Wednesday, December 9
Acupuncture & Infertility Q & A
Q. What is acupuncture?
A. Acupuncture is the insertion of ultra-thin, sterile needles into specific acupuncture points which reside on ‘channels’ or ‘meridians’ which are pathways which traverse both the exterior and interior of the body. These points, when needled can alter the way in which the body functions. Alter really should be read as ‘regulates’. In other words, acupuncture can support that which is hypo or under-functioning (hypothyroidism) or reduce that which is hyper or over-functioning (hyperthyroidism).
Q. Can acupuncture be used to treat infertility?
A. Yes. Acupuncture, frequently combined with herbal medicine has been used for centuries to treat infertility. Infertility, of course describes the manifestation of an underlying cause rather than the cause itself. As such, acupuncture and herbal medicine can be used to treat certain causes of infertility, though not all. For example, acupuncture and herbs will not be effective in resolving dense tubal adhesions which can occur as a result of pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis. In this case the best outcome for the patient will probably be achieved through in vitro fertilization with embryo transfer. This particular patient would still benefit from acupuncture and herbs though because of its positive effect on improved ovarian and follicular function. Additionally, it has been shown that acupuncture can increase blood flow to the endometrium helping to facilitate a thick, rich lining.
Q. When should I start getting treated with acupuncture to enhance my fertility?
A. Acupuncture, similar to physical therapy or psychotherapy is a ‘process’ oriented modality of medical intervention. It is better to do more than less. Typically we like to treat patients for three to four months before an insemination, IVF or donor-egg transfer. This period of treatment seems to have a therapeutic effect.
We do see patients sometimes for acupuncture pre and post embryo transfer which coincides with the information put forth in the study by Elisabet Stener-Victorin, Urban Waldenström, Sven A. Andersson and Matts Wikland at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Fertility Centre, Scandinavia. Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Department of Physiology, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Based upon my experience, the best results in treating the infertile couple arrive when combing acupuncture, herbal medicine and Western medical intervention. It is not infrequent however, that natural pregnancies occur after undergoing acupuncture and herbal medicine alone.
Q. When should I stop getting acupuncture?
A. Typically most miscarriages occur within the first three months of pregnancy. Therefore, we continue to treat our patients until week thirteen to help prevent miscarriage.
Q. Are the acupuncture points different after an insemination or after an IVF or donor-egg transfer than before?
A. Yes. Absolutely. Your acupuncturist should not place needles in the abdomino-pelvic area after insemination or transfer. There are 6 contraindicated acupuncture points which should not be needled when the patient is pregnant or pregnancy is suspected.
Q. Are there any dangers to using acupuncture?
A. Not usually. If the incorrect acupuncture points are used when a woman is pregnant, miscarriage can occur. This is one reason why those wishing to include acupuncture in their treatment regimen should only be treated by one who specializes in treating fertility disorders. Acupuncture is not contraindicated for anyone not matter what their pathology and no matter what medications they are taking.
Q. What types of fertility patients typically get acupuncture?
A. Acupuncture can be used to treat any type of fertility disorder including spasmed tubes(spasmed tubes are often de-spasmed with acupuncture though blocked tubes will not respond to acupuncture). We use acupuncture (with herbs) to treat elevated FSH, repeated-pregnancy-loss, unexplained (idiopathic) infertility, luteal phase defect, hyperprolactinemia (when not caused by a prolactinoma), PCOS with annovulatory cycles and male factor including men affected with sperm-dna-fragmentation.
Q. Is acupuncture a licensed profession. Yes; in most states. You can visit www.nccaom.org to find a licensed and Board certified acupuncturist in your area. Of course being licensed and Board certified does not imply expertise in reproductive disorders.
Q. Where can I find acupuncturists who specialize in the treatment of infertility?
Best wishes on your journey!