Many fertility patients ask me, "so how does acupuncture actually help me increase my chances of having a baby? When I came across this succinct explanation by one of my colleagues, Mike Berkley, L.Ac of The Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness, I asked for his permission to share this because it explains what we do as fertility acupuncturists, who we can help and how we can help.
a. Acupuncture strongly and effectively stimulates blood flow to the uterus and the ovaries.
The uterus benefits because it has more nutrient products delivered which can either thicken it and/or make it more amenable to implantation of an embryo. Poor uterine quality is often the culprit for ‘implantation-failure’.
The eggs also benefit as a result of increased blood flow. The uterine artery feeds both the uterus and the ovaries. Since the eggs reside in the ovaries, the eggs receive more FSH/LH from the brain; in addition, they receive more oxygen, nutrients, and electrolytes. The follicles, as a result of this increase in blood flow are also able to more effectively rid themselves of dead-cell-remnants known as ‘debris’. A build up of ‘debris’ can lessen the quality of eggs. Remember, all it takes is one good egg, one good sperm and a healthy lining.
b. Acupuncture reduces stress and stress is associated with diminished success when trying-to-conceive.
c. Acupuncture improves sperm quality. This improvement may be observed in a higher count, greater motility and improved morphology of the sperm. In addition, if the male-partner has sperm-dna-fragmentation greater than 30%, pregnancy will usually not occur. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are very effective in significantly reducing sperm-dna-fragmentation levels.
d. Acupuncture, herbs, and the proper supplements can help the PCOS patient to lose weight (when necessary), regulate the menses, improve fertility-outcomes and help reduce the chances of miscarriage which are twice as high in the PCOS population than in the non-PCOS population.
e. Endometriosis. Sometimes, even after a laparoscopy, a patient still can’t conceive. The reason for this, most probably, is that all the endometriosis was not removed as some endometriosis looks exactly like normal tissue. As a result, there are inflammatory products circulating in the uterus making it too ‘hot’ or inflamed to allow and enable an implantation to occur with an on-going pregnancy. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can significantly reduce inflammatory states in general and in utero in particular, thereby making the uterus healthier, and more amenable to an implantation with an ongoing successful pregnancy.
f. Advanced maternal age is a term conferred upon any women 35 years-old and older. This population typically has two issues at the very least. They present with diminished ovarian reserve and poor (or less good) egg quality. Your eggs can be improved through the proper application of acupuncture and thereby significantly improve your chances of conception.
g. Miscarriage. There are many reasons for miscarriage many of which should be treated by a reproductive-endocrinologist.
However, there are two pathomechanisms of miscarriage which cannot be treated by Western medicine. These are IUFD and IUGR. These essentially mean the same thing even though they have different names. IUFD means intra-uterine-fetal-demise and IUGR means intrauterine growth retardation. This basically means that the blood flow to the placenta is insufficient, nutrient products are not delivered to the developing fetus and miscarriage occurs. Acupuncture is essential for this type of issue.
h. Sub-chorionic-hematoma. A subchorionic bleed (also known as a subchorionic hematoma) is the accumulation of blood between the uterine lining and the chorion (the outer fetal membrane, next to the uterus) or under the placenta itself. It can cause light to heavy spotting or bleeding, but it may not. This can and often does end in miscarriage. The Western medical approach is bedrest. Acupuncture and herbs can more aggressively and often more successfully treat this pathology.
i. Infertility due to “no known cause”. In traditional Chinese medicine, everything is diagnosable. There is no vocabulary in any Chinese medicine books that are equal to “no known cause”. The skilled practitioner will always find the underlying cause and often successfully treat it.
j. Acupuncture and herbs are perfectly suited for an integrative approach to fertility care. The reproductive endocrinologist will stimulate the development of follicles, retrieve eggs, inseminate them with sperm and transfer the embryo. This technique has produced more than four-million live births of mostly healthy babies. But there are millions more transfers that were unsuccessful. This is because Western reproductive medicine does not offer a means to improve the necessary components for a successful outcome. These are: great eggs, great sperm and great lining. Acupuncture and herbs can confer these benefits to the patient undergoing IUI or IVF, or, just trying-to-conceive naturally. East meets West in Reproductive Medicine should be and hopefully one day will be the new Gold-Standard in reproductive care.
k. Acupuncture and herbs save you money. Think of it this way. Each IVF patient is worth up to $100,000. You do three failed IUI’s. You do 4 failed embryo transfers, now you’re off to donor egg. And then there’s all the testing. If acupuncture can improve the necessary components required for pregnancy (sperm, egg, lining), you will get pregnant sooner. The sooner you succeed, the less costly the whole affair. East meets West is the essential ingredient to better pregnancy outcomes.
Photo credit @julietteordonia