Infertility is considered an inability to conceive in a sexually active couple who are trying to get pregnant for one year. In 1984, the estimated percentage of couples with fertility problems was 5.4%. In 1992, increased to 8.5%, and today, the estimated prevalence is up to 15.7%.
Causes of infertility
Infertility can be traced to either the man or woman, or a combination of both:
- 3 times out of 10, the cause is in men.
- 4 times out of 10, the cause is in women.
- 2 times out of 10, the cause is a mix of factors from both male and female.
- 1 time out of 10, at first, no specific cause can be found.
Causes of infertility in women may include:
- Age (fertility decreases after age 35)
- Problems producing eggs (which shows up when she has no period/menstrual cycle, or no regular one)
- Having a sexually transmitted infection (STI), like Chlamydia (which can cause blockages in the fallopian tubes)
- Problems in the uterus (like fibroids or polyps)
- Problems with the fallopian tubes (like missing tubes or blockages)
- Endometriosis (excess of tissue that gathers around the reproductive organs)
- Hormonal imbalances
- Early menopause (before age 40)
Why use acupuncture for infertility?
The treatment of infertility using acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) dates back 2000 years. The ancient, time-tested techniques improve fertility rates and support a women’s whole body, unlocking unlimited potential for health, healing and childbearing.
Studies published in the medical journal Fertility & Sterility and British Medical Journal both found that acupuncture dramatically improves the chances of becoming pregnant when used in conjunction with other assisted reproductive techniques such as Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and In vitro fertilization (IVF).
In a study published in Human Reproductive Journal, an ultrasound was used to evaluate blood flow to the uterus during acupuncture treatments. The study found that blood flow increases during treatment. When acupuncture needles are placed correctly it can affect the nervous system thus relaxing the uterus. A relaxed uterus allows increased blood flow aiding in a successful implant of an embryo within the uterine lining.
Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical Centre in New York reviewed multiple studies and concluded that acupuncture helps to:
- Increase blood flow to the uterus which improves the chances an ovum implanting on the uterine wall.
- Reduce anxiety, stress and the hormones that are secreted during stressful situations that can significantly decrease fertility.
- Normalize hormone and endocrine systems that regulate ovulation, especially in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- Positively affect the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis which plays a key role in fertility.
- Regulate menstrual cycle.
Supporting the body in these ways, can increase the chance of pregnancy, naturally or assisted by IVF or IUI.
How does acupuncture treat fertility?
According to the theories of acupuncture and TCM, infertility is caused by an imbalance of Qi and blood affecting the two main meridians that govern menstruation and pregnancy (Chong and Ren) and one or more of the internal organs as outlined below.
Kidneys – The release an ovum is controlled by the kidneys. An imbalance within the kidney system can result in infertility.
Spleen – An adequate blood supply is required by a woman’s body to sustain anormal menstrual cycle, a growing fetus and a healthy pregnancy. A disharmony in the spleen can result in an inadequate supply and imbalance of blood.
Liver – The liver is in charge of facilitating a free flow of Qi and blood. Animbalance can lead to depression, anxiety, stress and infertility.
Chong and Ren Meridians:
The Chong channel starts in the spot between the two Kidneys, and passes through the uterus and then links with the Ren meridian which originates in the uterus. Every pathology in these two channel can also be a reason for infertility. Once assessed by an acupuncturist corrective actions can be administered.
Acupuncture and TCM can raise fertility potential for women by affecting the quality, quantity, balance and flow of Qi and blood. When Qi (pronounced chee) or vital energy and blood are circulating freely throughout the body, every cell, tissue and organ is properly nourished and functions well. Health and fertility are then increased.
Acupuncture is usually administered along all main organs meridians which are vital in fertility. Chong, Ren, Kidney, Spleen, Heart, Liver and Stomach channels need to receive regular and multiple acupuncture treatments to be able to function properly and prepare the body for becoming pregnant and keeping a successful pregnancy. It is usually recommended to give the treatment 6-9 months, but there are patients who can get pregnant much more quickly. Since every one responds differently to the treatment and there is no set time. The initial visit is usually up to 1.5 hrs and follow up visits will be one hour long.