The Ancient Art of Infertility Treatment
When it comes to getting pregnant, old world techniques may be just what today's high-tech doctors will order.
How Acupuncture Works
Although acupuncture is fast becoming an accepted fertility
protocol, not everyone agrees on how -- or why -- it works.
According to the traditional Chinese medicine explanation,
acupuncture stimulates and moves Qi (pronounced "Chee") a form of life
energy that ancient wisdom says must flow through the body unhampered from head
to toe, 24/7. When it doesn't, illness or malfunctions such as infertility
"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," says
acupuncturist Ifeoma Okoronkwo, MD, a professor of medicine at New York
University School of Medicine.
By placing the needles at key energy meridians linked to the
reproductive organs, Okoronkwo tells WebMD acupuncture increases, and more
importantly, moves the flow of Qi from areas where it may be too abundant, to
areas that are deficient, all in a direction that encourages fertility.
To get your fertility Qi up to snuff, most experts say you will
need about two, 30 minute treatments a week, sometimes for several months,
before the effects can be seen.
However, a slightly more Western way of looking at the effects
points less to the mystical Qi and more towards the solid science of brain
In studies published in the journal Fertility and
Sterility in 2002, Chang, along with noted Cornell University reproductive
endocrinologist Zev Rosenwaks, MD, found a clear link between treatment and the
brain hormones involved in conception.
More specifically their research noted that acupuncture
increases production of endorphins, the body's natural "feel good"
brain chemical that also plays a role in regulating the menstrual cycle.
Chang says acupuncture also appears to have a neuroendocrine
effect, impacting a three-way axis between the two areas of the brain involved
with hormone production (the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands) and the
ovaries, a constellation that ultimately impacts egg production and possibly
In still another research paper published in the journal
Medical Acupuncture in 2000, Sandra Emmons, MD, assistant professor of
obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health Sciences University, reports that
acupuncture may directly impact the number of egg follicles available for
fertilization in women undergoing IVF.
"My guess is that acupuncture is changing the blood supply
to the ovaries, possibly dilating the arteries and increasing blood flow, so
that ultimately, the ovaries are receiving greater amounts of hormonal
stimulation," says Emmons, who also uses acupuncture in her traditional
Chang says acupuncture may also help when the lining of the
uterus is too weak to sustain a pregnancy -- a problem that is also known to
increase the risk of chronic miscarriage.
By increasing blood flow to this area, the lining may be better
able to absorb the nutrients and hormones necessary to help it grow strong
enough to hold onto an implanted embryo, says Chang.