What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine that involves the insertion of very thin sterile needles into particular points of the body. When the needles are stimulated, they can open pathways which regulate the way the body functions. Acupuncture can be used to treat most forms of infertility and is often used in combination with herbs and other alternative and western-based treatments.
Who can perform acupuncture for infertility?
Each state has different licensing requirements so it is best if you refer to the requirements in your local area.
Training and certification that is recognized in some states is offered through the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM). Practitioners demonstrate knowledge and advanced training in the field of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine as it relates to infertility. Fifty percent of the certification exam requires knowledge of western medicine as well.
In some areas, those wishing to become acupunturists must graduate from an approved and/or accredited school of acupuncture with a Masters Degree in Acupuncture or Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Medical Doctors and other health care providers can sometimes practice acupuncture with less training. Again, check your local acupuncture laws and legislation.
Who is a candidate for Acupuncture for infertility?
Candidates for acupuncture include those dealing with:
- PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
- Low sperm count
- Poor egg quality
- Low ovarian reserve
- Advanced maternal age
- Sperm DNA fragmentation
- Immunological causes of infertility
- Implantation failure
- Recurrent miscarriage
- Those undergoing IVF or ART procedures
- Unexplained infertility
How does acupuncture work?
Those who use acupuncture as a form of healing believe that the body’s life energy (called Qi) flows through the body and protects it from illness, pain, and disease, affecting a person’s health and balance. The belief is that this energy can become blocked or unbalanced by stress, trauma, poor diet, or a lack of exercise. Infertility is one manifestation of blocked life energy. By enhancing the balance within the body, the internal organs of reproduction are better able to function properly.
By placing needles into various points of the body, practitioners help release Qi. The needles are placed in different points and at different depths for each individual after a personal assessment. It is thought that the release of one’s positive life energy through the body pushes out negative energy.
Each treatment session lasts between 20-30 minutes. Participants must lie still while the needles are stimulated manually. Sterile needles are used for each patient and are discarded after each session.
Acupuncture, when used in combination with fertility treatments, can help women to reduce stress, correct hormonal imbalances, strengthen the immune system, increase blood flow to the uterus, increase the thickness of the uterine lining, and reduce the negative side effects of fertility drugs.
How effective are the treatments?
The exact reasons for acupuncture’s effectiveness are not clearly understood. Acupuncture helps increase blood circulation to reproductive organs, reduces stress which can inhibit fertility, increase the thickness of the uterine lining, improves sperm count, improve the quality of eggs produced, and can improve the effectiveness of fertility medications.
In a soon to be published manuscript in Fertility & Sterility, Diane K Cridennda, L.A.C., Mel Cohen, Ph.D., and Paul C Magarelli, MD, Ph.D. demonstrated that changes in Prolactin and Cortisol (known stress hormones) are favorably modified in IVF patients when they are treated with the Cridennda/Magarelli protocol. This protocol involves the use of 9-12 acupuncture treatments, which is significantly higher than the standard number of treatments. There was also shown to be a 10% decline in the risk for multiple births when using the Cridenna/Magarelli protocol.
Also, there have been numerous studies on the impact of acupuncture on IVF outcomes that demonstrate significantly greater pregnancies and live births when IVF patients added acupuncture treatment to their protocols. Two additional studies published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, one conducted in 2002 and the other in 2006, demonstrated that when performed on women undergoing IVF, acupuncture increased pregnancy rates up to 60 percent in comparison to women who chose not to receive treatments.
Men also benefit from acupuncture, most studies come from China and both functional and structural changes in sperm performance and shape have been demonstrated in patients treated with TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine which includes Acupuncture).
When should I use Acupuncture?
Practitioners recommend that women begin acupuncture three to six months before beginning fertility treatment. Studies show that the body needs at least 3 months before the true effects of acupuncture can be shown. Just before and after undergoing fertility procedures, women may wish to receive one to two additional acupuncture treatments.
Because the majority of miscarriages take place within the first trimester, treatments are often recommended to continue for the first three months of pregnancy. These treatments help support the pregnancy and specific acupuncture points are used to prevent miscarriage.
When should I stop getting acupuncture?
Acupuncture for the infertile patient as well as the patient suffering with repeated pregnancy loss must be continued after pregnancy is achieved to increase the odds of a successful, full-term pregnancy. Because 90% of miscarriages occur within the first trimester, you should continue treatment until week thirteen to help prevent miscarriage.
Are there risks associated with acupuncture?
The risks associated with acupuncture for fertility treatment are minimal. Still, it’s very important, that women receive treatment from a practitioner who is well trained and highly experienced in infertility care and acupuncture. The recovery time differs for each patient, with some feeling drowsy and others very relaxed. Herbal medicine may also be prescribed in conjunction with treatment.
What is the cost?
Acupuncture is priced differently according to each practitioner. One session of acupuncture can cost an average $60-$120, though this varies based on geographic location and the facility. The number of sessions a patient requires will determine the costs, but some facilities offer different pricing options based on the number of sessions you schedule at one time. Many facilities suggest about 12 sessions per patient in order to receive the desired outcome, though it is best to refer to your pracitioner for an individualized evaluation.
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