Written by Marc Wasserman Ph.D. L.Ac.
Infertility is not an uncommon occurrence. In fact, estimates indicate that one in five women, between the ages of 25-40, report using infertility services.* Between the stress of examinations and treatment and the financial pressure, infertility is challenging for many couples. But, in most cases, it is correctable and there are many options available to address the various causes.
At Flow Health Clinic we work with couples who continue attempts at natural conception as well as those undergoing IUI and IVF treatments. Very often we see people who’ve a history of failed IVF and IUI treatments and have gone on to have healthy pregnancies with our assistance.
What is acupuncture and how is it going to help us get pregnant?
Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin gauge needles at locations throughout the body, stimulating responses from the immune, circulatory, and nervous systems and rebooting the body’s communication network. By balancing hormone and neurochemical concentrations as well as improving blood flow to specific tissues, the body becomes more receptive to a pregnancy.
How is Chinese medicine used for infertility?
Chinese medicine is an ancient system of compounding natural medicinals into a precise prescription for each patient’s condition. These clinically proven formulas have evolved over thousands of years of experience and continue to improve with modern day advances in technology and understanding of the human body. Men and women in Asian countries continue, to this day, to rely on natural medicinals before, during and after pregnancies to promote, maintain and restore health.
How will my specific situation be addressed?
At Flow Health Clinic we have three phases of treatment. These provide the basic framework necessary to approach a range of scenarios, additional adjustments are made according to each specific case.
Phase I—System Reboot
We begin by reestablishing a regular menstrual cycle, encouraging full clearance of endometrial tissue, and promoting punctual ovulation. This return to a fresh start is an essential step, and especially important for couples who have any history of miscarriage.
Very often this alone is enough to restore fertility.
Phase II—Creating a Welcoming Body Environment
To encourage fertilization and implantation we focus on the following strategies:
- Promoting healthy growth of the endometrium
- Thinning excessively viscous cervical mucus
- Preventing auto-immune rejection
- Increasing sperm count and motility
These issues vary among couples and treatment plans should be modified accordingly. For those trying to conceive naturally it may be more important to focus on promoting healthy cervical mucus and increasing sperm counts. Whereas full development of endometrial lining and discouraging auto-immune rejection more urgently affects the process and outcome in couples undergoing IUI and IVF therapies.
Phase III—Strengthening and Tonifying
Aging, genetic and environmental factors, along with disease exposure may all result in diminished or abnormal endocrine stimulation in the body. This can often be improved with precise stimulation of acupuncture points and supplementation with Chinese medicine. Recent and ongoing research continues to expose these mechanisms. For example, CV4(關元), SP6(三陰交), and ST36(足三里) three commonly prescribed points for infertility, have been shown to regulate reproductive endocrine function through activation of GnRH neurons.**
Infertility is a challenge. There are many factors which need to be investigated and corrected carefully. And thankfully there are many treatment options available. As you continue to pursue your goal of a healthy pregnancy, whether just beginning fertility treatments or frustrated to the point of surrender, acupuncture and Chinese medicine should be considered as part of your integrative care plan.
*Chandra, A. PhD. et al. “Infertility Service Use in the United States: Data From the National Survey of Family Growth, 1982–2010.” National Health Statistics Report. 1/22/2014. No.73
Cochrane S, et al. “Prior to Conception: The Role of an Acupuncture Protocol in Improving Women’s Reproductive Functioning Assessed by a Pilot Pragmatic Randomised Controlled Trial.” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016.
Hullender R, et al. “Impact of whole systems traditional Chinese medicine on in-vitro fertilization outcomes.” Reprod Biomed Online. 2015 Jun;30(6).
Liu, F et al. “Study on the underlying mechanism of acupuncture in regulating neuroendocrine activity in dysmenorrhea rats.” Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 2009 Feb;34(1):3-8
Manheimer, E et al. “Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: systematic review and meta-analysis.“BMJ. 2008 Mar 8;336(7643):545-9.
**Wang, SJ. et al. “Experimental study on acupuncture activating the gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons in hypothalamus.” Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 2010 Mar;30(1):30-9.