulation, and regulating the menstrual cycle.
· Reduce Endometriosis Symptoms
Endometriosis is the condition where endometrial tissue is found outside of the womb, usually in the pelvic area. The endometrial cells outside of the womb are affected by changes in hormones, they bleed, create inflammation and form cysts. This can create a lot of pain, blockages, and digestive issues.
Research done in China shows that acupuncture and acupressure can significantly reduce endometriosis pain, increase cytokines, and reduce inflammation.
· Improve IVF Success
The chances of having a successful birth from IVF can range from 2%-35% depending on a woman’s age and other health conditions of the couple. It also has quite a substantial price tag.
Research shows that having acupuncture before and after embryo transfer may increase pregnancy rates up to 60% and reduce the number of miscarriages by 50%.
We shouldn’t also underestimate the calming effects of acupuncture here, especially during the dreaded “two-week wait” before the pregnancy test.
Nothing can beat the Monday morning message from a patient: “It’s positive. We’ve done it!”
If you’re struggling to conceive, get in touch to discuss how acupuncture can assist on your fertility journey.