Acupuncture is a treatment that sticks and sometimes maneuvers filform needles into extremely specific acupuncture points or pressure points in the body. It’s basically the same as physical therapy in that it is a process-oriented (i.e. ongoing) medical intervention procedure. When a needle is inserted inside the skin, it is believed to stimulate the flow of life energy known as “Qi” (pronounced chee). For women suffering from infertility, treatment usually lasts three to four months encompassing the time before insemination and post IVF therapy. One must remember that a commitment to acupuncture treatment goes beyond the mere turning of yourself over for needle treatment. Almost all, if not all acupuncturists trained in Chinese medicine will perform a thorough physical assessment that involves the taking of the pulse and the examination of the tongue (i.e. its color and coating). The findings from these preparatory diagnostic procedures aids the acupuncturist in understanding the energy levels, body fluid balance, circulation of blood of the specific patient.
It may seem that acupuncture can boost blood flow to the vital organs as well as contribute to the normalization of hormone levels, and even enhance follicular and ovarian function, which results in healthier eggs. Flow of blood to the uterus can also increase, which helps the endometrium develop a thick wall or lining. This improves the likelihood that the uterus will be strong enough to hold implanted eggs to term without any risk of miscarriage. Because of all these, it is not impossible to believe (and a lot of studies even seem to indicate) that acupuncture does boost the chance of success of IVF (vitro fertilization) and other such medical interventions.
Although acupuncture is virtually ineffective for a woman suffering from infertility if her problem involves something that requires surgical treatment like an obstruction in her fallopian tubes, it can nevertheless, still bring some type of relief if the issue is spasmed fallopian tubes (as opposed to blocked tubes). There have been several instances in which an acupuncture treatment helps spasmed tubes to de-spasm (which means they are opened up). This can be important due to the fact that fallopian tubes need to be open to allow the ovum to travel away from the cervix where it can be either harvested or inseminated.
Moreover, acupuncture is oftentimes used along with Chinese medicinal herbs to address irregularities in the menstrual cycle of a woman, hormonal imbalances, and even for treatment of infertility in males.
What Does Research Actually Reveal?
While a lot of supporters of acupuncture assert that it can alleviate almost any type of medical problem, nowadays, it is believed that acupuncture can, at the least, ameliorate pain and even stabilize blood pressure by activating the CNS or central nervous system. These benefits are attained because the treatment stimulates the body to produce and release the body’s own natural pain-killing, “feel-good” chemicals known as endorphins that eliminates pain and provides the person with a feeling of wellness. There are also certain neurohormones and neurotransmitters that endorphins release that are known to boost the body’s ability to heal itself.
Certain researches have indicated the benefits of acupuncture especially when used in combination with IVF. In 2002, a small-scale study conducted in Germany showed a near 200% increase in rates of pregnancy for women who were treated with acupuncture both just prior to and just post embryo transfer. Similar outcomes were produced in another study done in the UK. This study revealed the chances of conception went up by around 65% for women who were given acupuncture just prior to and post IVF procedures. Reproductive Medicine & Fertility Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Infertility physician Dr. Paul C. Magarelli, is a co-author of an ongoing study into acupuncture treatment’s inclusion into IVF therapy along with licensed acupuncturist Dr. Diane K. Cridennda. Initially, Megarelli was skeptical about acupuncture, he now states that the data in his study that showed how acupuncture boosts a woman’s chances of attaining pregnancy with IVF, and holding that pregnancy to term, is true and valid.
All the studies mentioned about were only small in scale. Samuel Tarantino, who is a licensed endocrinologist in Tampa, Florida and working with the Reproductive Medicine Group in Tampa, acknowledges that past research has produced a dearth of vital information. Incredulously, he still thinks that all those data are not yet enough to support that claim that acupuncture is a treatment that proves to work for infertility. He ascribes some of the medical achievements to a placebo effect. In short, “the treatment will work if the patient believes it will.” And in the case of acupuncture, he believes this is exactly what happens. American Society for Reproductive Medicine president and another fertility specialist, Dr. Robert Schenken says that the brain has the inherent power to heal itself.” He feels that due to “a lack” of controlled data from human clinical studies that have been produced to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of acupuncture on infertile women, it’s impossible to say at this point.
What Steps Should I Take If I Want To Include Acupuncture Into My Plan of Treatment?
Move and more fertility centers are now providing their clients with an option of acupuncture therapy as part of an IVF plan of treatment (one should remember that even if the clinic gives you a referral or offers it, acupuncture usually isn’t covered in your insurance plan. One session of acupuncture can cost anywhere from $75 – $90). So, if you are seriously considering acupuncture to be part of your overall treatment plan, it’s good to start treatment three to four months prior to IVF, artificial insemination, or other medical procedure. Then treatments should be continued prior to and post embryo transfer or insemination. It’s very important to see a qualified acupuncturist who has experience treating fertility. The practitioner should never insert needles in the abdomino-pelvic region for transfer or insemination. There may be inadvertent mistakes or risks in the insertion of the needles by a practitioner who has not studied fertility which could lead to a miscarriage.