According to the National Survey of Family Growth, around 10 percent of couples have trouble with fertility.
Many of these couples turn to medicine to help them conceive. The most well-known fertility treatments are provided through specialized clinics, and they typically include:
Surgery (for blocked fallopian tubes and endometriosis)
- Surgical sperm extraction
- Hormone-based fertility drugs
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
- In vitro fertilization (IVF)
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
Other than surgery and medication, these treatments are focused on harvesting healthy eggs and sperm and combining them for fertilization.
Acupuncture clinics do not provide these fertility services, but acupuncture itself can improve fertility and the chances of pregnancy. In fact, many fertility clinics are integrating acupuncture and other eastern medical practices into their own treatment regimens.
What Causes Issues with Fertility?
There can be many conditions behind fertility issues. In men, they include:
- Issues with sperm count or quality
- Issues with sperm delivery
- Environmental factors, including drug, medication, or steroid use
- Cancer or cancer treatments (radiation and chemotherapy)
In women, there are several common causes of infertility, including:
- Issues with ovulation, including hormonal disorders like polycystic ovary syndrome
- Abnormalities with the cervix or uterus
- Fallopian tube blockage or damage
- Early menopause
- Scarring left behind by pelvic infections or surgery
- Cancer and cancer treatments
With so many potential causes behind infertility, it’s not always easy to pinpoint the exact reason for fertility problems, or the ideal path for treatment.\
Can Acupuncture Be Used with Other Fertility Treatments?
Acupuncture is considered safe for a wide variety of patients, including those trying to become pregnant (and those who already are). Acupuncture does not interact with fertility drugs and can be used with most people who have recently received surgery, though it’s important to bring this up to the acupuncturist. The only adverse effects associated with acupuncture are minor bleeding or bruising, and this resolves quickly.
The Medical Evidence Behind Acupuncture and Fertility Treatment
There is still much research to be done on the effect of acupuncture treatment on fertility. However, there are reasons to believe that acupuncture can help, as it has potential benefits for several infertility-related conditions. They include:
- Uterine fibroids – Uterine fibroids can cause fertility problems if they grow too large and block the fallopian tubes. Blocked tubes may be corrected by surgery, but acupuncture can also help. Acupuncture treatment can regulate blood flow into reproductive organs and shrink any fibroids as a result. Acupuncture can also reduce the pain associated with fibroids.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – PCOS is believed to be caused by a combination of genetics, inflammation, and hormonal imbalances. It’s characterized by the presence of ovarian “cysts,” which are actually immature eggs.
While the exact cause cannot be determined in most PCOS patients (around 70 percent), hormonal imbalances are suspected in the majority of those suffering with PCOS. Acupuncture has been shown to help with restoring this balance. Practitioners believe this is because acupuncture stimulates the body into releasing certain hormones and inhibiting the expression of others. This is likely why acupuncture can also help with hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.
- Depression, anxiety and stress – Multiple clinical studies demonstrate positive effects in patients suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression. A poor mental state can reduce the chances of pregnancy, and doctors recommend maintaining a positive mindset to aid in conception.
Acupuncture’s ability to promote a relaxed, calm mental state can help patients control stress levels, and research shows that these benefits are maintained long after treatment ends.
- Erectile dysfunction – Erectile dysfunction is a male-centric cause of fertility problems, and it can have either physical or psychological causes. Among Chinese medicine practitioners, acupuncture is recommended for psychological ED cases. In fact, a study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research showed that 70 percent of patients in its psychological ED group benefited from acupuncture.
Houston Acupuncture Treatment Can Help Patients Tolerate Fertility Medications Better
Acupuncture and other forms of eastern medicine are a popular support therapy because they support whole-body and mental health. This, along with acupuncture’s low rate of adverse effects, make it an ideal adjunct for couples receiving fertility treatment.
Fertility clinic treatments are also well-tolerated, in general. However, adverse effects related to fertility drug use can occur. These include:
- Stomach and GI issues
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
These side effects can make conception more difficult for some women, but acupuncture treatment can offset them. Acupuncture is a proven modality for many pain and GI conditions, including headaches, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Because acupuncture is also effective for balancing hormones, it can reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes and mood swings.
In this way, acupuncture can help women maintain optimal health while they receive fertility treatment.
When Provided by a Licensed Houston Acupuncturist, Acupuncture Treatment is Safe for Women Trying to Conceive
Acupuncture is safe for the vast majority of patients, including pregnant women and women attempting to get pregnant. However, safety is only assured if treatment is provided by a licensed Houston acupuncturist. Licensed practitioners only use sanitary needles and acupuncture equipment. They know how to prepare each treatment site for cleanliness, minimizing pain and preventing bleeding. Experienced acupuncturists may also use advanced acupuncture equipment, such as electroacupuncture, laser acupuncture or acupressure.
Even better, many acupuncturists are also certified to practice western medicine. These practices integrate the best of western and eastern fertility treatments, and this can help couples explore all their options.