Improving Fertility by Increasing Blood Flow to the Reproductive Organs
Couples dealing with infertility need to educate themselves about their options. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture are ancient approaches to supporting fertility.
Couples who need help conceiving a baby can opt to utilize acupuncture in a bid to increase their chances of conception. The beauty of acupuncture is that patients can elect to use it alone or to support allopathic medical fertility treatments such as I.V.F. and medications. A small study(1) by Swedish researchers found that acupuncture increased blood flow to the female reproductive organs. This thickened the uterus and increased the chances of pregnancy.
Statistically, 9 out of 10 male/female couples who do not use birth control will get pregnant naturally within one year. It's all automatic, so most couples do not have to think too much about it. What about couples who want to get pregnant, but cannot? Having a successful pregnancy can be expensive, time-consuming and heart-breaking. Infertility includes difficulty getting pregnant and difficulty staying pregnant. Fertility needs all the help it can get!
Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture take a holistic approach to balancing the individual's physiology. The reproductive system is perceived as an entire network of energy systems. The energy systems have an impact on related organs, as well as hormones. The balance of these systems can be upset by stress, bad diet, insufficient exercise and strong emotions.
An acupuncturist/TCM practitioner evaluates the patient's imbalances. He or she may recommend acupuncture, dietary changes and possibly herbs to correct imbalances. In an infertile patient, the focus would be on enhancing fertility and maximizing the chances of conception.
The study looked at how acupuncture could help a woman become pregnant by addressing blood flow to the reproductive organs. A thick, regular uterine lining is preferable to a thin uterine lining when trying to get pregnant. The quality of the uterine lining is important, whether trying to get pregnant by natural means or using fertility treatments.
The researchers used acupuncture on women with fertility issues. They found that the acupuncture reduced blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries. This higher blood flow thickened the lining of the uterus and made it more uniform, thus preparing a good environment for a pregnancy to take hold. Blood flow to the ovaries was also improved, increasing ovarian response.
This study is a perfect example of a complementary approach to fertility treatments. Complementary medicine is medical treatment used in conjunction with traditional remedies. Acupuncture can also be attempted on its own - this is called 'alternative medicine.'
In Vitro Fertilization (I.V.F.) was the focus of the Swedish study. This involves fertilizing a human egg cell in a laboratory, then inserting the resulting embryo into the uterus. If success with I.V.F. is judged by live births, around 22% of attempts during a cycle are successful, depending on the age of the woman. Success goes down with age. I.V.F. treatments can be costly, inconvenient and often not totally covered by insurance; therefore, combining I.V.F. with acupuncture should increase the chances of pregnancy in fewer cycles.
Clomid is a medication commonly used to treat infertility. It stimulates the body into releasing more of the hormone that causes a mature egg to grow and release. Unfortunately, Clomid can cause thinning of the uterine lining. A thinner uterine lining reduces the patient's chances of actually becoming pregnant. The Swedish study demonstrated that acupuncture would help negate this side effect, therefore increasing the chances of pregnancy.
Alternative approaches to fertility using acupuncture alone are a relatively inexpensive option for infertile couples who want to continue to try natural methods. Some couples decide to visit a physician to rule out any obvious barriers to fertility. Then, they might want to try acupuncture treatments and TCM in conjunction with basic advice for natural conception. Traditional Chinese Medicine has used this approach for thousands of years. The Swedish study found increased blood flow to both the ovaries and uterus. This supports the idea that acupuncture increases the wellness of the female reproductive organs.
Acupuncture's vision of the reproductive system as energy systems can be a helpful framework for approaching fertility. This research study combined the most common intrauterine fertility treatment, I.V.F., with acupuncture. The results were an increased success rate and the knowledge that blood flow to at least two female reproductive organs was increased. Fertility is a complex process that can benefit from complementary approaches, including acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
1. Human Reproduction. 1996 Jun;11(6):1314-7. "Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries of infertile women with electro-acupuncture."Stener-Victorin E1, Waldenstrom U, Andersson SA, Wikland M. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8671446