An ancient Chinese medicine treatment, acupuncture relies on the strategic (and painless!) placement of tiny needles to stimulate certain key “energy points” believed to regulate spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical balance. And, for many women, both pre and post-embryo transfer acupuncture has been shown to help with fertility in many ways. We are pleased to have Helen BetGivargis, licensed acupuncturist and former IVF embryologist offer treatments at the Center, benefiting both women and men undergoing fertility treatment.
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So what exactly is Acupuncture and how does it relate to fertility?
Acupuncture is not only one of the safest medicines, but it is also the fastest-growing in Western medicine, with 400 out of 500 IVF centers in the US integrating or recommending acupuncture in their programs. Its whole medical system treats anything from fertility to pain, to cancer, to psycho-emotional challenges. Acupuncture has great success in treating many chronic and unexplained conditions.
Acupuncture is one of the 8 branches of Chinese Medicine. An Eastern Medicine with over 5,000 years of history, the first medical text of acupuncture was “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine”, which dates from around 300 BC. the early tenets of acupuncture called for:
• Treating the underlying root cause of the illness or imbalance by addressing the whole body.
• Supporting the innate healing mechanism/self-regulation of the body to create homeostasis.
• Removing blockages in the energetic systems of the body (the cause of all pain or disease).
The treatment process
The acupuncturist starts with an in-depth intake, based on that a diagnosis is given, and treatment is devised to address the imbalances presented by the patient. The insertion of hair-thin needles on strategic points along pathways of energy on the body activates the flow of Qi (vital energy) and blood circulation. This flow can be disrupted by stress and overwork, emotions, poor diet, trauma, etc. Acupuncture is a whole system medicine and treatments are cumulative. Along with needles, the practitioners often provide dietary guidance, herbal supplementation, as well as suggestions on daily lifestyle changes. Stress reduction, physical movements, diet, and meditations are some techniques advised to support the healing. In terms of fertility, the Chinese medicine model strongly holds that:
• Just as you prepare the soil to plant the seed, so do you prepare and optimize the body for conception, in both men and women.
• The health of the unborn child is dictated by the health of the man (sperm) and woman (egg) at the moment of conception.
It is interesting to note that presently the science of Epigenetics has reached the same conclusion, that the health of the sperm and egg at the time of conception sets the stage for the health of that child.
Acupuncture supports fertility by:
• Preparing the body both in men and women for natural conception
• Improving sperm motility, quantity and quality
• Improving and increasing blood flow to the uterine artery
• Improving the egg quality
• Increasing and optimizing the IVF and IUI outcome
• Increasing implantation when done on the day of Embryo Transfer
• Regulating menstrual cycles
• Improving PCOS, and insulin resistance
• Inducing ovulation after 8 treatments in anovulatory patients
• Supporting implantation and reducing miscarriage rates in IVF cases
• Calming the nervous system, reducing stress and creating balance during the challenging Infertility journey
• Producing very good results with regards to breech babies, overdue pregnancy, and preeclampsia cases
• Alleviating postpartum depression
Acupuncture, WHO and NIH
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have outlined the following 5 theories on the efficacy of acupuncture, based on clinical studies.
• Acupuncture raises the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and noradrenalin, helping with depression and addictions
• The gate theory, where there is an interruption in the way the pain signals reach the brain
• Acupuncture causes the release of endorphins
• Acupuncture augments the immune system
• Acupuncture increases circulation
The emergence of Acupuncture in IVF Acupuncture has been used to enhance fertility in both men and women for thousands of years in China. However, in the past 2 decades, four important studies brought attention to this ancient medicine in integrating it with IVF. In these studies, Acupuncture showed it can improve pregnancy rates in IVF, increase uterine artery pulsatility, and when used as a whole system treatment prior to IVF, it can improve serum prolactin and cortisol in addition to reducing miscarriages.