Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of regular unprotected intercourse. It has become more endemic as more and more couples decide to wait to they are in their 30s to start a family. About 15 percent of couples in Singapore do not get pregnant successfully within 12 months of trying to conceive. This can heartbreaking for both the husband and wife. Fortunately, modern medicine allows us to pinpoint any physiological and anatomical hindrance in the body. For example, a vaginal ultrasound can help us discover abnormalities within the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries while a blood test can track the necessary hormonal levels. With that, causes of female infertility such as tubal obstruction, polycystic ovaries, luteal phase insufficiency, oligomenorrhoea, irregular ovulation, resistant ovarian syndrome, thyroid disorder, endometriosis and so on can be ruled out and treated. But why you are still not pregnant?
There are often circumstances where the couple is healthy and trying, yet the results are disappointing. Before you proceed to try anything more invasive, its worth considering Chinese medicine for help. Acupuncture is the most commonly recognized alternative treatment for infertility today.
Does it really work?
Acupuncture intervenes in two ways and they are backed up by evident research. Firstly, acupuncture has been shown to affect hormone levels by stimulating the release of beta-endorphin in the brain. This affects the release of gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH) by the hypothalamus, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) from the pituitary gland, and oestrogen and progesterone from the ovaries. These are essential hormones in operating the body’s reproductive system. Secondly, it promote blood flow towards the uterus, hence, removing any constriction of the ovarian arteries. This improves the thickness of the endometrium which increase the chances of embryo implantation.
In this modern era, many women have multiple roles to play and responsibilities to uphold, leaving them drained emotionally and physically. Moreover, the polluted hectic environment and genetically modified food everywhere contributes to their unhealthy lifestyles. One of the other ways acupuncture treatment for fertility increases chance of conception is through stress reduction, which is often the hidden cause of infertility. When a person is under stress, cortisol levels are elevated, altering the brain’s neurochemical balance, thus changing the levels of other hormones and disrupting the signaling of the HPO axis that is vital to reproductive function. Once this delicate hormonal balance is off kilter, your ovulatory mechanism can also be disrupted. Furthermore, stress can also cause spasms in both the fallopian tubes and the uterus, which can interfere with movement and implantation of a fertilized egg. Acupuncture can increase fertility by reducing stress, increasing blood flow to the uterus and ovaries whilst balancing the endocrine system.
Traditionally, the menstrual cycle is the most detectable external hint explaining your body’s resistance towards conception. The observations of the timing and nature of the menstrual blood are signs your Chinese physician will make a diagnosis upon. Together with relevant details of on-site presentation and past history, looking at the tongue and taking the pulse, the pieces of the puzzle will usually reveal your body type. This information is put together as a TCM diagnosis in designing the treatment you will receive.
On top of that, treating the kidneys is key towards fertility according to the traditional TCM gynecology text. Your kidneys governs your fertility and sexuality and requires a rich supply of blood and Qi to the reproductive organs. They will be well nourished to ensure that the future seeds are cultivated in the fertile ground.
From clinical observations, the most effective fertility treatments involve a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine. Be assured there are minimal risks in using acupuncture for fertility treatment. Those choosing to include acupuncture in their treatment regimen should only be treated by an acupuncturist who is knowledgeable in the treatment of fertility disorders. We advise patients to come in to regulate any menstrual disorder for at least three continual cycles before embarking on fertility treatment on a bi-weekly basis.
- Stener-Victorin E, Wu X. Effects and mechanisms of acupuncture in the reproductive system. Auton Neurosci. 2010 Mar 27.
- Ng EH, So WS, Gao J, Wong YY, Ho PC. The role of acupuncture in the management of subfertility. Fertil Steril. 2008 Jul;90(1):1-13.
- Huang ST, Chen AP. Traditional Chinese medicine and infertility. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Jun;20(3):211-5.
- Stener-Victorin E, Humaidan P. Use of acupuncture in female infertility and a summary of recent acupuncture studies related to embryo transfer. Acupunct Med. 2006 Dec;24(4):157-63.