Q: What types of infertility respond best to Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine?
A: Good candidates for acupuncture and herbal medicine are people who have a functional, rather than structural reason for infertility.
Infertility due to irregular ovulation, mild endometriosis, hormonal imbalances, amenorrhea, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), irregular menstruation, stress and age related factors all fall into the category of functional infertility. In addition, slightly low sperm counts of men can take the benefits from Acupuncture and Chinese medicine as well.
Stress can dramatically decrease fertility in both men and women. Acupuncture increases fertility by reducing stress.
However, in certain cases of infertility, especially both of the patient’s fallopian tubes are blocked; IVF would be recommended as the primary treatment with support from acupuncture.
Q: My fertility doctor doesn’t want me to take herbs during my IVF cycle, will the acupuncture alone be effective?
A: While no treatment is 100% guaranteed, acupuncture without Chinese herbal medicine can still be quite effective.
A Germany study published in 2002 shows that acupuncture dramatically raises IVF success rates for women undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Researchers included 160 patients undergoing IVF for the study. The patients, who were all required to have good quality embryos, were evenly and randomly divided into two groups similar in age and diagnosis.
Clinical pregnancies, the presence of a fetal sac during an ultrasound examination 6 weeks after embryo transfer, were documented in 34 of 80 patients (42.5%) in the acupuncture group, whereas pregnancy rate was only 26.3% (21 out of 80 patients) in the control group.
In 2008, a research published in British Medical Journal (BMJ) confirmed that the effects of adjuvant acupuncture on in vitro fertilization are significant and clinically relevant. The results from seven studies on 1,366 women from four countries who were undergoing IVF showed a 65% increase in establishment of pregnancy, an 87% increase in continuing pregnancy, and a 91% increase in live births.
At our clinic, we often will combine herbal medicine with acupuncture if we can see the patient prior to the start of taking oral contraceptive pills. After that point, the herbs can be discontinued and only acupuncture will be used. Many IVF clinics ask their patients to avoid herbs during a stimulated cycle, which is good advice considering the strong medications that are circulating in the patient’s body. Therefore, acupuncture combining herbal medicine treatment is recommended at least three months before the beginning of the next IUI or IVF cycle.
Q: How Acupuncture can help throughout the IVF cycle?
A: Three months or more prior to cycle, the Acupuncture and herbal treatment is used to improve the egg quality and regulate hormones. The father can be benefit on improving semen quality.
When the women is undergoing the IVF cycle, the acupuncture treatment can help increasing the function of the ovaries to produce better quality eggs and improving the quality of the uterine environment by relaxing uterine muscles and thickening uterine lining.
Q: Should my partner be undergoing acupuncture and herbal treatment as well?
A: High quality sperm is one of the main factors regarding good embryos. As it takes about 3 months for sperm to mature, men are usually recommended to begin treatment as early as possible to improve male sperm count, motility and morphology. Acupuncture can also assist both partners by decreasing stress and promoting relaxation during IVF treatment.
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