Acupuncture has been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, and recently it has been gaining popularity in the Western world as well. Some studies suggest that it may even combat infertility and help couples who are trying to conceive.
Acupuncture uses thin, sterile needles that are inserted just below the surface of the skin. Practitioners of acupuncture believe that energy, or chi, flows through the body, but can be disrupted by stress, injury, and other health issues. Acupuncture uses needles to stimulate specific channels of energy, called meridians, to keep the energy flowing evenly. The practice is commonly used in the West to reduce pain, but now some doctors and researchers are saying that it may help with conception. It may be used as a supplemental treatment by couples who are trying IVF, who are trying to overcome infertility issues, or who simply want to increase their chances of conception.
The first way that acupuncture helps is by reducing stress. For women, high levels of stress can disrupt the body’s balance of hormones. In extreme cases, stress may even interfere with ovulation. For men, stress can lower sperm counts and sperm motility and cause problems with arousal. If you’ve been trying to conceive for a while, you likely know how stressful it can be. Acupuncture can help you to relax, which can help restore your body to balance and a reproductive-friendly state.
Acupuncture is also thought to help with some more serious infertility issues. Some women have found that it helps them to treat spasms in their fallopian tubes and uterus. Acupuncture can also help to balance hormones, which can help to treat a number of fertility problems including ovulation disorder and luteal phase defect. However, acupuncture will not be effective for all fertility problems, such as blocked tubes. For men, acupuncture may not only reduce stress, but result in healthier sperm with fewer defects. The treatment can also slightly increase the number of sperm.
A number of recent studies have suggested that acupuncture can help to increase the effectiveness of IVF treatments. For example, a 2005 study found that acupuncture increased the pregnancy rate of patients who received IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection. The patients who underwent acupuncture therapy had a pregnancy rate of 33.6%, while those who did not had a pregnancy rate of 15.6%. These improved results may be because acupuncture helps to improve blood flow to the uterus.
If you are thinking of trying acupuncture to improve your fertility, you should prepare to do it regularly. Acupuncture is typically most effective when performed regularly over a period of multiple months. If you are considering IVF, you will likely want to begin acupuncture treatment about 3 months prior. Most women also continue acupuncture through the first trimester of pregnancy to reduce the risk of miscarriage.
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