During Infertility Awareness Week across Canada, we are reminded of how many women and their partners are affected by this disease. While such a diagnosis is disheartening at best, there remains a multitude of various options to exhaust before many women might lose hope of conceiving.
A very wise, old woman once said to me: “Do not quit before the miracle happens.”
Western Medicine remains very successful regarding diagnosis, surgery and symptomatic therapy, but the gentle subtleties of the mind, body and spirit are typically left out of the picture. Research shows that even slight deviations from the body’s natural state of being (such as the use of birth control, high levels of stress, excessive exercise, poor diet, etc…) have the potential to cause a ripple effect throughout the rest of the body. Over time (and often without us even noticing), changes that start out as a drop in the ocean, can eventually erupt into a tsunami.
For women trying to conceive, these slight deviations can set off chain-reactions- menstrual and hormonal imbalances that might disrupt ovulation, damage gynecological environments, and hinder pregnancy. Without treating imbalances, it isn’t uncommon for a woman to be deemed infertile by Western medical standards, leaving women confused, discouraged, and devastated.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has an alternative to classifying women as infertile. TCM believes in treating a woman according to her personal circumstances, medical history and individual constitution in order to promote a restoration to balance and a gateway to healing.
TCM governs these subtleties of the body, viewing infertility as an internal state of “disharmony”. Unless there is a serious structural anomaly or the fallopian tubes are completely blocked, TCM believes that with internal balance, there is a chance for a viable pregnancy, instead of accepting the diagnosis of infertility as a conditional life sentence.
How can acupuncture increase my chances of becoming pregnant?
Research suggests that acupuncture works by affecting the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in the brain. The hypothalamus regulates stress hormones as well as the sex hormones, establishing a reasonable argument that high levels of stress would make it more difficult to conceive. Prolonged use of contraceptives affect this hypothalamic-pituitary axis by chemical castration, causing a total shut-down of the hormones that need to be secreted in order to ovulate. By stimulating this axis, acupuncture can reduce stress that hinders pregnancy, regulate the menstrual cycle and ensure that proper ovulation is occurring.
Acupuncture treats pre-existing conditions that can make it difficult to become pregnant, such as irregular cycles, endometriosis, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Mental and emotional challenges such as high stress, anxiety and depression can be successfully treated with acupuncture as well, ensuring easier conception and a healthy start for both mom and baby.
Existing studies reviewed by researchers at the New York Weill Cornell Medical Centre, provide supportive evidence that acupuncture and the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine:
- improve uterine arterial blood flow, which thereby increases the chances of a fertilized egg implanting
- reduce stress hormones that can inhibit or interfere with ovulation
- normalize hormones that regulate ovulation, ensuring that an egg is released every menstrual cycle. This is especially important for women with irregular cycles trying to conceive.
- improve ovulation in women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).
- improve pregnancy rates in women undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF)
- lower FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) levels by improving the condition of the ovaries
A German study of 160 women found that receiving acupuncture before and after embryo transfer (within a 24 hr time-frame) had a significantly higher pregnancy rate (42.5% compared to 26% of the women who did not have acupuncture) for women undergoing IVF treatments. Interesting!
If you or anyone you know is struggling to become pregnant, remember that there are options available worth exploring. Above all, do not lose hope and “Do not quit before the miracle happens.”