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American Pregnancy Association

Fertility : Infertility

Influence of Acupuncture on the Pregnancy Rate in Patients Undergoing Assisted Reproduction Therapy


Paulus WE, Zhang M, Strehler E, El-Danasouri I, Sterzik K.
Department of Reproductive Medicine, Christian-Lauritzen-Institut, Ulm, Germany.


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effect of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in assisted reproduction therapy (ART) by comparing a group of patients receiving acupuncture treatment shortly before and after embryo transfer with a control group receiving no acupuncture. DESIGN: Prospective randomized study. SETTING: Fertility center. PATIENT(S): After giving informed consent, 160 patients who were undergoing ART and who had good quality embryos were divided into the following two groups through random selection: embryo transfer with acupuncture (n = 80) and embryo transfer without acupuncture (n = 80). INTERVENTION(S): Acupuncture was performed in 80 patients 25 minutes before and after embryo transfer. In the control group, embryos were transferred without any supportive therapy. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): Clinical pregnancy was defined as the presence of a fetal sac during an ultrasound examination 6 weeks after embryo transfer. RESULT(S): Clinical pregnancies were documented in 34 of 80 patients (42.5%) in the acupuncture group, whereas pregnancy rate was only 26.3% (21 out of 80 patients) in the control group. CONCLUSION(S): Acupuncture seems to be a useful tool for improving pregnancy rate after ART.

Publication Types:
·         Clinical Trial
·         Randomized Controlled Trial

PMID: 11937123 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Treatment of Unexplained Infertility Through Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
Unexplained infertility represents the most frequent diagnosis in women. It simply means that your doctor cannot find any medical explanation for why you are having fertility issues. This does not mean that there is not a problem. It means that, due to insufficient medical knowledge and current technology, the medical solution is difficult to find. However, Chinese Medicine is able to identify the subtle fertility imbalances that may interfere with a woman’s ability to conceive. More importantly, these subtle problems can not only be fully explained, but also treated successfully, with acupuncture and Chinese herbs.

Chinese Medicine takes a different approach to defining infertility and looks at the subtle manifestations and ramifications of imbalance across the entire body. Deborah, a Chinese Medicine fertility specialist, has many years experience in the treatment of reproductive and fertility issues. She often discovers subtle fertility problems by carefully examining the different stages of a woman’s menstrual cycle and evaluating every aspect of the body’s health, individual emotions and lifestyle. Underlying factors she has found that may possibly contribute to infertility from the perspective of Chinese Medicine include the following:

Blood Deficiency
If a woman does not have menstrual periods, or experiences a slight or short menstrual flow, it indicates that there is not enough blood to nourish the uterine lining, which then cannot support the implantation and development of the embryo. For successful implantation the endometrium must be both thick and nourishing. Acupuncture and specific blood tonic herbs increase the production of blood and enhance its flow to the endometrial lining, allowing the body to produce more blood vessels and create more tissue and thus contribute to the successful implantation and nourishment of an embryo.

Blood Stagnation
It is not uncommon to see patients who complain of severe menstrual cramping, large blood clots, dark brown menstrual flow, and incomplete discharge, followed by spotting. In Chinese medicine, we call this “static blood”. It means poor blood flow through the uterine arteries, which causes the uterus itself to become a toxic environment. This “static blood” also impacts the quality of the endometrium and thus hinders implantation. Acupuncture, along with blood regulating herbs, clears blood stasis, reduces constriction in the uterine arteries, and encourages the complete discharge of menstrual blood. As a result, new endometrial tissue becomes fresh, healthy, and ready for an embryo to become implanted. 

Cold Womb/Cold Uterus
“Cold womb” means that the uterine lining fails to respond to the warming hormone, progesterone. Women with this condition usually have slow rising and/or early declining BBT (Basal Body Temperature). Cold hands and feet, cramps helped by a heating pad, lower back pain, low libido, frequent urination and early morning loose stools are also symptomatic of this condition. “Cold womb” not only causes the wrong temperature for the embryo to grow, like a seed growing in chilly weather, but also congeals the blood inhibiting uterine circulation. The focus of treatment is to warm the uterus, which in turn maintains progesterone at satisfactory levels. This not only helps metabolic activity, but also allows the uterus to secrete sufficient nutrients, and thereby creates a highly nurturing environment in which to implant the embryo.

Stress
Stress plays an important role in influencing fertility. Stress interrupts hormonal communication and leads to hypothalamic anovulation. It can also increase prolactin levels and prevent ovulation. Stress can cause tension in the fallopian tubes, and affect the transportation of the egg, sperm or embryo. Studies indicate that electro-acupuncture stimulates the sensory nerve fibers and may inhibit the sympathetic outflow at the spinal level (Fertility and Sterility vol.77. no.4, April 2002). Additionally, acupuncture increases production of beta-endorphin, which is a natural chemical in our body that helps reduce anxiety and tension, improve sleep and increase resistance to stress. So the patient becomes calmer and more at ease.

Prolonged or Severe PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)
Prolonged or severe PMS causes hormonal imbalance and low fertility. The response in the body to an imbalance in progesterone and estrogen levels may be irritability, bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, sleep disturbance, and food cravings in the week before the period or even two weeks into each cycle. Chinese medicine, acupuncture and herbal medicine is known to address premenstrual syndrome by regulating the energy flow in the Liver meridian. This, in turn, naturally improves the body’s hormonal balance and encourages optimum function of the reproductive system. 

Poor Egg Quality
We know there is nothing we can do to change the DNA of the egg itself, but we can certainly enhance follicular nourishment and development. Chinese medicine emphasizes the replenishment of Kidney Jing and Yin (reproductive essence), enhances the blood flow to the ovaries, and increases the resistance to stress, which naturally exerts a positive influence on egg quality.

Deborah recognizes that most unexplained infertility is caused by dysfunction in the body and, therefore, the goal of treatment is to help the body’s systems return to correct functionality. In addition to carefully evaluating each patient, discovering subtle signs of imbalances that impact on fertility, she believes that it is important to keep the treatments congruent with the phases and stages of the menstrual cycle. Deborah utilizes years of experience, in applying acupuncture and specific timing in the use of herbal medicine and their required doses at the appropriate stage of follicle and endometrial development. 

Having treated a high number of women with unexplained infertility, Deborah strongly believes that most functional infertility can be treated successfully with the help of acupuncture in conjunction with herbal medicine, and the results she has seen have been enormously encouraging.

 

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