Are you amongst the millions who are having trouble getting pregnant?
Then you might want to consider trying acupuncture. Now this may not be the first thing that comes to mind if you are having problems with infertility, but it probably should. Research suggests that it may help even if you are undergoing standard therapies like in vitro fertilization or intrauterine insemination.
Acupuncture is one of the ancient medical practices in the world. Although it started out in China more than ages ago, it became famous in the United States when a well-known and respected New York Times reporter named James Reston wrote excitedly about it after it helped ease his postsurgical pain. This writing gained the attention of more than 8 million American adults thereafter and they have since then had acupuncture treatment. As practiced by licensed practitioners who undergo extensive training and are often trained in traditional Chinese medicine (TMC) as well, it is completely safe and quite effective for a number of conditions. One of those conditions is infertility.
The Yin, the Yang, and baby make three
Acupuncture, like TMC, is based on a concept of the body as a balance of forces—yin (the cold, the slow, and the passive) and yang (the hot, the excited, and the active). The general theory of acupuncture is based o the premise that vital energy (known as qi or chi) flows along pathways in the body, that there are patterns of this energy flow that are essential for health, and that disruptions of this flow are responsible for disease. Optimal health is achieved when energy is in balance, flowing effortlessly through the body. Qi travels through twenty major pathways, which TMC calls “meridians.” They’re accessible through 400 different acupuncture points. By stimulating these meridians at carefully chosen points and in carefully chosen combinations, the acupuncturist can overcome blocks, help balance energy, and promote health.
One of the reasons conventional Western medicines has trouble wrapping its mind around acupuncture is that it’s hard to subject it to the kind of specific scientific study that Western scientists are used to. In a standard scientific study, one group is given a drug (those being experimented on) and the other group (the placebo group) is given a sugary pill. No one knows who gets what, including the researchers measuring the results (that is known as a double blind study). The researchers then observe whether there is a difference in some variable interest (cholesterol, blood pressure, and so on), and whether the difference is great enough, they attribute it to the pill. But how do you give the “sugar pill” equivalent of acupuncture? Of course it’s not needles but you can put the needles in impartial places and compare it to the “real” treatment, but this isn’t a perfect solution and there is a lot of disagreement about how to do it.
The causes of infertility
Two basic types of problems can interfere with fertility: structural problems (e.g., damage of the fallopian tubes) or functional (e.g., an irregular menstrual cycle).
By putting the needles on certain points on the body, you can influence and rebalance the endocrine and hormonal system. Regulating the menstrual cycle is key. Then, off course, there’s the stress connection.
Stress is the number one factor in many of today’s health problems. Stress hormones wreak havoc with virtually every metabolic process, influencing everything from weight to brain function. And acupuncture really shines when it comes to reducing stress. If energy is stagnated or out of balance in certain meridians or organs, it can result in stress and anxiety. People typically report an almost otherworldly, completely pleasant feeling of relaxation after an acupuncture session.
There are many researches that are done on acupuncture worth mentioning as well. One study in Germany compared a group of 80 women undergoing in vitro fertilization with 80 women undergoing the same treatment plus acupuncture. Only twenty two of the women who received only in vitro became pregnant (27%), but thirty four of the women who also received acupuncture conceived (43%). An American study produced equally impressive results. Fifty one percent of those who had the additional acupuncture treatment became pregnant while only 35 percent of those receiving only in vitro fertilization did. In addition, fewer than half as many who received acupuncture lost the baby.
Yet another study, involved 45 women who were infertile. Following a complete gyno exam, they were treated with acupuncture sessions. Their results compared with those of a matched sample of 45 women of the same age and history who had been treated with conventional hormones. The women treated with hormones had 21 pregnancies and off course side effects as well. The women treated with acupuncture? 22 pregnancies and no side effects.
Best of all, acupuncture for infertility is truly a “whole person” treatment that looks at the woman as much more than just a dysfunctional reproductive system. In case you are wondering, acupuncture doesn’t hut a bit. If you close your eyes during the session, you would have never known that there were needles actually sticking out of you. Go ahead and give it a try!