Acupuncture for Infertility

The West is Embracing Eastern Medicine: Acupuncture

Over the past few decades we've noticed that the world is becoming a much smaller place. Over time, places that were so far away for our parents and grandparents are now simply an airplane ticket away. We've seen the integration in our foods (who doesn't love sushi?) and in our fitness programs (yoga or Tai Qi, anyone?) and more recently, in medical practices. Methods and mindsets have begun to meld as medical practices cross once verboten lines and benefit each other. Such is the case with Oriental medicine practices and Western practices.

One area that has recently opened up more to utilizing Eastern medicine is the area of fertility treatments. If the only place you are investigating is the Western offerings, then you might believe that fertility treatments had their genesis in America back in the 1960s. Once you look to Eastern cultures, you discover that Chinese medicine has been addressing infertility for about 600 years or so. Perhaps they've learned a thing or two they can teach us in the West.

However, the problem for Western medicine is that Eastern medicine is practiced very differently, and since it isn't necessarily understood by the Western mindset, accepting the practices has been difficult. Thankfully, that too is changing as more Western doctors are learning the art of Chinese and Eastern medicines and utilizing the practices in their treatments and protocols. East has finally met West in the field of medicine.

Acupuncture and Fertility

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine treatment that is performed with the placement of tiny needles into a grid-like pattern that spans the body from head to toe. The grid is actually meridians and the needles are used to stimulate certain energy points connected to and regulating spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical balance. Acupuncture stimulates and promotes the circulation of blood in the body and when it comes to female reproduction, that's exactly what is needed.

Promoting blood circulation in the pelvic cavity helps to improve ovarian function. Acupuncture treatments may also be beneficial in promoting follicle production, enhancing uterine blood flow and improving uterine lining thickness. Yet, even though there are these positive effects of acupuncture on the female reproductive system, practitioners are quick to advise that it should not be regarded as a cure for infertility. The idea is to optimize a woman's entire organic system and acupuncture is intended for overall health improvement. When overall health is improved, usually fertility is as well. When a woman is healthier, the success rate of IVF is increased.

Restore the Flow of Qi

Acupuncturist Ifeoma Okoronkwo, MD, a professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine says, "Acupuncture works to restore the flow of Qi - your essence, your body energy - so with regards to infertility, treatment has a calming, restorative effect that increases a sense of well-being and ultimately helps the body to accept the creation of life."

When acupuncture needles are placed at key energy meridians connected to reproductive organs, acupuncture increases the flow of Qi from areas where it may be too abundant to areas that are deficient in a direction that encourages fertility. In order to accomplish this, a woman would need about two 30 minute sessions per week over a period of time - usually several months. Acupuncture is not a quick fix, it takes time, patience and consistency to see the results.

Mystery Meets Brain: Fertility Treatment

Recently, a reason that acupuncture works has been found that is more in keeping with the Western mindset and ties in with the science of brain chemistry. A clear link between treatment and the brain hormones involved in conception has been established by a Chinese doctor, Raymond Chang, MD, medical director of Meridian Medical, a classically trained acupuncturist and western-trained medical doctor.  He worked in conjunction with reproductive endocrinologist Zev Rosenwaks, MD, from Cornell University.

In a joint study, their research noted that acupuncture increases production of endorphins, the body's brain chemical that is not only the "feel good" chemical, but is also important to the regulating of the menstrual cycle. Dr. Chang also says that acupuncture appears to have a neuroendocrine effect that influences the hypothalamus and pituitary glands and the ovaries - all of which influence egg production and ovulation.

Additional studies link acupuncture with the increased production of egg follicles necessary for fertility treatments like IVF.

The meeting of East with West could prove to be a very effective relationship in the field of fertility treatment.

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