A 2003 study proved that acupuncture increases in-vitro fertilization success rates nearly two-fold.
Maybe you saw the October 2003 'Sex in the City' episode that talked about fertility acupuncture. It's true, there is now a good research study from Germany that showed how a specific acupuncture treatment could raise the success rate of in vitro fertilization (IVF) from 26.3% to 42.5%.
Is Fertility Acupuncture the Best Way?
If you have access to an acupuncturist, it's part of the solution. If you're doing in vitro fertilization, acupuncture before and after increases the success rates (according to a 2003 German study that received a lot of press).
Of course, there are many causes of infertility, and you should review them and the specifics of your medical case with your medical doctor and with your acupuncturist.
The best solution would be to combine acupuncture with a natural fertility drug (herbal combination). Make sure you partner with a trained and licensed acupuncturist/herbalist - they can help you immensely!
Chinese Medicine Fertility
Chinese medicine has some wisdom and research to add to the topic of fertility. Let's understand theoretical basis of Chinese Medicine fertility.
1. The Uterus: Called 'bao' in Chinese, it is thought to be the reservoir of blood and nutrition needed by the woman's body to sustain a growing fetus. You need plenty of blood for fertility. Also, the uterus needs to be free of heat (inflammation, etc.). Fertility acupuncture can clear heat from this area. To understand this better, we have to understand the Chinese view of 'blood'...
2. Blood: Called 'xue' in Chinese, blood is more than the plasma and serum of western medicine. It includes much of the nourishing aspects of yin (all things passive, cool, and fluid). It is hard to correlate Chinese and western medical concepts exactly, but some hormones, vitamins, and neurotransmitters may be included in 'blood.' All of these are important in fertility.
If there's not enough blood, the uterus can't provide the fetus with enough nourishment to survive. Blood can be deficient, leading to paleness, insomnia, and memory loss. There is an entire category of chinese herbs that can help with this. Blood can also stagnate, leading to symptoms like late menstruation, menstrual clots, dark menstrual blood, sharp stabbing pains (especially before menstruation). To fix that, there's another category of herbs that moves (regulates the flow of) the blood.
Fertility acupuncture can also address the condition of the blood by regulating its flow. Intertwined with blood is an extraordinary fertility acupuncture channel called the 'chong,' or penetrating vessel...
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3. The Penetrating Vessel: The 'chong' acupuncture channel is also known as the 'sea of blood.' It links 4 acupuncture channels (Spleen, Kidney, Conception, and Governing) that correspond to digestive function, some endocrine functions, menstruation, some neurological functions, and heredity. It is often involved with gynecological disorders. It also helps protect the chest, abdomen, and back from disease. The qi and blood must flow properly within the Pentrating Vessel for optimal menstruation and natural fertility. Certain herbs can boost the sea of blood and others regulate the flow of blood witin the Penetrating Vessel.
Acupuncture can also optimize the condition of the Penetrating Vessel. The two main acupoints of the chong channel (Sp4, P6) are great fertility acupuncture points.
4. Yin and Jing (Essence): Yin, mentioned with blood in #2, is a fundamental aspect of the body. It includes blood, is cool, and is closely related with jing. Jing is the fundamental potential of the body and mind. We are given a limited amount at conception, and we protect it by eating and digesting properly. A lack of jing or yin can impair menstruation, gynecological function, conception and fertility, and make for a miserable menopause later in life. There are herbs that specifically boost yin and/or jing.
Acupuncture can boost yin and jing somewhat, but herbs are even better. Many acupuncturists believe that herbs are better at supplementing deficiencies than acupuncture is. One exception to this is moxibustion, the heating of acupoints. In fertility acupuncture, we can moxa the acupoints that nourish yin and jing.
Putting it all together
As European Chinese medicine scholar Philippe Sionneau summarizes, "The penetrating vessel originates in the uterus. It is the sea of blood. It moves qi and blood in the twelve channels and is connected to the liver. The conception vessel also originates in the uterus. It moves qi and blood in all yin channels. Woman’s fertility is directly linked with it, 'The conception vessel governs uterus and fetus.' It is connected to the kidneys. Furthermore, the spleen is the root of later heaven, the origin of qi and blood production and transformation. Thus, if kidneys qi is flourishing, liver qi is harmonious, spleen qi is productive, and then the pentrating vessel and conception vessel are abundant and flow freely, disposed to favor birth (fertility)."
Paulus WE, Zhang M, Strehler E, El-Danasouri I, Sterzik K. Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertil Steril. 2002 Apr;77(4):721-4.
Maciocia G. Obstetrics and Gynecology in Chinese Medicine.
Wiseman N, Ellis A. The Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine.
Sionnea, P. Xin Fang: Modern Chinese Herbal Formulas (In Process).
About the Author
Acupuncturist, herbalist, and medical professor Brian B. Carter founded the alternative health megasite The Pulse of Oriental Medicine (http://www.PulseMed.org/). He is the author of the book "Powerful Body, Peaceful Mind: How to Heal Yourself with Foods, Herbs, and Acupressure" (November, 2004). Brian speaks on radio across the country, and has been quoted and interviewed by Real Simple, Glamour, and ESPN magazines.
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