Struggling with infertility can be a heartbreaking, stressful experience. Unfortunately, the stress of trying to conceive may actually make it more difficult to do so. Can acupuncture really provide the answer you're seeking?
What is Acupuncture?
A traditional Chinese treatment for a wide array of conditions, acupuncture is the insertion of sterile, ultra-fine needles into specific areas of the body to trigger a certain response. For some, it's also an effective treatment for infertility. In fact, it's not uncommon for fertility doctors to recommend acupuncture therapy to patients undergoing the difficult process of in vitro fertilization.
Acupuncturemay regulate hormonal activity, particularly gonadotropin, which affects ovulation. Traditional Chinese Medicine also holds that the treatment can regulate menstrual periods and increase uterine blood flow, as well as soothing inflammation, which is thought to disrupt the delicate balance of estrogen and progesterone, both reproductive hormones.
There's some evidence these claims are true, as studies have shown evidence of increased blood flow in humans during acupuncture through Doppler ultrasound imaging. Multiple studies also show a correlation between acupuncture and successful in vitro fertilization in patients undergoing the process. Evidence is promising enough to prompt the NYU Hospital to offer acupuncture in their fertility center, and a staggering amount of anecdotal evidence points to acupuncture as a viable treatment for infertility.
The Risks and Benefits of Acupuncture for Infertility
The risks of acupuncture are so low as to be almost negligible, with some patients reporting mild bruising. The procedure offers a number of stress-relieving benefits, so even if it's not effective in treating mechanical infertility caused by blocked fallopian tubes or low sperm count, it can provide patients navigating the emotionally draining landscape of infertility with a bit of peace.
Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes more than two thousand acupuncture points on the human body, all of which connect 14 meridians. Bad habits, stress, illness and pain can disrupt the flow of Qi, which is believed to regulate our physical, emotional and spiritual balance. When Qi is blocked, infertility can be one of many side effects. Acupuncture redirects energy to correct such difficulties and has potential to aid in successful conception and pregnancy.
When Should I Start Treating Infertility with Acupuncture?
There's no hard and fast answer for when you should begin acupuncture treatments. Some people start treatment before trying to conceive in an effort to prepare their body and boost their chances of successful conception, and others turn to Traditional Chinese Medicine when other interventions have failed.
Acupuncture can be an effective tool for people struggling through the difficult side effects of the in vitro process, as well. Nausea, fatigue and moodiness can all be part and parcel with IVF, but acupuncture may be able to combat these side effects.
If you're currently experiencing infertility or are just starting to think about adding to your family, acupuncture can provide a host of benefits with the potential to boost the likelihood of conception. At the very least, it can provide some much-needed stress relief and hormonal balancing through a difficult time.