If youï¿½re having difficulty getting pregnant, trying natural fertility options can be an effective way of improving your chances. One such natural fertility treatment option is acupuncture: long used to treat a variety of illnesses and diseases, acupuncture is also increasingly being used to treat fertility problems. But what is the effect of acupuncture on infertility and is acupuncture infertility treatment truly effective?
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient medical practice that originated in China over 2 000 years ago.
In acupuncture, sterilized needles that are thin and hollow in shape are placed at specific points (sometimes referred to as acupuncture points) in the body in order to realign the bodyï¿½s natural forces. The needles are then twisted or vibrated so as to rebalance the body and to decrease feelings of pain, disease and other illness.
Introduced in the United States in the early 1970s, Chinese acupuncture is currently being used by over 8 million American men and women annually, as part of treatment for a variety of conditions, including infertility.
Currently, acupuncture is one of the most popular forms of alternative fertility treatments in the country.
How Acupuncture Works
Acupuncture works by restoring energy flow to the body.
Chinese medical practitioners believe there are 20 distinct energy pathways that travel throughout the body. When one of these energy pathways becomes blocked, disease, illness or pain occurs.
By placing needles at specific points, the blockage is minimized, restoring health. There are over 2 000 such points in the body.
Western medicine has also recognized the benefits of acupuncture. Studies have shown that acupuncture causes the release of hormones, such as endorphins, which cause the body to relax and therefore heal.
Such hormones also increase blood flow, enabling antibodies to attack viruses and infections in the body.
What it Treats
Acupuncture has been proven to be effective for a variety of conditions, including:
- headaches and migraines
- cancer pain
- chronic fatigue syndrome
Acupuncture and Infertility
Acupuncture works best when a functional problem is the cause of infertility, specifically when endometriosis, ovulatory problems or hormonal imbalances are the cause for not getting pregnant.
On the other hand, acupuncture has not been proven to be effective when structural problems, such as an improperly formed epididymis or a blocked fallopian tube, are the cause of infertility.
Acupuncture and Female Infertility
Many women chose acupuncture infertility treatment either on its own or in conjunction with assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures, such as IVF.
Studies have proved the effectiveness of acupuncture for infertility. A 2004 study conducted by the Reproductive Medicine and Fertility Center in Colorado found that 51% of women who underwent both IVF and acupuncture treatment at the same time became pregnant, while only 36% of those who only underwent IVF did. The latter group also had higher rates of miscarriage stillbirth (20%) compared to those women who had received acupuncture (8%).
Acupuncture and Male Infertility
Men can also use acupuncture to treat their fertility problems, including erectile dysfunction or sperm health problems, such as low sperm count.
Also, a 2005 study conducted by Shanghai University in China found that acupuncture also helped treat male infertility. Of the men who participated, those who had acupuncture had an increased percentage of sperm in their semen; their sperm structure and morphology was also healthier than their counterparts who did not undergo acupuncture infertility treatment.
Costs and Other Considerations
A series of acupuncture sessions can cost as little as $300. For this reason, acupuncture is an affordable option for women and men having difficulty trying to get pregnant, especially when compared with other infertility treatment options, such as IVF. Also, some insurance plans cover acupuncture treatment.
In order to witness the benefits of acupuncture, the individual should undergo treatment once or twice weekly for a period of many months. It is normal for the patient to undergo up to 12 rounds of acupuncture treatment. Each session is roughly one hour long and should include time to discuss the patientï¿½s current condition, as well as what the patient can do at home to further mitigate her condition.
Finding a qualified acupuncturist is crucial. Make sure that your acupuncturist has appropriate training and that his certification has been mandated by your local county, state or province (depending on where you live). Another good option is to ask family and friends for referrals. You should also consult with your health care provider before beginning any infertility acupuncture treatment.
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