1. Acupuncture Increases Egg Follicles
Acupuncture increases the number of egg follicles available for fertilization in women undergoing IVF. In the Journal of Medical Acupuncture in 2000, Sandra Emmons, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health Sciences University, reported that acupuncture directly impacts the number of egg follicles available for fertilization in women undergoing IVF.
2. Acupuncture Helps Ovulation
One of the two main causes of infertility is a problem with ovulation. Ovulation disorders, in which the release of a mature egg from the ovary is prevented, usually because of a hormonal imbalance. For example, without enough progesterone, the fetus is unable to attach to the uterus. High levels of prolactin, the hormone that stimulates the production of breast milk, can also prevent ovulation.
Many women can have monthly menstrual cycles without ovulation ever actually occurring. The treatment of acupuncture, two or three times during the week of ovulation can help normalize it. A specific protocol from Shanghai uses a specific “ovulation protocol” which consists of placing needles in the abdomen to stimulate the ovaries as well as using points on the inner legs. This simple treatment has been helpful in regulating ovulation.
3. Acupuncture Enhances Brain Hormones
Acupuncture increases the production of endorphins, the body’s natural “feel good” brain chemicals. These hormones are also involved in regulating the menstrual cycle. In studies published in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility in 2002, Chang, along with noted Cornell University reproductive endocrinologist Zev Rosenwaks, MD found that acupuncture appears to have a neuroendocrine effect, impacting a three-way axis between the two areas of the brain involved with hormone production (the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands) and the ovaries, a constellation that ultimately impacts egg production and possibly ovulation.
4. Acupuncture Improves Uterus Lining
Acupuncture increases blood flow to the uterus. This provides the reproductive organs with more nourishment and can increase the density of the uterine wall. For women who cannot become pregnant because of endometriosis, a primary cause of female infertility, in which the uterine lining grows outside the uterus, acupuncture can increase the blood flow to relax the spasming associated with endometrium. Doctors achieve this through administering progestogen hormone therapies. Even if you do not have endometriosis, your lining can benefit from acupuncture as well.
5. Acupuncture Reduces Cortisol
When one is under stress, the brain’s neuro-chemical balance is disrupted. The brain secretes the stress hormone cortisol. This alters the brain’s neuro-chemical balance, thus changing the hormone levels and disrupting the pituitary balance that is key to the reproductive cycle. One of the ways acupuncture infertility treatment increases fertility is by reducing stress, which is often a key factor in the fertility of both men and women.
Because of the delicate balance between the hypothalamus, pituitary and reproductive glands, stress is capable of preventing a woman from ovulating entirely. This can contribute to the cause of female infertility. Stress can also create spasms in both the fallopian tubes and the uterus, which can interfere with movement and implantation of a fertilized egg. In men, stress can alter sperm counts, motility, and cause impotence. Acupuncture infertility treatment counters the effects of stress and cortisol by releasing endorphins in the brain.
6. Acupuncture Can Benefit Endometriosis
Researchers believe that endometriosis is a directly related 30-50% of all infertile women. Endometriosis is the second major cause of infertility in women. Endometriosis has been labeled by some doctors as “the career woman’s disease” because of its high correlation with increased stress levels. When a woman menstruates, the blood is normally eliminated through the cervix, however, in endometriosis the blood will back up into the fallopian tubes and flow back into the abdominal cavity where it continues to produce new cells in unwanted places. Approximately 27% of women with mild endometriosis also has problems ovulating or has luteal phase defect (problems with the second half of her cycle) Treatment with acupuncture and Chinese herbs help to reduce abnormal cell growth, regulate the cycle, reduce the pain associated with endometriosis, and help increase the lining of the uterus. Reduction of pain, cramping and sites of cellular growth outside the uterus can be reduced and controlled enough to help aid in pregnancy.
7. Acupuncture Benefits Women With PCOS
PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is a gynecological disorder characterized by the growth of multiple cysts in the ovaries, lack of a menstrual cycle or irregular periods due to lack of ovulation, blood sugar elevation with associated weight gain, acne/oily skin, and excess body hair, and as a result of the lack of ovulation and thus infertility. Recent research in Sweden has now confirmed that acupuncture helps PCOS by reducing the amount of excess testosterone and balancing the masculinizing hormones causing unwanted hair growth and acne. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23482444)
What We Cannot Treat
Acupuncture cannot help structural defects such as fused fallopian tubes or a large fibroid tumor that is compressing the uterus.
Likewise, once past a certain age, exhausted ovarian reserve cannot be overcome. If you have run out of follicles, you have exhausted your ovarian reserve. No amount of treatment will kick start the necessary hormones that have long gone out of production at this stage.
For this reason, many doctors recommend that you have at least a basic fertility workup before attempting acupuncture treatment, particularly if you are approaching, or you are over, the age of 40.
If it turns out you have a structural problem that requires a traditional medical ‘fix’, then the sooner you find that out and get the proper treatment, the more likely it will be that you can get pregnant.
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