Robin Hays, LAc, OMD and Nancy Rakela, LAc, OMD
TCM describes the female reproductive system as a network of energy systems. Each energy system has complementary organs and hormonal responses. This network responds to stress, chemicals, lack of exercise, poor diet and excess emotions all of which can put the body out of balance. A TCM practitioner will carefully determine the state of your imbalances and prescribe an individualized program of herbs, acupuncture and diet to help you create the correct environment for fertility and pregnancy .
Psychological stress can have a negative effect on couples facing fertility problems. Stress leads to the release of stress hormones and causes detrimental effects on mechanisms responsible for a normal ovulatory menstrual cycle. The success of acupuncture for reducing stress and anxiety is due to its beta-endorphin release and sympathetic calming effects.
Stress causes the sympathetic nervous system to be over stimulated. Thus, the blood flow is diverted away from the ovaries and uterus to the adrenals (stress coping gland) instead. This can cause irregular cycles, lack of ovulation, and infertility. Electro acupuncture and Femoral Artery Massage redirect the blood flow back to the ovaries and uterus, enhancing fertility and regulating your cycle.
Many women with immunological factors hostile to pregnancy have been effectively treated with TCM prescription of diet, herbs, and acupuncture. When an acupuncturist treats the root problem, the immunological markers correct themselves.
Acupuncture has been known to control pain through stimulating the release of beta-endorphin. In addition, beta-endorphin works to influence the source of women's ovulatory and fertility hormones (the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis) and control hormones that regulate a women's ovulation and fertility that includes gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), follicle stimulating hormone (F.S.H.), luteinizing hormone (L.H.) and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
Acupuncture normalizes the dysfunction of the Hypothalamus - Pituitary - Ovarian Axis. This improves ovarian function creating more follicles, and better egg production. It has also been suggested that the concentrations of central opioids may regulate the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis via the central sympathetic system, and that a hyperactive sympathetic system in anovulatory patients could be normalized by ElectroAcupuncture (Chen and Yin, 1991). It has been assumed that various disorders in the autonomic nervous system, such as hormonal disturbances, may be normalized during auricular acupuncture.
Source: Gerhard and Postneck, 1992, www.acubalance.ca/res_medical_reduction.php.
Clomid often causes the uterine lining to thin, which is detrimental to becoming pregnant. Acupuncture causes the uterine lining to thicken and become more uniform. This is a result of increased blood flow to the uterine arteries, as proven in the article referenced just below.
This Swedish study shows that acupuncture increases blood flow to the uterine arteries, creating a thicker and more regular lining, allowing for IVF to be more successful. Acupuncture also improves ovarian blood flow to increase ovarian response.
Source: Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries of infertile women with Electro Acupuncture, Stener-Victirin, et al., Human Reproduction, Vol 11, no6. pp. 1311-17, 1996.
Study: Influence of Acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo ART. Fertility & Sterility Vol77 April 2002
"Acupuncture May Improve Success Rate of IVF Pregnancies:
Patients in the acupuncture group received two acupuncture sessions - the first treatment 25 minutes before embryo transfer, the second treatment 25 minutes after. In the acupuncture group, the pregnancy rate was considerably higher - 34 women (42.5%) were carrying a fetal sac at the time of examination."
Also see: "Relaxing the uterus with Acupuncture treatment allows for more successful IVF." www.acupuncturetoday.com/archives2002/jul/07ivf.html
Acupuncture relaxes the uterus, increases blood flow to the uterus, warms the uterus, increases the immune system, regulates the hormones and decreases stress, all creating less of a chance of miscarriage.
According to statistics from the National Infertility Association (an organization also known as RESOLVE), between 35 percent and 40 percent of infertility problems among couples are actually caused by male conditions. A recent trial published in Fertility and Sterility has shown just how effective acupuncture can be in the treatment of this condition, leading to significant increases in the number of normal sperm and equally significant reductions in structural defects.
Thus, acupuncture improves
sperm count, motility, and morphology.
Also see: www.acupuncturetoday.com/archives2005/oct/10infertility.html
A collection of the most current research is maintained by NIH. Here's the link to the research on acupuncture and fertility.
About The Authors:
Dr. Robin Hays is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Herbalist, and a Diplomate of National Board of Acupuncture Orthopedics with a specialty in fertility and pregnancy complications. She practices in Milpitas, CA.
Dr. Nancy Rakela is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Acupuncture Orthopedics Diplomate, with a specialty in fertility and pregnancy complications. She practices in Berkeley, CA.