Acupuncture Fertility Support
Subfertility is a condition of the reproductive system resulting in the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected well-timed intercourse. One in every six couples of childbearing age has a problem conceiving. Over 80% of all infertile couples can be helped to achieve pregnancy with proper treatment. Infertility is a female problem in 35% of the cases, a male problem in 35% of the cases, a combined problem of the couple in 20% of cases, and unexplained in 10% of cases. It is essential that both the man and the woman be evaluated when infertility may be an issue.
Acupuncture for treating infertility is an age-old natural treatment for dealing with infertility issues. Acupuncture has been used as a stand-alone or a compliment a medical treatment. The process is to the placement of thin needles at certain points on the body. These points lay along meridian pathways. Through acupuncture, the objective is to restore the balance of Yin, Yang, Qi, and Xue within the body. These are fundamental concepts and terminology.
Acupuncture and Infertility
The research on acupuncture and infertility is ongoing, and the topic is controversial. Some studies have been too small to prove a definitive connection to improved pregnancy rates, and some studies contradict each other in their results. Other studies question whether any benefits are simply a result of the placebo effect.
With that said, here are a few of possible benefits of acupuncture, according to the preliminary research:
- Improved pregnancy rates during IVF treatment cycles, when acupuncture takes place on the day of embryo transfer
- Increased blood flow to the uterus, leading to an improved endometrial lining
- Reduced stress and anxiety levels
- Possible improvement in ovulation for women with PCOS
- Possible improvement in sperm count and quality in men with infertility
- Possible regulation of gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which in turn could help regulate ovulation
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) Main Page
The 4 Basic steps
1. Preparation for Treatment
2. Induction of ovulation
3. Egg Retrieval
4. Embryo Transfer
Each of the steps above is necessary to go through to complete an IVF cycle. IVF is an Artificial Reproductive Technique designed by the wonders of modern scientific bio-medicine. The process begins with a woman’s ovaries being stimulated with fertility drugs to produce many follicles that contain eggs within. These eggs are then extracted from the woman’s body (before they are ovulated into the reproductive tract) and are placed in a petri dish where they are nurtured and incubated to keep them alive. Next, sperm is prepared and added to the petri dish to facilitate insemination/fertilization. The growth is carefully monitored for 3-5 days, and when the situation is right, meaning the appropriate growth has occurred, the embryos, or blastocysts are transferred to the woman’s uterus which has been being prepared to optimize the chances for implantation. The few weeks after the procedure, until it has been confirmed that a viable pregnancy has resulted, is quite possibly one of the longest and most stressful periods of time in a woman’s life.
Alternatives to IVF
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
The injection of sperm into the uterus by means of a catheter directed through the cervix. This procedure has been around for many years.
This technique bypasses the need for the sperm to pass through the cervix, especially when a lack of cervical mucus is a problem.
The sperm must be washed before being injected to mimic the role the cervical mucus plays. The cervical mucus conducts the process called capacitation, where the head of the sperm is broken down so it can release the enzymes necessary to burrow through the wall of the egg.
The cervical mucus also breaks down the seminal plasma which contains prostaglandins that can cause life-threatening reactions by the woman if it is allowed to reach the uterus. Lastly, the cervical fluid breaks down the antimotility factors that are present in seminal fluid.
Intravaginal Insemination (IVI)
This is where sperm is simply injected into the vagina during fertile times or when ovulation is being artificially induced.
It would be used mostly when there are impotence problems, problems with ejaculation, when surrogacy has been chosen, or when the woman wanting to conceive does not have a partner or is gay.
Artificial Insemination by Donor (AID)
This involves the use of donor sperm either because the woman’s partner is infertile, she does not have a partner, or she is gay.
Usually, frozen sperm that has been screened for life-threatening illness is used in this situation.
Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT)
This is where incubated eggs and capacitated sperm are placed directly into the fallopian tubes via laparoscopy.
The procedure of preparing for this is very similar to In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
The pregnancy rates for this technique are quite high.
Natural Cycle IVF
This is IVF without the drugs used to stimulate ovulation. One or two follicles are extracted (the one or two that look like they may be the ones that are going to be ovulated) just before ovulation. They are then inseminated just as in a normal IVF procedure. Not using drugs is less expensive. Although, the maturation of the follicles can happen at any time, so very close monitoring is necessary. This sometimes results is retrievals at difficult times of the day or week. The rates of pregnancy using natural cycle IVF are much lower than regular IVF.
It does make sense to be used if the problem is blocked tubes, in an otherwise healthy younger woman.