Acupuncture can be very effective in cases of infertility. It is important in fertility issues to get as much information as we can. It is helpful to have both you and your husband at the initial visit, when we will discuss your medical history in detail. There are many causes of infertility in both men and women. You may both benefit from acupuncture treatments.
What causes it?
Causes of male infertility can include poor sperm quality, low sperm count, altered sperm shape, sperm allergies (normally after reversing a vasectomy), male tube blockages, and scarring caused from sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia or gonorrhea.
Causes of female infertility can include endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, poor egg quality, irregular or no ovulation, female tube blockages from pelvic inflammatory disease, sperm allergies (to partner’s sperm), scarring from sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, or previous sterilization procedures.
These are all issues that are treatable with acupuncture and Oriental medicine (TCM).
We may ask you to monitor your basal body temperature if you are not already doing this. This can help you determine whether you are ovulating. We will discuss your menstrual cycle. This gives us valuable insight into how your body is functioning.
We use this information to attain a Chinese medical diagnosis that will help us most effectively help you and your partner achieve pregnancy. We will ask pertinent questions about your past medical history as well as discuss any treatments you are currently undergoing. Acupuncture is effective in conjunction with other modalities of medicine or as a stand-alone therapy.
We live in a stressful society. In TCM stress loosely correlates to a diagnosis we call liver qi stagnation. The liver qi regulates the free flow of everything throughout the body. This includes the circulatory system, the nervous system, the endocrine system and the reproductive system. If you are stressed, your liver qi can stagnate. This will affect all of these systems to a certain degree. You may have difficulty conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy. Your hormonal balance may be completely “out of whack.” Men and women both are affected by liver qi stagnation. It is the diagnosis seen most often in clinical practice. Your partner may respond to stress by decreasing sperm counts or motility. TCM can also help him bring his hormones into better balance.
Fertility can also be affected by kidney qi deficiency. In TCM the kidney qi is our root. We inherit our kidney qi largely from our parents at conception. As we age our kidney qi naturally declines. For men this runs in eight-year cycles. TCM believes that after eight eight-year cycles a man’s vitality is significantly diminished.
For women this happens after seven seven-year cycles. What this means is that by the time a man reaches 64 years old his vitality is diminished to the point that he would normally be having reproductive or sexual dysfunctions. For women this happens at about age 49, about the time women begin to go through menopause.
Sometimes, an injury to the body, a traumatic experience (physical or emotional) or a congenital weakness that affects the kidney qi or even just daily stress can weaken the kidney qi. This can affect vitality, libido and reproductive function also. In these cases we would focus on nourishing the kidneys to help increase vitality, libido and reproductive function. Often in fertility issues a combination of liver qi stagnation and kidney qi deficiency are involved. These are complex situations that require individual consultations with a qualified practitioner.
What can you do?
Find relaxation techniques that work for you to relieve your stress. Get a massage, have acupuncture treatments, join a gym, walk 30 minutes every day, take tai qi or yoga classes, swim. It does not matter how you do it, but find a way to release the stress that builds up in your daily life. This will help increase the circulation of your liver qi, which will affect your life in many positive ways.
Acupuncture can help. It takes 70 to 100 days for the body to produce new sperm. For men it is important to receive acupuncture for an entire life cycle of the sperm.
A minimum of three months of weekly treatments is needed to regulate the hormonal pathways in women. It is important to have weekly treatments in this case because we want to affect the hormonal balance at every stage of your menstrual cycle.
TCM helps increase the effectiveness of western medical approaches to fertility as well. For example, if a woman is preparing for in vitro fertilization techniques, having acupuncture prior to egg harvesting can increase the egg production and the vitality of resulting embryos. This can increase the effectiveness of your in vitro procedure. If you choose to use assisted fertility procedures in your quest for a family, it is important to get your body ready for these procedures. Your acupuncturist can help you with this.
TCM has been scientifically proven to release endorphins, which affect pain perception and mood. TCM has also been shown to increase circulation and immune function.
TCM can improve fertility by relieving stress and increasing relaxation. It can balance hormonal levels in both men and women. For these reasons, it is used to improve vitality of sperm and egg, reduce fibroids and scar tissue, promote normal menstruation and ovulation and increase chances of carrying a healthy pregnancy full term.
Kara Burpee M.S., L.Ac., is a graduate of Bastyr University in Seattle. She owns Phoenix Acupuncture at 928 Broadwater Ave., Suite 230, in Billings, Montana. Contact Burpee at 406-690-8608 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.