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Infertility – Fertility

What is infertility?

Infertility is the inability of a couple to achieve a pregnancy after repeated intercourse without contraception for 1 year. Infertility affects about one of five couples in the United States.

In women, the term is used to describe those who are of normal childbearing age, not those who cannot get pregnant because they are near or past menopause and for men who are unable to impregnate a woman. Women who are able to get pregnant but who cannot carry a pregnancy to term (birth) may also be considered infertile.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine:

Infertility syndromes Females:

  1. Kidney Deficiency: Either Essence, Yin, or Yang
  2. Qi and Blood Deficiency
    • Anovulation, hormonal imbalances, Endometrial problems, Poor quality of ova and follicles.
  3. Retention of cold in the uterus
  4. Retention of Damp-heat or toxins and Blood stasis
    • Infections acute or chronic of the vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, or uterus, pelvic inflammatory disease, sequelae of old appendicitis
  5. Stagnation of Qi, blood, or phlegm-damp
    • Fallopian tube pathology, Fibroids, Ovarian cysts and masses, Endometriosis, Pelvic organ adhesions, Emotional Stress

Infertility syndromes Males:

  1. Deficiency or Kidney Yin or Yang and Qi and Blood Deficiency
    • Emotional issues regarding sexuality and performance,
    • Retrograde ejaculation, hypogonadism, testosterone deficiency, sperm quality issues (count, amount, motility, and quality).
  2. Qi and Blood Stagnation
    • Varicocele (dilated testicular veins usually on the left), blocked ejaculatory apparatus.
  3. Damp-Heat
    • Infections of the prostate, testicles or urinary system

Infertility does not have a single cause:

The cause of infertility can be either a male or female problem from known or unknown factors or a combination of factors. In some cases, environmental factors can contribute to infertility like exposure to toxic chemicals or medications or by problems with mucus in the cervix, antibodies to the partner’s sperm, cervical infection with various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) or chlamydia, problems related to the fallopian tubes scarring from pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis or pelvic adhesions (scar tissue) from Crohn’s disease, ruptured appendix or from pelvic surgery, history of ectopic pregnancy, and fibroids In other cases, genetic conditions like  klinefelter-syndrome (male child hood genetic syndrome which inactivates the sperm), or being a carrier of Fragile X syndrome. (Down’s syndrome) There other health problems that may cause infertility like diabetes, excessive physical and psychological stress, poor nutrition, smoking, drug use either legal or illegal, alcohol use, and being over or under weight just to name a few.

In males the ability to have and sustain an erection, having enough sperm, having enough semen to carry the sperm to the egg, and having sperm of the right size, shape, and motility, elevated testicular temperature, cryptorchism (undescended testis) can all lead to infertility. And some cases of infertility modern medicine cannot explain or determine the cause and in some cases of infertility there are no know therapies.

Acupuncture doubles the fertility rate of women with infertility due to hyperprolactinemia.

The condition involves excess production of the hormone prolactin. Pregnancy is increased with CV6 (Qihai), CV4 (Guanyuan), and other points. Indications include infertility, breast milk secretion, amenorrhea, and low sex drive. The researchers discovered that treatment with the drug bromocriptine resulted in a 20% pregnancy rate. When acupuncture was added to the treatment regimen, the fertility rate increased to 43.3%.

Acupuncture demonstrated several other benefits. Acupuncture shortened the period of time needed to lower levels of prolactin. Acupuncture also helped to regulate estrogen, progestin, and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels. In addition, acupuncture reduced the side effects caused by bromocriptine intake.

If you are considering Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture for Fertility/Infertility these resources may be helpful as well:

Dr. Lifang Liang, O.M.D, PhD, L.AC. Book: Acupuncture & Ivf Increase IVF Success by 40% Blue Poppy Press

Jane Littleton BSc “Treatment of infertility with Chinese Medicine” Churchill Livingstone press.

CHINESE HERBS AND FERTILITY by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon

European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology In the journal Human Reproduction, Vol. 11, No. 6, pp. 1314-1317,©1996

The researchers used Transvaginal color Doppler ultrasonography to investigate whether or not electro acupuncture caused the ovarian arteries to relax.  If the ovarian arteries have a low pulsitility (PI) and low resistance (RI) to blood flow then the ovaries receive the appropriate amount of oxygenated blood and the normal physiological activities of the ovaries can be carried out. The researchers monitored the pulsitility of the ovarian arteries by way of color Doppler. The findings were a significant reduction in the Pulsitility index after the eighth treatment; the researchers found that regardless of the type of infertility the pulsitility index of the ovarian arteries was reduced.

These studies of acupuncture and fertility combine the western approach with drug therapy and acupuncture. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be effective on it’s own as well. In Traditional Chinese medicine the treatment approach is to treat the whole person not the condition or disease, to strengthen the over all persons constitution, relax the nervous system, and help you be healthy and happy.

Reference, Further Reading, and Current Research:

The National Institutes of Child Health & Human Development 

Biomedicine: A Textbook for Practitioners of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine, Bruce H. Robinson, M.D., pp. 415-418 Blue Poppy Press

Jeffery Grossman Fertility and Acupuncture © 2006 Acupuncture Media Works, LLC

A survey comparing TCM diagnosis, health status and medical diagnosis in women undergoing assisted reproduction.

Coyle M , Smith C  Acupunct Med. 2005 Jun;23(2):62-9.

INTRODUCTION: For many women, undergoing assisted reproductive technology can be a difficult experience, and can result in changes in physical and emotional health and wellbeing. Recent research has suggested that acupuncture may be helpful for women undergoing assisted reproductive technology. To date, there is no information describing the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) syndromes seen in women undergoing assisted reproductive technology, or relationships between TCM and Western medicine diagnoses. RESULTS: Women in the trial reported poorer health on several domains of the SF36 compared with the South Australian population. The most common TCM diagnosis was ‘Kidney Yang deficiency’, diagnosed for 53.9% of patients. A TCM diagnosis of Qi or ‘Blood stagnation’ was associated with poorer quality of life on the mental health, emotional role function and social function domains of the SF36. No associations were found between TCM diagnosis and physical or general health components of the SF36. CONCLUSIONS: Associations between TCM and reproductive health diagnoses were demonstrated. Emotional health and wellbeing is an important aspect of patient care that needs to be addressed in clinical practice and research studies, as the findings suggest that this aspect of their health is often poorer during assisted reproductive technology. The University of Adelaide, Australia.

Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 1993 Jun;13(2):115-9 Clinical studies on the mechanism for acupuncture stimulation of ovulation.

Mo X, Li D, Pu Y, Xi G, Le X, Fu Z. Zhejiang College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hangzhou.

Results showed that acupuncture may adjust endocrine function of the generative and physiologic axis of women, thus stimulating ovulation. The results of this research will provide some scientific basis for treating and further studying this disorder.

Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial. Westergaard LG, Mao Q, Krogslund M, Sandrini S, Lenz S, Grinsted J. Fertility Clinic Trianglen, Hellerup, Denmark.

CONCLUSION(S): Acupuncture on the day of ET significantly improves the reproductive outcome of IVF/ICSI, compared with no acupuncture. Repeating acupuncture on ET day 2 provided no additional beneficial effect.

The New England Journal of Medicine Appendectomy and the risk of tubal infertility Volume 315:1506-1508 December 11, 1986 Number 24 Appendectomy and the risk of tubal infertility