Acupuncture fertility assistance
Acupuncture fertility assistance has become increasingly popular over the last few years being one of the most recognised complementary therapies for fertility. Research is constantly being constantly updated and is introduced in the research section below.
Fertility – Information:
Fertility problems are estimated to affect 1 in 6 to 7 couples in the UK, where approximately 30% of cases are due to male factors, 30% female factors, 10% combined couple factors, 25% unexplained and 5% due to other factors (1).
Artificial reproductive technology (ART) includes all fertility treatments in which both eggs and sperm are handled e.g. ICSI, IVF.
In vitro fertilization (IVF)
One of the most common ART’s is in vitro fertilization (IVF). This consists of harvesting the woman’s eggs and fertilizing them outside of the body. The embryo that results from the fertilisation is introduced into the mother’s uterus to develop as a normal pregnancy. IVF may be advised in cases of fallopian tube blockages, low male sperm count, cervical mucous problems, immunological factors, and infertility after tubal surgery, endometriosis and unexplained infertility.
Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
ICSI involves injecting a single sperm directly into an egg to aid fertilisation. This is then transferred into the womb. This approach is often chosen when the male partner is suffering with semen abnormalities (2).
Acupuncture fertility theory:
Acupuncture fertility assistance can help prepare both partners before IVF in order to improve the function of the ovaries, strengthen and regulate the immune system, reduce stress, and improve the quality of the seminal fluid. This is accomplished in the female partner by treating any menstrual irregularities, such as amenorrhea, PMS, endometriosis, dysmenorrhoea usually 3-4 months before IVF treatment commences.
From the acupuncturist’s perspective, the main meridians involved in maintaining healthy female reproductive organs include the Kidney, Spleen, Liver and Heart. The Kidney provides life essence and therefore controls the functioning of the ovaries, the Spleen meridian provides rich blood and nourishment to the reproductive organs, liver provides a harmonious free flow of blood to the organs especially the fallopian tubes and the heart meridian provides nourishment and calmness within the uterus. The acupuncturists objective is therefore to ensure that these main meridians (and any others) are adequately nourished and functioning correctly through appropriate acupuncture, diet and lifestyle advice.
For male fertility, treatment commences 3 months before due to the development and maturation of the sperm within the testis. Early research has shown acupuncture to improve sperm count, motility and morphology. Please click here to read more.
|Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2010 Aug;16(3):154-7. Epub 2009 Dec 24.The relationship between perceived stress, acupuncture, and pregnancy rates among IVF patients: a pilot study.Balk J, Catov J, Horn B, Gecsi K, Wakim A.||The acupuncture regimen was associated with less stress both before and after embryo transfer, and it possibly improved pregnancy rates. Lower perceived stress at the time of embryo transfer may play a role in an improved pregnancy rate.|
|Fertil Steril. 2009 Dec;92(6):1870-9. Epub 2008 Dec 31.Changes in serum cortisol and prolactin associated with acupuncture during controlled ovarian hyperstimulation in women undergoing in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer treatment.Magarelli PC, Cridennda DK, Cohen M.||The study concluded that acupuncture appears to achieve beneficial regulation of these hormones during the medication phase of the IVF process, and a trend towards more normal fertile cycle characteristics.|
BMJ. 2008 Mar 8;336(7643):545-9. Epub 2008 Feb 7.
Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: systematic review and meta-analysis.Manheimer E, Zhang G, Udoff L, Haramati A, Langenberg P, Berman BM, Bouter LM.
|Current preliminary evidence suggests that acupuncture given with embryo transfer improves rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilisation.|
|Altern Ther Health Med. 2007 May-Jun;13(3):38-48.In vitro fertilization and acupuncture: clinical efficacy and mechanistic basis.Anderson BJ, Haimovici F, Ginsburg ES, Schust DJ, Wayne PM.|| The study revealsed supportive evidence from clinical trials and case series suggestsing that acupuncture may improve the success rate of IVF and the quality of life of patients undergoing IVF and that it is a safe adjunct therapy.|
They concluded that more high-quality randomized, controlled trials incorporating placebo acupuncture controls, authentic acupuncture interventions, and a range of outcome measures representative of both clinical outcomes and putative mechanistic processes are required to better assess the efficacy of acupuncture as an adjunct for IVF.
(1) Human fertilisation embryology Authority (HFEA). (2011). (1) Quick facts about fertility. Available: http://www.hfea.gov.uk/infertility-facts.html. Last accessed Aug 2012.
(2) Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). (2009). What is intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection and how does it work?. Available: http://www.hfea.gov.uk/ICSI.html. Last accessed Aug 2012.