Exploring the Benefits of Acupuncture for Enhancing Fertility
Acupuncture is one of Chinese medicine’s oldest and most studied forms of treatment. With a history that dates back nearly 2,000 years, generations of acupuncturists have recorded their results and refined the practice. Today, acupuncture has been developed for a large range of health problems, including fertility problems.
Infertility affects a large portion of the population. According to the World Health Organization, about 1 in 6 people suffer from fertility issues. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) reports that 19 percent of women between 18-49 experience infertility at some point in their lives.
It’s a widespread health problem, but one that can also cause significant distress to couples. However, medicine has come a long way in this area and there are a number of treatments designed to improve fertility in couples.
Among the available fertility therapies is acupuncture. Acupuncture has been linked to an array of health benefits, several of which are relevant to reproductive health. Four of those benefits include:
1) Acupuncture Can Regulate Hormones Relevant to Reproductive Health
Acupuncture has several whole-body effects on patient health, but from a physiological perspective, they may stem from a common source – stimulating the nervous system into promoting better balance in the body.
When acupuncture needles are inserted in the skin, they innervate nearby nerve tissue, resulting in a cascade of beneficial effects. One of those effects is to stimulate better performance from hormone-producing organs. For example, acupuncture is frequently used to balance thyroid hormones in patients experiencing hypothyroidism.
The same principle is also important in fertility, as there are several hormones critical to reproductive health. Research shows that acupuncture treatment is linked to better optimized progesterone and FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) levels.
Progesterone is important because it supports better uterine health and promotes a thicker uterine lining – needed for reliable egg implantation.
FSH is produced by the pituitary gland and is linked to sexual development. In women of childbearing age, excessive levels of FSH are associated with slower egg growth and fewer mature eggs. In fact, elevated FSH may signal the beginning of menopause, though in younger women it’s often due to an underlying condition.
By bringing these hormones back into balance, acupuncture supports the ideal childbearing environment in the body.
2) Acupuncture Stimulates Better Blood Flow to Reproductive Organs
Acupuncture treatment is also associated with improved circulation – and this effect has been noted in areas around the body. It’s also backed by researchers, who have developed sound theory as to why acupuncture may boost circulatory activity. Specifically, acupuncture stimulates the release of nitric oxide by the body, a substance associated with several improved circulatory markers.
Nitric oxide acts as a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow through them. Acupuncture’s action on the parasympathetic nervous system may be behind the effect.
Improved circulation has positive implications for fertility, too, as additional blood volume is able to reach the ovaries and uterus. Blood flow is critical for nourishing developing eggs and removing waste products in the process. This means healthier eggs and a healthier uterus.
3) Acupuncture can treat conditions that may interfere with pregnancy
There are a handful of medical conditions that can negatively impact fertility, some of which are treatable with acupuncture. Examples include:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – PCOS is a common condition among women of childbearing age (affecting up to 10 percent of women) and is therefore the number one cause of infertility among U.S. women.While the causes of PCOS are still being researched, there’s an emerging belief that hormone imbalances are a primary driver of the condition. This imbalance concerns androgens, with testosterone most recognizable among them. In women with elevated androgen levels, symptoms include less frequent periods, additional facial and body hair growth, and fertility problems.Bringing androgen levels back into balance is the chief goal of treatment, and acupuncture’s ability to regulate hormones is ideal for this purpose. In fact, research demonstrates efficacy in this manner, with androgen levels more in line following extended runs of acupuncture treatment.
- Uterine fibroids – Uterine fibroids are growths that form out of the smooth muscle lining and surrounding the uterus. Though these growths are typically benign, they can cause pain, increased menstrual bleeding and fertility issues. For example, large enough fibroids may pinch off the fallopian tubes or make it difficult for the egg to implant on the uterine wall.Thankfully, fibroids are treatable. By improving circulation to the uterus and balancing out hormones, acupuncture can help the body control fibroid growth and reduce their size. In effect, acupuncture can reduce fertility problems due to uterine growths.
- Erectile dysfunction – Erectile dysfunction can be caused by physiological or psychological factors, both of which acupuncture may help resolve. As mentioned, acupuncture can stimulate better circulation, which can directly impact sexual performance in males.
Acupuncture can also support better mental health and reduce stresses associated with sexual intercourse. In this way, couples can increase their conception chances through more effective intercourse.
4) Acupuncture Can Reduce Stress and Pain
Acupuncture is considered a promising adjunct therapy for anxiety and depression, as it provides notable stress relieving effects. This may also be connected to acupuncture’s ability to interface with the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, triggering body-wide relaxation responses.
For instance, acupuncture’s hormone-balancing capabilities extend to cortisol – the stress hormone. High cortisol levels are associated with fertility difficulties, as well as higher levels of FSH.
Further, the acupuncture treatment process itself can promote relaxation. Acupuncture is delivered in a quiet, calm room – and patients are allowed to rest on the table for an extended period while the needles do their work. Once a patient is comfortable with treatment, it’s not uncommon for them to fall asleep during this rest period. In all, acupuncture can help patients find time for a mental break and “recharge” them, so to speak. This can translate into improved physiological and psychological health, from a fertility standpoint.
Acupuncture Can Help Naturally Boost Fertility
Acupuncture’s whole-body health-boosting effects are useful in a variety of health conditions, including infertility. Whether fertility issues are caused by a hormonal imbalance, an underlying health problem, stress, or poor circulation, acupuncture can be an effective support therapy and help patients maximize their chances of getting pregnant. Talking with your Houston primary care practitioner can help with treatment.