What Is Infertility?
Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant despite having frequent, unprotected sex for at least a year. At least 10-15% of American couples are considered infertile. It is important that both partners get tested because 40% of infertility is due to male factors. Depending on the cause, Acupuncture and Infertility in regards to Traditional Chinese Medicine can be of great assistance in optimizing the body to conceive naturally as well as providing support care during In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedures.
Infertility Causes in Women
- Fallopian Tube Damage or Blockage-Fallopian tube damage usually results from inflammation of the fallopian tube. Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease, is the most frequent cause. Tubal inflammation may go unnoticed or cause pain and fever. Tubal damage is the major risk factor of a pregnancy in which the fertilized egg is unable to make its way through the fallopian tube to implant in the uterus (ectopic pregnancy). One episode of tubal infection may cause fertility difficulties. The risk of ectopic pregnancy increases with each occurrence of tubal infection.
- Endometriosis-Endometriosis occurs when the uterine tissue implants and grows outside of the uterus — often affecting the function of the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes. These implants respond to the hormonal cycle and grow, shed and bleed in sync with the lining of the uterus each month, which can lead to scarring and inflammation. Pelvic pain and infertility are common in women with endometriosis.
- Ovulation disorders– Disruption in the part of the brain that regulates ovulation can cause low levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Even slight irregularities in the hormone system can affect ovulation. Specific causes of hypothalamic-pituitary disorders include injury, tumors, excessive exercise and starvation.
- Elevated Prolactin (hyperprolactinemia)- The hormone prolactin stimulates breast milk production. High levels in women who aren’t pregnant or nursing may affect ovulation. An elevation in prolactin levels may also indicate the presence of a pituitary tumor. In addition, some drugs can elevate levels of prolactin. Milk flow not related to pregnancy or nursing can be a sign of high prolactin.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)- In PCOS, the body produces too much androgen hormone, which affects ovulation. PCOS is also associated with insulin resistance and obesity.
- Early Menopause (premature ovarian failure)- Early menopause is the absence of menstruation and the early depletion of ovarian follicles before age 35. Although the cause is often unknown, certain conditions are associated with early menopause, including immune system diseases, radiation or chemotherapy treatment, and smoking.
- Benign Uterine Fibroids– Fibroids are benign tumors in the wall of the uterus and are common in women in their 30s. Occasionally they may cause infertility by blocking the fallopian tubes.
- Pelvic Adhesions– Pelvic adhesions are bands of scar tissue that bind organs after pelvic infection, appendicitis, or abdominal or pelvic surgery. This scar tissue formation may impair fertility. (**source: Mayo Clinic**)
- Other causes of infertility in women include use of certain medications, thyroid disorders, overuse of caffeine, certain cancers and associated treatments, and other serious medical conditions.
Infertility Causes In Men
- Sexually transmitted diseases- gonorrhea or chlamydia
- Fevers and infections- mumps occurring after puberty
- Surgery of the reproductive tract- undescended testes, hernia repair, disorders of the prostate gland, cancer, and damage to the vas deferens
- Varicose veins- in the scrotum (varicocele)
- Medications- including those for depression and/or high blood pressure
- Exposure of the testes to high temperatures- tight & unventilated clothing, excessive hot tub use, workplace condition
- Use of tobacco, marijuana, or alcohol
- Medical conditions
- Genetic or hormonal problems
- Injury to the testes- physical trauma or exposure to radiation
Traditional Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture for Infertility
Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine can help to positively affect fertility outcomes by:
- Regulating the menstrual cycle
- Regulating hormones by reducing stress
- Improving blood flow to the ovaries & uterus
- Improving ovarian function – encourages production of follicles & enhances their quality
- Improving the thickness of the uterine wall lining
- Reducing uterine contractions after embryo transfer
- Reducing the chance of miscarriage
- Lessening the side effects of pharmaceuticals
- Enhancing the immune system
- Improving quality of oocytes (at least 3 months of treatment)
Acupuncture and In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
Several clinical studies have shown the efficacy of acupuncture when combined with IVF procedures. Acupuncture, when administered 25 minutes before and 25 minutes after embryo transfer can almost double pregnancy success rates. For best results, it is advisable to begin acupuncture treatments 3 months before an IVF procedure; however, we can help you at any stage of your IVF process.
Debra Kuhn, L. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM is one of under 100 Board-Certified Acupuncture Fertility Specialists in the country. She is also one of the first acupuncturists to have completed a preceptorship within a Reproductive Endocrinology Clinic. Completely comfortable and experienced in treating all types of Infertility issues, Debra Kuhn can work with you as your primary provider or alongside your doctor/reproductive endocrinologist. Additionally, she is happy to accompany you to your IVF Transfer Procedure. Please call us for details.
To read more about Acupuncture and Infertility, please also see our sister site at Denver Fertility Acupuncture.