Infertility is becoming an increasing problem. Today at least 1 in 6 couples experience problems in conceiving, and 60% of those are due to female infertility. This growing problem can be attributed to nutrition, alcohol, smoking, caffeine, xenoestrogens from pesticides and plastics, toxic metals, food additives, household chemicals, radiation, allergies, immunology, genitourinary and other infections and stress. (see common causes for infertility »)
How do acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine influence fertility?
Studies indicate that acupuncture triggers the release of prostaglandins, which stimulate production of chemicals in the nerve endings, which, in turn, transmit a message to the hypothalamus. Located at the base of the brain, the hypothalamus is the regulatory control centre for all hormone activitiy. It is of particular interest in regards to fertility as it also controls the discharge of gonadotropin-releasing hormones (GnRH), which govern ovulation, menstruation and pregnancy.
Besides balancing hormones, studies have demonstrated that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can reduce stress (which directly effects fertility), improve ovarian function and follicular development, increase fertile mucus, promote uterine and ovarian artery blood flow, and thicken the lining of the uterus, so increasing the chances of successful fertilization and implantation. They can also influence the facility with which the eggs are released and travel down the fallopian tubes.
Causes of infertility that can be treated by acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can treat infertility due to:
- unexplained infertility
- High FSH
- Premature ovarian failure
- Luteal phase defect
- High prolactin
- other hormonal imbalances
- Ovarian dysfunction
- recurrent miscarriage
- support for IVF, ICSI or IUI
- Fallopian tube dysfunction
- Ectopic pregnancies (prevention)
- lack of fertile mucus
- impaired follicular development
- impaired uterine/ovarian blood flow
- inadequate endometrium
An initial consultation is given to review the patient’s complete medical history, and, on the basis of this, comprehensive preconceptual advice is given, and a unique treatment programme is drawn up. Lifestyle, general medical history, menstrual, structural, nutritional and emotional health will all be looked at, and the patient will be instructed on how to identify the most fertile phase of her cycle. She may be asked to monitor her ovulation by recording her body basal temperature (BBT). The BBT chart helps the practitioner to understand the activity of the hormones that regulate the female cycle, and guides her in her treatment plan.
The practitioner treats according to the different stages of the cycle – the menstrual phase, follicular phase, ovulatory phase and luteal phase, to balance the hormones, regulate the cycle and enhance the chances of conception.
It takes at least 3 months for immature eggs (oocytes) to mature enough to be released at ovulation, and it takes the same amount of time for sperm to be developed before ejaculation. You should therefore allow a period of at least 3 months to prepare for conception.
Combining acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine with western medical treatments
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine do not have to be an alternative to western medicine. Besides increasing the chances of natural conception, it can be used in conjunction with western fertility drugs, such as clomid or metformin, whilst counteracting their side-effects. It can also be used to successfully prepare both men and women for IUI, IVF, ICSI and other forms of assisted conception, thus improving success rates, reducing the number of treatment cycles required, and alleviating the side-effects of the drugs.
Click here for more information on Male Infertility