Acupuncture in assisted reproductive technologies
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese treatment by which the biologically active points of the human body are pressed by the special needles. Reflexology is considered alternative medicine, but many doctors recognize its effectiveness and prescribe it along with traditional therapy to improve its effect.
Even ancient Chinese doctors used acupuncture and noticed its positive effect on the body and the processes occurring in it. According to their theory, there are points on the human body, which are located in those places where there is a circulation of vital energy. The effect on one of the points has a positive effect on a particular system of organs or a particular organ.
This procedure is used to treat a variety of diseases ranging from hypertension to depressive syndromes. Acupuncture also relieves pain and reduces the patient’s stress level. It is worth noting that acupuncture has a big success and become quite popular in gynecology, namely in the treatment of infertility, but about this a little later.
What is the infertility and its causes
A couple is considered infertile if after a year of active sexual life, without any method of contraception, they are unable to conceive. This pathology is increasingly common in the modern world. Moreover, today about 15% of couples worldwide aren’t able to have children, and in the CIS countries the number reaches 20%.
However, modern medicine successfully proves that infertility is not a sentence, science always develops, and every year invents new methods of solving the problem. There is in vitro fertilization, or fight with the cause, which leads to infertility. Often women are blamed for infertility, but the cause may be in each of the partners. There are almost no symptoms of male infertility, so men are thought to have the disease much less often, but according to statistics, it occurs in 47-48% of all cases.
There are a lot of different reasons of infertility:
- Disorders of sperm structure or quantity (decreased activity, poor sperm quality, reduced concentration in one milliliter of ejaculate)
- Congenital anomalies, which include obstruction of the vas deferens or their absence, anorchism, phimosis
- Venereal diseases (syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea)
- Infectious-inflammatory diseases of the genitourinary system (pyelonephritis, urethritis, orchitis, prostatitis)
- Traumas of the genital organs
- Excessive use of alcohol, nicotine or any illegal substances
- Systemic diseases (diabetes, cirrhosis, obesity, heart or kidney failure)
- Diseases that require surgical interventions (hydrocele, inguinal hernia)
- Hormonal disorders
- Psychogenic factors (often due to fear of having a child, severe stress at work, quarrels between future parents)
Female infertility has many more causes than male infertility, since any failure in the body complicates the process of conception at many times.
There are a lot of different reasons of infertility:
- Endocrine disorders, which lead to hormonal imbalance
- Cervical erosions
- Ovarian dysfunction (polycystic disease, scarring of the outer membrane, disorders of follicle development)
- Irregular or absent ovulation
- Damage to the reproductive organs or tracts
- Abnormalities in the structure or position of the uterus
- Endometriosis: A disease in which the uterine mucosa grows outside the uterus
- Cervical dysplasia is a disordered growth of cells in the uterus, which, without special treatment, can develop into cancer
- Early menopause
- Severe narrowing of the fallopian tubes
- Immunological infertility, in which a woman’s body secretes antibodies to her partner’s sperm
- Psychogenic reasons related to fear of becoming a mother, childbirth, insecurity about a man
Effects of acupuncture in fertility treatment
It used to be that acupuncture was not effective in treating infertility due to the lack of reliable diagnostic methods that could determine the accurate cause of infertility. Now, thanks to many scientific experiments that have brought its effectiveness, this procedure is used as an additional way to solve the problem.
There are such theories explaining the positive effect of acupuncture:
- During the pressing points nerve endings are excited and blood flow is increased. Subsequently, the concentration of enkephalins and endorphins increases, which reduce pain.
- With the help of MRI, ultrasound and other research methods, we found an effect on the cerebral cortex, namely, a change in activity. Since the structures of the brain are associated with a particular system of the body, it can be seen that after stimulation, positive changes occur in the organs.
- Stimulation of “fast” nerve fibers that trigger regeneration processes.
The procedure is performed with special disposable needles of different lengths and thicknesses (on average, 0.3 mm thick and 2-15 cm long), which depends on the age, sex and build of the person.
Concerning the treatment, acupuncture eliminates a number of causes of infertility:
- Acupuncture improves blood circulation throughout the body as well as in the reproductive organs. As a consequence there is a thickening of the endometrium necessary for embryo implantation. At the same time it reduces venous stasis in the pelvis
- Relieves psycho-emotional tension, which is one of the most common causes
- Normalizes the endocrine system and hormonal background, as well as activates the ovaries. As a result, the woman experiences normal and stable ovulation
- This procedure is used to normalize the menstrual cycle and reduce pain during period
- After the procedure, quality sperm production is stimulated
- In women, vaginal secretion is produced, which improves the sperm and fertilization
- Acupuncture is effective in combating chronic inflammatory processes such as prostatitis in men
- Also, the health of the intended mother plays a very important role in the conception and development of the child, so the immunomodulatory effect of acupuncture can help with this
For best results, the patient may be prescribed acupuncture with:
- Physical therapy;
- Lifestyle adjustments;
- Observance of daily regimen and diet.
In order for the session to be comfortable and effective, you should come in a relaxed state and refrain from physical exertion the day before the procedure. Also you must obtain positive thinking and fully trust the specialist. Acupuncture is considered one of the safest procedures if you go to a specialist and follow all the recommendations.
But it is still worth noting that there are a small number of contraindications to reflexotherapy sessions:
- The presence of a malignant tumor in the active stage;
- Cardiac, renal or hepatic insufficiency;
- Mental disorders;
- Purulent skin diseases;
- Increase in body temperature.
Acupuncture for IVF
Confirmation of the positive effects of acupuncture has been described in numerous scientific papers, such as Fertility and Sterility. Also, American scientists proved that the efficiency of IVF using this procedure increases by 60%.
From the above data, we can conclude that acupuncture is quite a successful additional method. This procedure does not guarantee a quick result, as the treatment is carried out in sessions of 10-14 days on average, and it works in conjunction with other recommendations of the treating physician.