Acupuncture, as a practice, has been used by the Chinese to treat a large range of illnesses and ailments for thousands of years. At first reviled by the doctors from the west, it is now being accepted more and more as a suitable, beneficial and a holistic form of therapy, especially for couples having infertility problems. It has been observed that acupuncture and infertility complement each and many couples who have turned to acupuncture have gone on to have healthy babies.
How it works
Acupuncture was founded in ancient China with a belief that the body’s qi and chi, or the energy flow, need to be balanced for the whole body to be healthy. The body is affected negatively when something blocks that flow. There are twenty main paths (meridians) that qi travels along and there are 400 points from which these meridians can be accessed. Depending on the patient’s complaint, acupuncture needles of different sizes are used on a combination of points to stimulate them and re-balance the body’s energy flow allowing it to heal by itself.
Modern medicine has not really been able to explain just how acupuncture works but it has been around for 3000 years. In the 17th century, Jesuit monks introduced it into France from where it spread to other European countries. In the USA, however, it has been in vogue for just a couple of decades. Some people in the west are still skeptical as acupuncture’s meridians don’t correspond to any known system in the human body. However, research has shown changes in the nervous system after blood pressure and temperature has been regulated. It also helps the brain release neurotransmitters and neurohormones which help the body self-heal. Acupuncture also helps ease pain by helping the body release endorphins into the nervous system.
Acupuncture and modern treatments
Acupuncture is an alternate treatment method for both men and women with infertility problems. Nowadays, it is used more and more in combination with modern infertility treatments like in-vitro fertilization (IVF). On its own, it can help couples who have functional problems like erratic ovulation or low sperm count and motility, rather than structural ones like damaged fallopian tubes or blocked sperm ducts. Chinese herbs are also sometimes recommended as a supplement to acupuncture and any other treatments the couple could be under but the doctor treating the couple should be made aware as some herbs can hamper IVF procedures.
Acupuncture helps boost sperm production in men, while it helps regulate hormonal and endocrine functions in women. Its aim is to nourish the organs by balancing out the body’s meridians. Studies show that acupuncture has helped raise the rate of pregnancy amongst women using IVF, and also lower the rate of ectopic pregnancies. Treatments differ according to the condition of the person receiving the treatment. The acupuncturist could recommend a combination of herbal and dietary therapy, exercise and lifestyle changes.
Couples using in-vitro, artificial insemination and donor egg transfer treatments are advised to start acupuncture at least three months before. For women, acupuncture should be used both before and after the transfer of the embryo and up to 12 weeks of the pregnancy as it helps prevent miscarriages. However, miscarriage may occur if incorrect pressure points are used.
Low risk and painless
Acupuncture for infertility is painless and the risks are low, especially when done by a trained professional. If not done properly, common risks include getting an infectious disease and broken needles being accidentally left in. The main risk is puncturing an organ. Using the expertise of a trained and board-certified professional is highly recommended. It is important to note that acupuncture should not be used by people who suffer from bleeding disorders or those who need to use blood thinners.
Acupuncture and the holistic approach
Like all holistic treatments, acupuncture helps lower stress levels and harmonizes physical and mental health. These days, many couples who have infertility problems turn to the holistic approach, while using modern medical treatments too. Acupuncture and infertility go hand in hand, the former helping to treat the latter by taking the wellness of whole body into consideration rather than isolating and treating just the symptom. The holistic approach encompasses all aspects of the individual — mental, physical, spiritual — and tries to understand him or her as a sum of these parts. Besides acupuncture, the holistic approach also offers herbal remedies, advice on lifestyle and diet and exercises like yoga to reduce stress.