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Acupuncture and Fertility Success With Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
The causes of infertility can be different and sometimes difficult to identify. Regardless of the cause, fertility problems can often be overcome with surgery, medication, or assisted reproductive technologies (ART)—a modern medical approach in which eggs, sperm, or both are manipulated by a doctor to increase the chances of conception. However, there is a limit to these procedures. Although hundreds of thousands of babies are born with the help of ART each year, success rates are low and decline with a woman’s age. ART also comes at a high price; one cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF) can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 or more.
Recent studies show a direct link between acupuncture and fertility when integrated with conventional ART procedures. The ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture brings a number of positive effects to the male and female reproductive system, increasing the chances of successful implantation and reducing the likelihood of miscarriage. Here are just a few of the ways acupuncture can improve the odds of a successful ART procedure.
It causes relaxation
Western researchers have been studying acupuncture for decades, but in 2002 the journal Fertility and Sterility published a study that increased the treatment’s popularity among infertile couples. This study, led by Dr. Wolfgang Paulus of the University of Ulm in Germany, found that 42% of women who received acupuncture before and after the ART procedure became pregnant compared to 26% of women who became pregnant with ART without acupuncture. In the same year, researchers from Cornell University School of Medicine published a study in the same journal. According to this paper, acupuncture increases the chances of conception because it reduces anxiety and stress. Stress hormones can overstimulate the nervous system, causing blood flow to divert from the uterus and instead go to glands that deal with stress. Acupuncture can restore blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, thereby increasing fertility.
Regulates hormone production and improves egg quality
One of the benefits of acupuncture for female fertility is its ability to treat problems in the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, the regions of the brain responsible for hormone production. Acupuncture needles also stimulate the release of beta-endorphin, which affects the production of reproductive hormones that control the menstrual cycle, such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GRH), and luteinizing hormone (LH). The effect of the treatment on the body’s hormones results in the orderly functioning of the ovaries, normal menstrual cycles, an increase in follicles and healthier eggs.
It reduces the side effects of fertility drugs
Most ART procedures include a course of fertility drugs to encourage the release of more eggs and increase the chance of successful implantation. The irony is that many of these drugs, especially Clomid, can also cause infertility by creating a thin lining of the uterus that cannot hold an embryo for long. Acupuncture can reverse these side effects by improving blood flow to the uterus and helping to create a thick, even uterine lining. This effect was documented in the Human Reproduction study in 1996. Women who received two acupuncture treatments with an IVF cycle – one 25 minutes before embryo transfer and another 25 minutes after – had a higher pregnancy rate than women who did not receive acupuncture. with IVF.
It reduces the chances of miscarriage
Many studies look at pregnancy rates after IVF and acupuncture, but what is more important is whether the pregnancy is carried to term. A paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine shows that acupuncture can increase the live birth rate of ART procedures. This study looked at 131 women who underwent IVF/ICSI; 48 of them underwent acupuncture treatment, while 83 refused. Although the rates of successful embryo transfer were almost the same (50% of the acupuncture group vs. 45% of the control group), the miscarriage rate in the acupuncture group was significantly lower at only 8% (versus 14% of the control group). The rate of ectopic pregnancy was also lower – no one in the acupuncture group had an ectopic pregnancy.
Should I go for acupuncture with my ART procedure?
Since acupuncture is a safe and painless technique that does not cause harmful side effects, most fertility experts say that it is a good idea to get acupuncture treatments to complement the ART procedure. Scientific evidence points to its benefits for increasing ART success rates, and in addition, the relaxation provided by acupuncture is enough to recommend the procedure, regardless of the stress of dealing with infertility and the expensive ART treatments. Those who have conceived after ART and acupuncture are certainly very grateful for the positive outcome despite the additional cost of acupuncture treatments combined with the cost of ART.
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