How Can Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Help with Fertility?
TCM works to enhance fertility by restoring balance to the body and the specific bodily systems that are responsible for regulating hormones.
Research continues to grow regarding acupuncture and its effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, which plays a major role in fertility, especially with regard to enhancing the development and release of mature and healthy eggs.
This also includes increasing blood flow to the uterus, thus thickening the uterine lining; addressing the systems that regulate ovulation, and menstrual cycles.
Acupuncture is well known in assisting with anxiety, stress, and hormones secreted during stressful situations – such as cortisol – which can decrease fertility.
How Does Stress Affect Fertility?
Our body’s biochemical response to stress has a major effect on the reproductive system.
Whether due to a major event , the constant stressors of daily life, or the stress of not being able to conceive, the reaction to stress has the following effects:
- It increases our levels of adrenaline, which inhibits our ability to use progesterone, one of the key hormones in reproduction.
- It increases levels of cortisol, which inhibits implantation of the fertilized egg.
- It also increases levels of prolactin, which inhibits fertility by decreasing or halting ovulation.
A hyper-stimulated nervous system sends blood away from the uterus and ovaries to the essential organs, thus lessening the overall function of our reproductive system.
Stress and Fertility – How Acupuncture Helps
- Acupuncture releases endorphins and serotonin, which have a calming effect on the body. These chemicals decrease the physical symptoms of stress by:
- Reducing heart rate,
- Lowering elevated blood pressure,
- Relaxing the muscles
- Acupuncture also improves blood circulation throughout the body, which oxygenates tissues and cycles out cortisol and other damaging chemicals.
- Women who are treated with acupuncture often report feelings of relaxation, calm and peacefulness and of being energised following treatment. Since infertility and its treatment are associated with considerable stress and anxiety, there is significant benefit to be achieved from this.
- Furthermore, there are studies that have reported higher pregnancy rates from IVF when stress reduction and anxiety-relieving methods are employed.
When Is The Best Time To Start Treatment?
When possible, it’s best to start treatment before you begin trying to conceive or undergo IUI or IVF. There are several reasons for this:
- It takes about 150 days for an egg to grow from a follicle in its resting state, into a full-blown egg ready to be released (and follicles are selected from a pool of resting follicles almost a year before ovulation!).
- It takes 70 to 90 days for a sperm to grow and mature.
However, many people don’t find out about the benefits of acupuncture until they have already started trying to conceive or have started Western fertility treatments. In these cases, it’s best to start treatment as soon as possible.
It’s never too late to start using Acupuncture.
We are here to support you, and therefore will work to support the program that your western fertility specialist prescribes if you are using one.
Is There Anything Else I can do to Improve my Fertility?
There are many things that you can do for yourself to improve your reproductive health. As part of your individualised treatment plan you will receive advice on fertility-related areas such as diet & nutrition, relaxation, environmental factors, ‘what to do’ and ‘what to avoid’, and so on.
Male factors account for approximately 40% of all fertility problems. One reason for this is that the average male sperm count has dropped significantly over the past few generations. For example, one study showed that the average sperm count has dropped 30% since 1980. Semen volume has also dropped, reducing the total number of sperm per ejaculation.
The number of men with low sperm counts has tripled, while the number with high sperm counts has decreased.
The reasons for declining sperm counts seems to be our increased exposure to environmental pollutants, increased use of recreational drugs and alcohol, and prescription medications, and stress. Studies show that although smokers generally have lower sperm counts and more abnormal sperm, once smoking is stopped sperm improve significantly within 6-12 months
Since new sperm generally take 70 to 90 days to form, treatment for male factors is usually recommended for a minimum of three months.
Why should I get Acupuncture during Pregnancy?
Pregnancy is an exciting and wonderful time. However, with the many physical and hormonal changes that occur, it can also be a time of discomfort.
Many pregnant women suffer from fatigue, nausea/vomiting, backache, reflux, and other conditions that are considered a “normal” part of pregnancy. Acupuncture may assist with these complaints.
Common Pregnancy Conditions include:
- morning sickness
- low energy
- pregnancy headaches
- fluid retention
- back pain, hip pain, pubic symphysis pain
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia)
- certain types of threatened miscarriage
- breech presentation
- delayed labour
- lactation problems
- post natal depression