Research Update – Acupuncture and Fertility
A study published by the National Institutes of Health in 2018 indicates receiving acupuncture treatments can improve the possibility of conceiving a child for patients that have experienced fertility issues. This particular study was conducted on one couple, and focused on treating both partners to achieve conception. The male received acupuncture treatments to improve sperm quality, and the female received acupuncture treatments to remove ovarian cysts and improve blood flow to the uterus. After seven treatments, the ovarian cysts had disappeared, and the couple was able to conceive. The acupoints used in this study were chosen to improve blood flow and energy to the reproductive organs, while also decreasing excess phlegm and fluids in the lower body. Acupuncture has been shown to be very effective at treating infertility in the past and this study confirms those findings.
Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year or more of unprotected sex. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 18 percent of women aged 15 to 44 have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying the pregnancy to full term. Infertility is not limited to women though. The CDC reports 35 percent of couples with infertility have a male component to their difficulties. This means that nearly 6.9 million people in the United States have received fertility treatments. Infertility is typically treated with injections, prescription medications and even artificial insemination, but there are still no guarantees that conception will occur even with all of these efforts.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been proven to increase the chance of conception in couples that are currently receiving fertility treatments. In fact, the success rates of conception increase from 39.4 percent to 65.5 percent when acupuncture and TCM are added to the mix. Acupuncture helps increase fertility by reducing stress, increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs and balancing hormones. Acupuncture treatments can provide increased blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, which creates a stronger chance for an egg to be nourished and carried to full term. In the male, acupuncture treatments can improve sperm quality and motility.
The insertion of acupuncture needles has been proven to stimulate blood flow, so for men, regular acupuncture treatments can increase blood flow to the testicular arteries. The testicles need blood to provide nutrients, remove waste products and keep the area cool. Excess waste products can damage sperm while they mature in the testicles. Stagnation of blood in the scrotum can increase testicular temperatures, which can be very detrimental to the forming sperm. By increasing blood flow to and from this area, nutrients are brought in and waste is removed, which will contribute to healthier sperm.
The most common cause of female infertility is due to a problem with ovulation. This can be caused by imbalanced hormones, stress or even a buildup of excess phlegm in the lower body. All of these situations may prevent the release of a mature egg from the ovaries. When progesterone is lacking, the fetus may be unable to attach to the uterus. Regular acupuncture treatments have been shown to correct these imbalances, making conception more possible.
If infertility is something you are dealing with, ask me how I can help. The chances of getting pregnant and having a happy healthy baby are much better when combining both Western medicine and Eastern medicine.
Patient Helpsheet: Infertility - Female
About one in 10 couples in the United States struggle with infertility. Infertility is defined as an inability to get pregnant after 12 months of actively trying to conceive. There are numerous known causes of infertility, but often the cause is unknown. Biomedical treatments for infertility include hormonal injections and assisted reproductive technologies such as IUI (intrauterine insemination) and IVF (in vitro fertilization.)
If you are struggling to get pregnant, either on your own or with treatments like IUI or IVF, it can be very taxing both physically and emotionally. Here are some suggestions of things to do at home to increase your chances of conception and to make the whole process more bearable.
Learn Your Cycles:
If your infertility is undiagnosed, or unexplained it is very important you start paying attention to your menstrual cycles. A healthy menstrual cycle should be 28 to 32 days, and you should bleed for four to seven days. Ideally, you won’t have any cramps or discomfort with the period, and bleeding will not be overly heavy or too light. Blood will be fresh red and will not have any clots. If your periods differ from this in any way, it can be a sign of subtle changes the body needs to make in order to conceive and carry a child. You should learn how to tell when ovulation occurs. Many women can tell when they ovulate based on a change in vaginal discharge, or by their basal body temperature. You can also use over the counter ovulation kits to test when ovulation is occurring.
SP6: Located on the medial side of the lower leg, four finger widths up from the medial malleolus (ankle bone), on the border of the tibia. Spleen 6 strengthens the body’s Qi and blood, which are necessary resources for conception. It also nourishes the body’s yin energy, which is the receptive, feminine energy and essential to a healthy pregnancy.
KD3: Kidney 3 is located on the medial (inner) ankle, at the deepest point of the depression between the achilles tendon and the high point of the medial malleolus (ankle bone). This point strongly nourishes the energy of the kidneys, which govern hormone levels, growth and reproduction. It strengthens both the yin and yang of the kidneys - yin is receptive and water, whereas yang is the hot fiery aspects of our being - an imbalance between the two forces is frequently a contributor to infertility.
KD16: Located just to the sides of the belly button, Kidney 16 nourishes both the kidneys and the heart. This point is particularly helpful at treating an imbalance known as the “heart and kidney not communicating.” It therefore can work on regulating hormones and strengthening our reproductive abilities, but it also calms the mind and helps to root the mind back into the body. It is important when there is stress surrounding the infertility.
SP8: Spleen 8 is located on the medial lower leg. It is four finger-breadths towards the toes from the very bottom of the knee. To locate the point, just roll off the shinbone and palpate until you find a tender spot in the area. It is an essential point for moving energy and blood in the uterus, so is especially indicated if there is a history of fibroids, endometriosis or lots of previous medical procedures that may have left scar tissue.
When trying to conceive, pay extra attention to eating a healthy and balanced diet. Limit sugar, processed meat and dairy. Including foods that are nourishing to the kidneys is a good idea. These foods include kidney beans, black beans, barley, millet, tofu, fish, seaweed and eggs. It is also important to include blood-nourishing foods, particularly in the first half of your cycle, following the period and through ovulation. Lean red meat, dark leafy greens, dates, chicken, molasses, eggs, legumes, beets and mushrooms.
Give yourself a break
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we talk about yin and yang. Yin is the cool, watery, passive, receptive energy of the body, while Yang is the hot, fiery, active, expansive energy.
Conceiving a child is the most yin thing our bodies can do. Unfortunately, infertility often necessitates a very yang approach to conception - actively tracking ovulation, going for blood work incessantly, constantly thinking about whether or not you are pregnant - these are all yang manifestations of who you are.
This contradiction is so hard for many women, but often a necessity. Be sure you take some time to nourish yin. That can sometimes, in and of itself, be the magic fix.
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