Success with Acupuncture for Fertility

Success with Acupuncture for Fertility

Success with Acupuncture for Fertility featured image blog

            Acupuncture for fertility is a natural and safe way to support and enhance a patient’s fertility journey. Contrary to popular belief, infertility affects both women and men equally or it is not known by traditional medicine with who the infertile problem lies. In fact, about 48 million couples live with infertility around the world, and 25% of those people have more than one factor contributing to their infertility. Acupuncture is increasingly becoming a go-to treatment for fertility alone or along with IVF or IUI showing to be twice as likely to get pregnant than those who do not receive acupuncture treatment prior to embryo transfer. It is important as acupuncture providers that we fully understand the various causes of infertility in order to make the most effective treatment plan for our patients.

Elements of Infertility

            Infertility, put simply, is a condition of the reproductive system causing people to be unable to conceive. Infertility can affect anyone, but the odds increase with age and it is important to know where a patient falls on the types of infertility to properly treat.

Types of Infertility:

  • Primary Infertility – unable to conceive after 1 year (or 6 months if over the age of 35) of consistent unprotected intercourse or has never been pregnant at all.

  • Secondary Infertility – unable to conceive after having one or more successful pregnancies.

  • Unexplained Infertility – inconclusive reason found through testing as to why the couple is unable to get pregnant.

Obviously, the main symptom of infertility is not being able to get pregnant after 6 months to a year of trying. However, patients may exhibit other symptoms as well that will all factor into their treatment plan in acupuncture.

Symptoms of Infertility:

  • Pelvic pain

  • Penile disorders or inability to ejaculate

  • Irregular menstrual cycle (vaginal bleeding, irregular periods, or no periods at all)

Most commonly the cause of infertility is some type of ovulation disorder in women, and motility in men. However, there are a multitude of conditions or reasons for infertility in both men and women. Although many patients believe that one person in the couple is the causing the issue of infertility, the truth is that I can inflict both parties at once.

Infertility Causes:

  • General:

    • Age – especially in those over 40yrs

    • Unrestrained alcohol intake (compromises the Kidneys and Liver function – key organs in reproduction per TCM)

    • Chemotherapy or radiation therapy

    • Sexually transmitted infections

    • Irregularities in the hypothalamus or pituitary glands (hormone producing areas in the brain)

    • Chronic conditions

    • Eating disorders

    • Over-exercising

    • Being over or under weight

    • Substance abuse

    • Exposure to chemicals, pesticides, or lead

    • Smoking (compromises the Kidneys and Liver function – key organs in reproduction per TCM)

  • Female Infertility Causes:

    • Endometriosis

    • Thyroid disease

    • Sickle cell anemia

    • Kidney disease

    • Poor egg quality

    • PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)

    • Structural deformities in the vagina, fallopian tubes, or uterus

    • Pituitary gland disorders

    • Uterine polyps

    • Genetic disorders

    • Irregular menstrual cycle

    • Autoimmune issues such as lupus or celiac disease

  • Male Infertility Causes:

    • Genetic disorders

    • Hypogonadism (low testosterone levels)

    • Chromosomal disorders

    • Undescended testicles

    • Vasectomy

    • Injury to the scrotum or testicles

    • High heat exposure to the testicles

    • Augmented veins in the scrotum

There are multiple tests that can be done on both men and women to determine where the infertility issue lies, and standard medical providers will make suggestions based on results of these tests as to a best treatment method for achieving conception.

Common Standard Fertility Treatments:

  • IVF (in vitro fertilization) – essentially eggs are retrieved from the ovary, and placed in a lab dish along with the sperm. In the best-case scenario, the sperm will fertilize the eggs, and the medical provider transfers anywhere from 1 to 3 fertilized embryos into the uterus.

  • IUI (intrauterine insemination) – also known as artificial insemination, a medical provider places sperm directly into the uterus using a thin, long tube.

  • Third-Party Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) – this is when couples utilize donor eggs, embryos, or sperm.

  • Assisted Hatching – a medical provider opens the outer layer of an embryo in order to make it easier for it to embed in the uterine lining.

Although there is success with these treatment options for couples, there can also be complications from these treatments in addition to possibly not working at all. Couples are more at risk of having multiples (twins, etc.), ectopic pregnancy, failed cycles, or even ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome causing painful swollen ovaries. This is why many standard medical providers have become well-aware of the positive research of the addition of acupuncture service for infertility increasing odds of couples getting pregnant twice over.

Acupuncture for Infertility

            Acupuncture has shown to boost fertility success and increase live birth rates. Whether the couple decides to use acupuncture alone or in conjunction with standard medical treatment for fertility, the individualized care of acupuncture is a necessary aspect of successful conception. Acupuncture works for fertility by enhancing the neuroendocrine axis, and decreasing stress which is surprisingly a huge reason modern day infertility. Additionally, acupuncture treatment regulates reproductive hormones, and increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs which improves responsiveness to treatments as well as the embedding of embryos.

