New research is available showing that acupuncture can be highly effective in treating fertility in both men and women and thus increasing the chances of a couple becoming pregnant. It is being touted today as a new avenue for those having difficulty conceiving, with clinics appearing in major cities providing acupuncture for fertility. Generally, in women, the technique is seen to improve blood flow to the uterus and help relax it to give the blastocyst a better chance at implantation in the uterine wall. In men, a more recent American study has suggested that acupuncture treatments can improve sperm motility, or ability to swim, and their production by reducing the number of abnormal structures. There is the possibility, researchers say, that many men with infertility problems may be returned to their full reproductive potential through the use of acupuncture.
The use of acupuncture to treat a variety of ills has been a mainstay in Chinese medicine for at least 2,500 years. Some say it stretches back as long as 5,000 years. However, its use in the West only started a few decades ago, with its use as a standard practice becoming fully accepted only recently. The West got its first real glimpse of the potential of acupuncture after 1972 that opened Chinese practices to the rest of the world. Acupuncture currently is being used to help with nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, post-operative dental pain, tennis elbow, stroke rehabilitation, headaches, menstrual pain, low back pain, osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and a number of other conditions.
That may be why using acupuncture to treat infertility is only now receiving studious and serious attention. In the 2002 study, German scientists found that using acupuncture for fertility greatly increased the pregnancies of women in the test who were also undergoing standard invitro fertilization procedures. According to the study, 42 percent of the 160 women got pregnant with acupuncture versus 26 percent without. At Tel Aviv University, acupuncture increased pregnancy rates by 26 percent when used with artificial insemination techniques. In its study, more than 65 percent of the women conceived using acupuncture compared with under 40 percent of those who did not receive the treatment.
Doctors speculate that many of the positive results may be due to acupuncture’s well-known effectiveness in reducing anxiety and stress. The inability to relax has been found to be a major block to conception, regardless of the methods used. This is because stress causes the hormone cortisol to be released in the brain and chemically disrupt the balance of the pituitary gland, which is vital to the reproductive cycle. The process of using acupuncture for fertility involves using a thin sterile strand of wire, referred to as an acupuncture needle, at strategic points on the body’s surface and stimulating them with electricity of physical movement. According to Chinese practitioners, this unblocks the body’s normal flow of energy, renewing health and vitality and helping allow the woman to conceive.
About 4.5 million couples in the U.S. suffer from infertility problems, with men being the source of nearly half the difficulty. Acupuncture is being studied as a way to help improve the quality of sperm and, potentially, their number in otherwise infertile men. A recent study published in Fertility and Sterility involved 28 infertile men who underwent two acupuncture treatments a week for five weeks. At the end of the study, researchers found the sperm of the patients had fewer structural abnormalities and so there were a larger number of normal sperm in the ejaculate. Acupuncture did not seem to help with sperm death, immature sperm, or other abnormalities, however. Researchers and practitioners agree, more study is needed in the area of using acupuncture for fertility.