Infertility is a very sensitive and private topic for most people. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as many as 1 in 8 couples will struggle with infertility. In the early stages of trying to get pregnant, your gynecologist or reproductive endocrinologist may tell you that there is nothing wrong, and that you need to “relax”. All too often, this is easier said than done. When you are looking to start a family, and it isn’t happening as quickly as you had expected, it can be very stressful. This stress, in turn, can contribute to continuing fertility problems, trapping you in a vicious cycle.
For those who are looking to conceive naturally, acupuncture can be a very helpful tool. First and foremost, it helps the mind and body to relax. In women, when the body is under stress, it can affect ovulation, and other hormonal functions. Acupuncture also improves blood flow to the uterus, oxygenating the endometrial lining, and providing a more receptive environment for the fertilized egg to attach. For men, reducing stress with treatments like acupuncture can improve both the sperm quantity and vitality. This increases the chance of the sperm reaching the egg, and once there to fertilize it. This is especially important given the recent research about the “plunging fertility” in men.
When dealing with infertility some couples will choose to undergo assisted reproduction such as Intra-Uterine Insemination or In Vitro Fertilization. Acupuncture can help in these instances too. There are a number of factors that affect the success rate of these procedures. Age, hormone levels, and general level of health are among the factors. Obviously, acupuncture cannot reverse the aging process. What it can do is improve the quality of the egg and the quality of the sperm to increase chances of success.
Depending on your Reproductive Endocrinologist or Reproductive Urologist, you may be supplemented with medications to increase hormone levels. While these can be very effective, it can also produce side effects such as hot flashes, irritability, anxiety and GI issues. Acupuncture can alleviate many of these side effects, as well as improving the effectiveness of the medication.
When looking for a practitioner, it is important to look at their experience. Many practitioners will say they specialize in fertility, and they probably have a solid foundation in Traditional Chinese Medicine. What sets our practice apart is a board certification through the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM). This ensures a practitioner is well versed not only in Chinese Medicine, but also has a thorough understanding of Western medicines and procedures. We are up to date on the latest research in both acupuncture and herbal medicine, as well as the latest medical techniques, procedures, and medicines. We look at your overall health and symptoms, but we also look at any lab tests you may have undergone, or in some instances make recommendations for further testing. If you are undergoing assisted reproduction, we can often “fill in the gaps” and help explain things your doctor may not have told you, or that you didn’t know to ask. For more information about the ABORM certification, please visit their website ABORM.org.