Acupuncture for Fertility
It is estimated that about 1 in 10 couples in the US struggle to get pregnant. It takes two to make a baby and though not talked about as much, at least 40% of fertility issues are attributed to male issues.
The Western View of Infertility
There are identifiable causes for fertility problems, the main ones are:
- Ovulatory dysfunction and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Blocked tubes
- Low sperm count
- Poor quality sperm count
- Unexplained infertility
- Secondary infertility (inability to get pregnant with a second child)
Female fertility declines with age, and it is not yet defined as to whether the age of the male affects fertility. When you have a diagnosis for infertility it can lead you to try to treat these specific matters directly.
Struggling to get pregnant leads to its own stress and this is often recognised as a contributory factor in the ability to get pregnant. It can be very distressing for couples and potentially even more devastating for a woman.
In the Western world, most teenagers are educated in how not to get pregnant, the use of contraception or abstinence. However, there is little advice given on how to get pregnant and the right conditions for pregnancy.
When pregnancy is not happening Western medicine turns very quickly towards many tests, assisted reproduction, use of ovulation drugs and very often IVF. It now goes further than this with options for egg donation, sperm donation and surrogacy. It often results in a longed for child but the cost of this whole process is often expensive and exhausting and can take years.
Fertility in Chinese Medicine
Chinese Medicine treats the whole person and sees the person as fertile. It looks for imbalances of energy in the organs of the body which the acupuncture can restore. When health is restored, a woman’s reproductive system will conceive naturally and carry a child to full term.
Fertility issues can be caused by the energy being blocked. There are many stories of just one acupuncture session clearing blocks and resulting in an almost immediate pregnancy. This often occurs when the fertility problems are unexplained.
Traditional Chinese medicine works with nature, recognizing that the body is part of nature and that it needs to work within the concept of yin and yang through the cycle of the year and the seasons. Yang is often described as a more male energy and yin as female energy but we have both within all of us. These energies create balance in the body.
Acupuncture uses 12 lines of energy running through the body which are called meridians and link to each organ in the body. Alongside these are four extraordinary meridians which control energy connected with growth, maturity and aging. These meridians govern development of embryos, genetics and aging.
The Penetrating meridian relates to the connection of the mind, emotions and hormones as well as the uterus. The conception meridian regulates yin energy. The Governing meridian governs the more male energies and the yang hormones of testosterone and progesterone. The girdle vessel wraps around the body like a belt linking the yin and yang and is often considered in miscarriage.
Chinese acupuncture theories recognize that our reproductive potential is not fixed but is affected by environmental and internal factors that can put off or accelerate the decline of our fertility.
Acupuncture for Fertility
An acupuncturist will assess the balance of a woman’s health seeking to then strengthen energy or qi. Qi is converted in the body to energy and fluids which are then used to convert air, water and food into nourishment for our bodies. This nourishment encourages blood flow and movement of energy and aiming to create a regular monthly cycle and ovulation.
Acupuncture for men is similar. It can be used to improve overall health and to work on improving sperm quality and quantity alongside diet and lifestyle changes even in cases where IVF is planned. Where the fertility issue is unexplained, acupuncture can be the key that unlocks a successful pregnancy.
Your acupuncturist will work with you to establish your health and lifestyle history to then build a treatment programme designed especially for you. This will treat your general health to balance your energy and balance your hormones.
The acupuncturist will look for symptoms and signs of imbalance in the body. If the body is too hot they will cool it, and if cold warm it up. They will look for signs or damp or dryness, of emptiness or fullness. All of these unusual sounding descriptions can be treated in order to recreate balance.
Restoring this balance involves acupuncture, dietary changes and lifestyle changes and herbal medicine can also be prescribed.
Western View of Acupuncture for Fertility
From a biomedical viewpoint, acupuncture for fertility is believed to stimulate the nervous system, influencing the production of the body's communication substances - hormones and neurotransmitters. The resulting biochemical changes activate the body's self-regulating homeostatic systems, stimulating its natural healing abilities and promoting physical and emotional wellbeing.
Acupuncture can also help to reduce stress and balance hormones. Stress causes adrenalin to rise in us which inhibits our ability to use progesterone which in turn affects fertility. High levels of stress impede the blood flow to the uterus as the blood is travelling to the muscles which deal with fight or flight situations. If there is not enough blood flow to the uterus, the body recognises that it cannot support a pregnancy and an embryo will not be conceived. Whilst stress in the modern world is not generally a life or death experience, the triggers are the same as for pre-historic times and in those times a woman generally did not get pregnant unless she felt safe. So reducing stress levels will help in many ways.
If natural pregnancy is not successful, acupuncture can be used to support IVF through the process of the various drug protocols and also on the day of embryo transfer.
Lifestyle Changes to Support Fertility
Your acupuncturist will look at your daily habits. What are your nutritional habits? What is your daily routine? And what do you consume? Coffee or alcohol, sugar, chemicals and drugs are all by-products of affluent lifestyles but can also contribute to fertility problems.
Try to avoid junk food, caffeine, tobacco, sodas, sweeteners, and refined carbohydrates.
If possible, avoid dairy foods, raw vegetables, and cold food. The internal body likes to be a general room temperature (neither hot or cold) in order to function at its best. Organic meats and foods are best as they will not contain any products treated with hormones.
It is also helpful to take gentle exercise (rather than extreme) such as walking, swimming, cycling, yoga. Engage in meditation. Sit down to eat. Drink plenty of water (ideally about 2 litres).
Combining these changes with your acupuncture for fertility will greatly increase your chances of a natural conception and healthy pregnancy.