Acupuncture, although can be utilized at any point in the fertility journey, is recommended to be started as soon as possible since acupuncture benefits are cumulative. According to a study from 2020, Effectiveness of Acupuncture on Pregnancy Success Rates for Women Undergoing In Vitro Fertilization, it detailed that having acupuncture treatment before and after embryo transfer greatly increased pregnancy rates while decreasing anxiety levels.

Acupuncture Points for Fertility:

  • Primary Acupuncture Points – GV22, GV23, T7 Huatuo, L1 Huatuo, L3 Huatuo, CV4, UB6

  • Secondary Acupuncture Points – TH17, SP6, SP10, S2 Huatuo, S3 Huatuo

Potential TCM Diagnostic Patterns for Infertility:

  • Kidney Jing Deficiency

  • Kidney Yin Deficiency

  • Kidney Yang Deficiency

  • Blood Stagnation

  • Spleen Blood Deficiency

  • Liver Blood Deficiency

There are multiple ways to approach TCM treatment for infertility, and it is vital for both partners in the couple to receive treatment. If there is a male in the couple, it is important for them to obtain a sperm analysis. Furthermore, it is also beneficial to add herbal medicine into the mix to improve ovarian and follicular function, and facilitate a thick uterine lining.

TCM Herbs the Promote Fertility:

  • Vitex (Chaste Tree Berry) – regulate the menstrual cycle acting on the pituitary gland in the brain increasing the strength of the Luteinizing hormone triggering ovulation. This herb also helps ovarian function and those who have low progesterone production.

  • Maca (Lepidium Meyenii) – particularly helpful with male infertility affecting testosterone levels. It has been shown to increase sperm production and motility in adult men.

  • Cinnamon – used to nourish yang energy, and warm the interior to aid in fertility. A recent study has shown cinnamon to improve sperm production and quality in men, and meanwhile other studies have shown cinnamon to balance blood sugar helpful for women with PCOS.

  • Wild Yam – due to its antispasmodic effects, this herb is used to prevent miscarriage. It also optimizes estrogen levels improving and increasing the amount of cervical mucous attributable to the diosgenin ingredient. Its natural form of progesterone also helps with thickening of the uterine wall allowing for successful egg implantation in those attempting to conceive.

  • Chinese Motherwort (Yi Mu Cao) – being one of the fundamental herbs of TCM, this herb helps to eliminate blood stagnation and enhance the creation of new blood. It can also boost hormonal balance, regulate the menstrual cycle, and strengthen and tonify the uterus creating a favorable environment for both implementation and pregnancy. Lastly, this herb nourishes the reproductive organs.

  • Dong Quai (Angelica Sinensis) – also known as female ginseng, and benefits fertility by regulating the menstrual cycle as well as healthy blood circulation. Improved blood flow can provide a healthier uterine environment, reduce stress, and balance the hormones.

  • Goji Berries – these are a potent antioxidant preventing free-radical damage to the body. Regarding fertility, goji berries increase reproductive function, and improves sex drive by escalating levels of sex hormones. These berries also nourish the endocrine system, increase blood circulation to create a good environment for conception, and is also associated with improved egg quality and sperm health.

Undeniably, there are a multitude of herbs and herbal formulas within the TCM realm that are helpful in a patient’s fertility journey, and it is always vital to fully dive into their fertility journey and health history before prescribing herbs. Overall, herbs can be vital in increasing the chances of conception for couples if appropriate for the individual makeup.

TCM nutrition should also be considered in the fertility patient treatment plan along with acupuncture and herbs. It is recommended to advise patients they should balance yin and yang foods, concentrate on blood building foods, integrate herbs and spices, and avoid dampness. A nutrient-dense diet can play a pivotal role in increasing rates of conception in couples supplying the essential ingredients for reproductive health, and create a fertile condition for successful and healthy pregnancy.

Positive Results with Acupuncture for Fertility

            Acupuncture treatment utilized as a modality for fertility alone or in conjunction with standard medical treatment for fertility has proven to be extremely beneficial not only from our patients’ positive responses, but in research as well. According to 2 studies from 2020, TCM Treatment Associated with Female Infertility in Taiwan, and Effectiveness of Acupuncture on Pregnancy Success Rates for Women Undergoing in Vitro Fertilization, acupuncture was shown to increase pregnancy rates.

Acupuncture offers a multitude of benefits for those seeking to conceive. As acupuncture providers, we have all the tools and proof needed to provide patients with a positive and successful experience on their fertility journey. Giving patients all medical resources available in standard medicine and TCM will be both accommodating and reassuring during a potentially long and grueling process of conception…and well worth it.