Acupuncture for Infertility

East Meets West

Health and healing are paramount to practitioners in the discipline of medicine - whether that discipline is Western or Eastern in philosophy. The goals are the same, but the understanding of what causes disease, the disease itself, and how to go about restoring health are very different. In western medicine, the physician is taught that the way to cure disease is through medications that either kill bacteria or stop viruses, and that surgery is an intervention that is necessary at times.

The Philosophy of TCM

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) also aims to heal the patient but not through treating the disease. Rather the approach of TCM is holistic, taking the whole person into account, dealing with the many attributes of a person and understanding that it is in the combination that either health or illness results. TCM treats the person as opposed to their pathology. The idea is that everything about the person from the moment of birth, including values and culture, emotional experiences, eating habits, work and living environments and personal habits, all contribute to the state of physical health. The many centuries of effective use by the Eastern cultures stands as a testimony to the efficacy of TCM, a tried form of classical medicine that more than a quarter of the world's population regularly uses as part of their health care regimen.

How Acupuncture Works

Acupuncture is one feature used frequently, along with herbal medicines, in the treatment of infertility. In practice, acupuncture is the insertion of ultra-thin, sterile needles into specific acupuncture points on the body which reside on channels or meridians. The meridians are pathways on the inside and the outside of the body. When acupuncture needles are inserted in these specific points, they can regulate how the body functions. When it comes to fertility problems, acupuncture helps conditions like hypo- or hyperthyroidism.

How Acupuncture Helps

Although acupuncture cannot address tubal adhesions, which often result from pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis, it can - when coupled with herbal medicine - help the situation through the potential effect of improved ovarian and follicular function. Acupuncture is known to increase blood flow in the body. In this way, it can increase blood flow to the uterus causing the endometrium (lining of the uterus) to become thick and rich with blood, a healthy environment for a blastocyte.

People who are dealing with fertility issues can be helped dramatically through the use of TCM. Acupuncture can be used to treat any type of fertility disorder, including spasmed tubes, which acupuncture can de-spasm. Blocked tubes, however, cannot be helped with acupuncture. When combined with medicinal herbs, acupuncture is used to treat elevated follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), repeated pregnancy loss, unexplained infertility, luteal phase defect, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)and male factor infertility, including sperm-DNA-fragmentation.

Acupuncture and Assisted Reproduction Therapies

When used in connection with assisted reproduction therapies, patients are usually treated for three or four months prior to insemination, IVF, or donor-egg transfer. This specific amount of time during this period seems to be the most effective. When TCM is mixed with traditional medical techniques, the results are often excellent. However, many conceptions occur by simply using TCM. Since most miscarriages occur in the first trimester, acupuncture and herbal medicine treatment should be maintained throughout the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to help prevent miscarriage.

Associated Risks for Acupuncture

The risks are minimal when using acupuncture as a therapy for infertility. There are some contraindication acupuncture points that should be avoided after insemination or donor-egg transfer. Miscarriage risk is increased if incorrect acupuncture points are used when a woman is pregnant. It is important, therefore, that a woman who desires to have acupuncture as part of her treatment regiment be treated by an acupuncturist who specializes in treating fertility disorders. Otherwise, acupuncture is not contraindicated for anyone, not matter what the problem or what medications they are taking.