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Acupuncture and Infertility

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Western medicine is beginning to embrace acupuncture as a positive influence on couples hoping to conceive.

Acupuncture and Fertility Research

In 2008, research from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore reviewed a number of randomized controlled trials to find overwhelming results: acupuncture significantly improved pregnancy rates resulting from the embryo transfer process. Even men reap benefits from acupuncture; research published in Fertility and Sterility revealed that the number of sperm increased, and abnormalities in sperm decreased in men receiving five weeks of treatment.

Scientists at Berkeley Center for Reproductive Wellness in New York also found that acupuncture’s positive results increase with the combined use of herbal and traditional medicines.

What Is Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine that places fine, sterile needles into specific points on the body to trigger and activate the body’s “Qi,” or life energy. Followers of acupuncture believe the body’s life energy flows through the body and protects it from illness, pain and disease, affecting a person’s health and balance. Sometimes Qi is said to be blocked or off balance, as is believed to occur when fertility issues arise. Qi can be affected by stress, emotional trauma, diet, lack of exercise or overexertion.

By placing needles into various acupoints, practitioners help release Qi, which in turn brings positive energy through the body and pushes out negative energy. Results are often not felt until after six to 12 weeks of weekly acupuncture treatments.

How Acupuncture Works for Fertility

Women experiencing the best results from acupuncture begin treatment three to four months before fertility procedures such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI) take place. Just before and after procedures, women receive one to two more treatments. Combining acupuncture with IVF increased pregnancy rates in women by 60 percent over those who passed on the holistic approach, according to a 2002 study published in Fertility and Sterility.

For women receiving treatment, practitioners claim that combining acupuncture and IVF or IUI helps to decrease stress, regulate hormonal imbalances, strengthen the immune system, increase blood flow to the uterus, increase the thickness of uterine lining and lessen the negative side effects of fertility drugs. For men, sperm is improved, resulting in an increase in stronger sperm.

Treatment may continue for women into pregnancy, especially during the first trimester to prevent miscarriage. However, be sure to visit a well-trained practitioner experienced in infertility care if considering acupuncture, as certain acupoints are considered off-limits for creating too much stimulation and may lead to miscarriage. Discuss your treatment options with your fertility doctor.