Infertility is a common disease in developed countries. It is estimated that almost 15% of couples has difficulty conceiving, that is to say, they do not achieve pregnancy after one year of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.
The causes can be female (ovulatory disorders, Fallopian tubes permeability, implantation factors…) male (low sperm quality, toxic exposure…) or mixed. Often, there is not a single explanation but the combination of several small factors the cause of a fertility decrease, known as subfertility.
Acupuncture is an ancient technique used for centuries in the oriental medicine. It consists of the insertion of very small needles in specific points of the body, depending on the desired effect. There are more than 2000 described points, that lead to 14 major pathways called meridians. There is scientific evidence that, alone or in combination with western medicine it can be helpful to increase pregnancy rates is some cases.
There are very few studies around the effect of acupuncture on natural fertility. The strongest scientific evidence revolves around the combination between acupuncture and assisted reproduction techniques (ART).
When used in combination with ART, acupuncture can increase pregnancy rates up to 26% according to some studies. There are some hypotheses to explain this effect:
- Sexual hormone regulation. Some factors like stress can alter the hormonal balance, negatively impacting fertility in men and women. The most important female infertility factor are the ovulation disorders, frequently caused by stress. The release of beta-endorphins in the brain after acupuncture stimulates the function of the hypotalamic pituitary-ovarian axis, increasing the levels of oestrogens and progesterone. In males, stress can decrease sperm count and lead to sexual problems such as impotence.
- Increasing blood flow to the ovaries. All nutrients and hormones reach the ovaries and uterus through the blood. If the flow is inadequate, so will the ovulation process and the endometrial growth. Acupuncture inhibits sympathetic activity, which can decrease blood flow improving the ovulation process and the embryo implantation in the uterus.
- Inmune system balancing. By selecting the specific points, acupuncture can modulate the inmune system, which is a key factor for embryo implantation.
How to start using acupuncture for fertility?
If all these reasons to try this alternative treatment option have been convincing, there are several questions that you may be asking yourself before starting.
Before the treatment: choosing the acupuncturist
This is a key factor. Being relaxed during the sessions is essential to obtain the maximum benefits. Visit more than one specialist and choose the one who gives you more confidence, paying attention to the facilities as well.
During the treatment
In the initial consultation, the acupuncturist will try to know you better, paying special attention to your body and your energy flow. You will be asked a lot of questions about your lifestyle. Maybe you can wonder why some questions are made, but there are a lot of factors in your daily life that can be relevant to come up with a good diagnosis.
After the initial session, follow-up appointments will be needed. Maybe you will be recommended to take some natural supplementation, do some exercises at home or practise some lifestyle changes.
After the treatment
It is very common to feel very relaxed after an acupuncture session, specially if it is your first time. Your body has been stimulated in a completely different way and it has to adapt. You will get used with the subsequent sessions, and with them the changes in your body and mind will appear.