by Corey Whelan
For many women who are struggling to conceive a baby, the practice of acupuncture, a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), has proven to be a successful enhancement to Western reproductive protocols. While not universally accepted, over the past decade the number of infertility specialists who acknowledge the benefits of this age old practice has skyrocketed.
Acupuncture refers to the administering of disposable, one time use needles which are hair-fine and flexible. These needles are inserted into specific areas of the body which are lined up along pathways called meridians. Meridians exist both inside and outside of the body. The needles remain in place for a short period of time and most women report that little, if any, discomfort is associated with the process. The theory is that when meridians are needled, bodily functions can be regulated, and thus corrected.
Researchers have identified that acupuncture causes the body to release beta-endorphins and enkephalins in the brain and spinal area. When these natural opioids are released, hormonal and other body systems are better regulated and the person being treated becomes more relaxed. In addition, acupuncture is known to increase blood flow, which stimulates the ovaries to produce healthy eggs as well as enriching the endometrial lining in the uterus. The rich endometrial lining helps to ensure that the eggs will be held to term.
One way in which acupuncture differs from traditional infertility treatment is an ideological one. Traditional Chinese Medicine represents a holistic approach to health, meaning that the whole body, not just the reproductive organs, is taken into account. For example, in TCM, the kidney is considered to be the internal organ responsible for the reproductive cycle, including growth, and also the aging process. If kidney energy becomes depleted by, for example, poor diet or stress, one of the possible outcomes is thought to be infertility.
Want to learn more? Click here to read The AFA's fact sheet on acupuncture and IVF.