Acupuncture is quickly becoming a common adjunct therapy to treat infertility. If you search through the internet or ask anyone undergoing infertility treatments about acupuncture, most will say that they have heard of it or that they are trying it. The reason for the increased interest in acupuncture is because medical studies that have been conducted showing its effectiveness for infertility are on the rise.
I am absolutely committed to making sure that everyone gets educated on what acupuncture is. This report details acupuncture in general terms and specifically acupuncture and infertility.
- What is acupuncture?
- What an acupuncturist does to treat infertility.
- What systems from an eastern perspective are responsible for reproduction and growth thereby assisting with fertility?
- How to select the right acupuncturist.
- Citations on acupuncture and infertility studies so that you can do more research if you would like to do so.
What is Acupuncture:
The single most important thing about acupuncture is that it is a medical system. Acupuncture is one of the five branches of Eastern Medicine. The five branches include nutrition, herbs, exercise (Qigong or Chi gong), massage or bodywork (TuiNa) and finally acupuncture. In certain parts of Asia acupuncture is the primary medical system. I think this is important because in the west acupuncture is referenced as an alternative medicine. In other areas of the world acupuncture is the primary medicine. Whether a person chooses eastern medicine or western medicine it is important to understand that each one has its time and place. Educating the patient about the different options allows them to choose which path is best.
The second most important thing to note about acupuncture is that it has been in existence (depending on what you read) anywhere between 2000 and 5000 years. I think this is a very important thing to mention because it is not something that was just “invented.”
Lastly, acupuncture is not going to cure a person. The main purpose for acupuncture is to restore the body’s balance so that the body can cure itself.
What an acupuncturist does to treat infertility:
During an acupuncture treatment you will have very fine needles inserted into specific “points” on the body that will benefit the three organ systems associated to pregnancy. Stated in simplistic terms, an acupuncturist works to restore the body’s balance by unblocking whatever is causing the organs to not function as designed. You will read other information on the web that refers to the flow of energy known as Qi (CHI).
A study published in the medical journal Fertility & Sterility found that acupuncture dramatically improves the chances of becoming pregnant when used in conjunction with other methods or techniques. Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York reviewed studies and concluded that acupuncture helps to:
- Increase blood flow to the uterus, which improves the chances of an ovum implanting on the uterine wall
- Reduce anxiety, stress and the hormones that are secreted during stressful situations that can significantly decrease fertility
- Normalize hormone and endocrine systems that regulate ovulation, especially in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Positively affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, which plays a key role in fertility
- Regulate menstrual cycle
In a study published in Human Reproduction Journal an ultrasound was used to evaluate blood flow to the uterus during acupuncture treatments. The study found blood flow increases during treatment. According to Dr. Nancy Snyderman, “when acupuncture needles are placed correctly, it can affect the nervous system. The idea is that if you stimulate the nervous system, you can make the uterus quiet and allow blood to flow”. Relaxing the uterus and increasing blood flow allows for the successful implant of an embryo within the uterine lining.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can raise the fertility potential for women by affecting the quality, quantity, balance and flow of Qi and blood. When Qi (also called Life Energy) and blood are circulating freely throughout the body, every cell, tissue and organ is properly nourished and functioning well. When this occurs, a woman’s health and fertility potential are increased.
Systems responsible for fertility from an eastern perspective:
According to the theories of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, infertility is caused by an imbalance of Qi and blood affecting one or more of the body’s organ system. (Please keep in mind that the organs described below reflect Eastern medical theories and philosophies)
The Kidneys are responsible for growth and reproduction. The release of an ovum is controlled by the Kidneys. The Kidneys also create a substance (called Jing) which is required in order to have a healthy body, mind and pregnancy. If an imbalance exists within the Kidneys, Jing may be inadequate in supply and infertility may be a result. Chinese herbal medicine, along with acupuncture, can nourish and support Jing and overall Kidney health.
The Spleen is responsible to produce blood. An adequate supply of blood is required by a woman’s body to sustain a normal menstrual cycle, a growing fetus and a healthy pregnancy. A disharmony within the Spleen can result in an inadequate supply and imbalance of blood. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can build and nourish blood, in order to promote a healthy flow of blood to the uterus.
The Liver is responsible to move blood. In order to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy, it is important to have a free flow of blood throughout the body. The Liver is in charge of facilitating the smooth flow of blood. When it is out of balance, areas of the body will not receive the required supply of blood. This imbalance can lead to depression, anxiety, stress and increase the likelihood of infertility.
Selecting the right acupuncturist:
The most important consideration when selecting an acupuncturist is your level of comfort when dealing with the practitioner. I have had countless patients come to my office and say that their main reason for switching acupuncturists was that they “just didn’t feel comfortable” with the practitioner they were working with.
Before scheduling an appointment with a patient I have a 10 to 15 minute conversation on the phone. During this discussion we talk about the patients concerns and we discuss how acupuncture can benefit the patient. This gives us an opportunity to get to know one another before coming into my office. I have found this to be extremely effective to having a patient feel more comfortable about receiving acupuncture treatment. I encourage everyone when selecting an acupuncturist to have an initial conversation to make sure that this is the right acupuncturist for you.
There are some basic educational requirements for certification and or licensure. All practitioners of acupuncture are certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). This certification requires extensive training in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Some states require additional certifications. In NJ I am certified by the Medical Examiner’s office.
Educational Requirement: Minimum three years: 1905 hours of study
Oriental medicine and acupuncture theory: 705 hours
Clinic experience: 660 hours
Biomedicine Study: 450 hours
Counseling, communication, ethics and practice management: 90 hours
Citations on acupuncture and infertility studies so that you can do more research if you would like to do so.
Paulus W, et. Al., Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertility and Sterility, volume 77, April 2002, 721-724
5 Ways Acupuncture Can Boost Fertility. Prevention.com 2002.
Human Reproduction Journal, Volume 11, Number 6, 1996