Fertility & Acupuncture

acupuncture-for-infertilityCeline Dion used it successfully.  Mariah Carey did too. Dr. Oz recommends it.  

 In today’s Mother’s Day Blog we provide the scientific research behind why so many seek acupuncture to boost fertility.  AND it is not just for women.

 Fertility is a hot topic.  Infertility is a disease that results in the malfunction of the female or male reproductive system.  It is diagnosed after 12 months of trying to conceive or after 6 months if you are over the age of 35 or the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth. Resolve lists the following facts about infertility

Fast Facts[i]:

  • 7.4 million women, or 11.9% of women, have ever received any infertility services in their lifetime. (2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, CDC)
  • 1 in 8 couples (or 12% of married women) have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. (2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, CDC)
  • Approximately one-third of infertility is attributed to the female partner, one-third attributed to the male partner and one-third is caused by a combination of problems in both partners or, is unexplained. (www.asrm.org)
  • A couple ages 29-33 with a normal functioning reproductive system has only a 20-25% chance of conceiving in any given month (National Women’s Health Resource Center). After six months of trying, 60% of couples will conceive without medical assistance. (Infertility As A Covered Benefit, William M. Mercer, 1997)
  • Approximately 44% of women with infertility have sought medical assistance. Of those who seek medical intervention, approximately 65% give birth. (Infertility As A Covered Benefit, William M. Mercer, 1997)
  • Approximately 85-90% of infertility cases are treated with drug therapy or surgical procedures. Fewer than 3% need advanced reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization (IVF). (www.asrm.org)
  • The most recently available statistics indicate the live birth rate per fresh non-donor embryo transfer is 47.1% if the woman is under 35 years of age and 37.9% if the woman is age 35-37. (Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, 2012)
  • Fifteen states have passed laws requiring that insurance policies cover some level of infertility treatment: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and West Virginia.
  • A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (August 2002) found that the percentage of high-order pregnancies (those with three or more fetuses) was greater in states that did not require insurance coverage for IVF. The authors of the study noted that mandatory coverage is likely to yield better health outcomes for women and their infants since high-order births are associated with higher-risk pregnancies.
  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not require coverage for infertility treatments. Those states with an infertility mandate that covers IVF may have chosen an Essential Health Benefits (EHB) benchmark plan that includes the IVF mandate. The EHB impacts the individual and small group markets only in each state.

Causes:

There are numerous causes of infertility in women including endometriosis, luteal phase defect, polycystic ovarian syndrome and uterine factors.  In men, low sperm count, low sperm motility, low testosterone count, or abnormal sperm shape.

Role of Chinese Medicine:

Chinese medicine can be helpful in treating these causative factors to enhance the possibility of pregnancy, to support a healthy pregnancy, and in supporting the health of new parents. Chinese medicine can be used before beginning prolonged medical treatment, or can be used along with western medical treatment for infertility. Many women find they can become pregnant without the use of drugs and procedures simply by balancing and nourishing their bodies through acupuncture and Chinese herbs. This approach can encourage a biological and emotional environment compatible with pregnancy. For others, the combination of western and Asian medical care is the answer. New research also shows that male infertility can be treated with acupuncture.

The Research

 Acupuncture & Fertility (without assisted)

A recent Korean study of 104 women using acupuncture for unexplained fertility reported: “The median duration of infertility after diagnosis was 33.5 weeks (interquartile range: 20.8–50.3). In total, 41 participants (39.4%) had undergone a mean number of 1.4 (SD: 2.2) assisted reproductive technology treatments prior to joining the study. The number of patients remaining in or achieving pregnancy throughout the 6-month study period was 23 (14 pregnancies), 22.1%. Six (6) participants (4.8%) reported minor adverse events including rash in the face (n = 1), diarrhea (n = 2), dizziness (n = 1), and heartburn (n = 2). Of the 14 pregnancies, there were 10 normal births, and 4 miscarriages; otherwise, no neonatal morbidity/mortality occurred. According to per protocol analysis, 14 pregnancies out of 23 total were achieved by those who remained for the entire six menstruation cycle treatments, yielding a pregnancy rate of 60.9%.”[ii]

In a study of 40 women undergoing acupuncture to induce ovulation, significant increase was reported in the level of FSH, LH and E2 (p<0.05) as well as the thickness of endometrium and diameter of follicle (p<0.05). Pregnancy rate was 85.0%.[iii]

Acupuncture & Male Infertility

An early control study using a small sample showed that the “fertility index increased significantly (p≤. 05) following improvement in total functional sperm fraction, percentage of viability, total motile spermatozoa per ejaculate, and integrity of the axonema (p≤. 05), which occurred upon (acupuncture) treatment. The intactness of axonema and sperm motility were highly correlated (corr. =. 50,p≤. 05). Thus, patients exhibiting a low fertility potential due to reduced sperm activity may benefit from acupuncture treatment.” [iv]

More recent results (2003) using an animal model shows that acupuncture improved male fertility function in rabbits including sperm quantity and quality as well as testicular functions.[v]

Acupuncture & IVF
          Acupuncture has long been used to enhance fertility but only in recent years has it been studied alongside IVF (in vitro fertilization).  IVF is a highly successful treatment for fertility whereby the egg is fertilized by sperm outside the body and then transferred to the uterus. Yet, IVF only has a 33% success rate per cycle and women usually need to undergo multiple cycles to achieve pregnancy.  As a result, many people have used acupuncture during IVF to increase the success of the IVF.  A study published in 2012 in the journal of Fertility and Sterility provided a review and meta-analysis of the published research. Twenty-four studies were evaluated in the review (of 5,807 women) which concluded that acupuncture improved clinical pregnancy rate and live birth rate in women undergoing IVF.[vi]

If you are undergoing western IVF treatment, we recommend you have an acupuncture treatment within a day before a retrieval procedure, and within a day before and after a transplant, if possible. Your body and mind can then be in their most balanced and relaxed state.

 

No medical system can guarantee that you will become pregnant, but Chinese medicine has been helping people for centuries, and has recently been recognized by fertility specialists in the west for its benefits.

At Wildwood Acupuncture Center–we are a family owned medically based clinic who will work in collaboration with other treatments you are receiving to enhance your fertility.

Call us today to schedule a consultation: 301-530-5308

Resources

Interview with Mariah Carey about her use of acupuncture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRbEWJ5TCP0

[i] http://www.resolve.org/about/fast-facts-about-fertility.html

[ii] Park, Jongbae J., et al. “Unexplained infertility treated with acupuncture and herbal medicine in Korea.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 16.2 (2010): 193-198.

[iii] XU, Yin, and Miao ZHANG. “Efficacy observation on 40 cases of anovulatory infertility treated by acupuncture and moxibustion.” World Journal of Acupuncture-Moxibustion 23.1 (2013): 40-43.

[iv] Sherman, S., et al. “Effect of acupuncture on sperm parameters of males suffering from subfertility related to low sperm quality.” Systems Biology in Reproductive Medicine 39.2 (1997): 155-161.

[v] Qing, X. I. A. “AN EXPERIMENTAL STUDY: THE EFFECTS OF ACUPUNCTURE ANDMOXIBUSTION ON TESTICLE FUNCTION AND SPERM QUALITY [J].” Journal of Gansu Sciences 1 (2003): 024.

[vi] Zheng, Cui Hong, et al. “Effects of acupuncture on pregnancy rates in women undergoing in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Fertility and sterility 97.3 (2012): 599-611.