Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Acupuncture for Infertility

if you’ve been trying to conceive a child for at least one year without success, most doctors would consider you infertile. You are not alone; infertility affects 6.1 million Americans.

Many couples turn to the latest medical technologies, such as ovulation-promoting drugs, intra-uterine insemination, and in vitro fertilization (IVF), collectively known as Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). IVF has resulted in many pregnancies; however, it is not an easy path to choose: it is very complex, quite expensive, and most find it emotionally difficult. Plus, the success rates are relatively low. If you decide to invest your time and money into ART, you want to be sure to give yourself every possible advantage. Adding acupuncture can significantly increase your chances of success.

If ART is not for you, acupuncture is equally (or more) valuable, for both female and male infertility.

Acupuncture with & without ART:
Growing numbers of studies are demonstrating impressive results when acupuncture is combined with ART. A study published April 2002 (Fertility & Sterility) caught the attention of many specialists: women undergoing IVF embryo transfer who received acupuncture had a 42.5% success rate, compared with the 26.3% success rate of those who did not. Another study, published May 2006 (Fertility & Sterility), found that acupuncture more than doubled the pregnancy rates of IVF.

Acupuncture has been treating infertility for over 3000 years. Only recently has Western science begun research on acupuncture alone for infertility; these studies show that acupuncture can stimulate ovulation, treat endocrine dysfunctional infertility, increase blood flow to the uterus, and normalize the hormone communication cycle. It also reduces stress hormones and increases endorphins, both of which positively affect reproductive hormone levels.

Numerous studies also cite benefits for male infertility: acupuncture increases the number and ratio of normal-form sperm; significantly decreases the quantity of anti-sperm antibodies and increases sperm motility.

Why does Acupuncture work?
Acupuncture relieves stress and corrects imbalances. It increases the circulation of blood, energy and nutrients to the necessary organs and glands, so that they are healthier, work better, and communicate with each other more effectively.

Recommended Protocol:
I recommend acupuncture treatments weekly for 4-6 weeks followed by twice monthly, combined with Chinese herbs, until pregnancy. For those ART patients whose MD’s have requested that they not take herbs, I recommend once or twice weekly acupuncture treatments.

For best chances of success with ART, acupuncture treatment should begin 3 months prior to the procedure or for as many weeks as possible before the procedure begins.

What to expect from Acupuncture for Infertility:
In my clinic, I find that acupuncture can:
1. Regulate menstrual cycles: Often infertility is associated with irregular menstrual cycles or endometriosis. With acupuncture and herbs I have seen women without regular periods start cycling regularly again, women with heavy bleeding normalize, and partial and complete recoveries from endometriosis.
2. Increase ovulation rates: Related to irregular menstruation, some infertility patients are not ovulating regularly. With only acupuncture and herbs, one patient has been ovulating consistently for 7 months, after more than 12 years of negative ovulation readings!
3. Increase the quantity and quality of eggs: After 2 months of acupuncture and herbs, one IVF patient produced 15 healthy eggs for extraction - nearly double her first IVF cycle, without acupuncture, when she produced 8 eggs.
Another patient, after repeated miscarriages, was told by her infertility specialist that she could not use her own eggs. In his opinion, her eggs were too poor quality; she would have to do IVF with donor eggs. After 3 months of acupuncture and herbs, she became pregnant naturally, and, at the time of this writing, is due to give birth in 2 weeks.
4. Increase the chances of implantation: Often, in IVF, the embryo transfer process stimulates uterine contractions, which can make implantation difficult. Acupuncture helps to relax the uterus, so that implantation is easier.
5. Increase the chances of a healthy, full-term pregnancy: Continued acupuncture treatment for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is highly recommended to decrease chances of miscarriage. It’s also useful for morning sickness, fatigue, aches and mood swings.

The journey to overcome infertility is a difficult one. Give yourself every advantage. Whether you choose to receive ART or not, you can feel confident that acupuncture will optimize your chances of successful pregnancy.
About the Author

Dawn Balusik is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture Physician and Massage Therapist in Clearwater. She specializes in women’s health, including infertility and endometriosis, and has helped numerous couples achieve successful pregnancies. Dawn is located at: 28469 US Hwy 19 North, Suite #402 Clearwater, Florida 33761 Visit her website at or call (727) 723-3888 for an appointment.

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