Get to the Point: Treating Infertility with Acupuncture

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Infertility–which is on the rise–generally means that a couple isn’t able to get pregnant after a full year of trying. It may be caused by the fact that couples are waiting longer to have kids, but other factors may also be at play.

It’s a problem that impacts 12 percent of all women ages 15 to 44 years old in the U.S. But it’s far from just a women’s problem. In fact, out of all men under age 45 that sought help for infertility, 18 percent were diagnosed with male infertility. While the root of the growing problem is not completely clear, a growing number of couples are turning to a more holistic, Eastern approach to treatment.

A Closer Look at Treating Infertility

There’s a lot that has to happen for a woman to get pregnant, and if seventh grade sex ed has slipped your mind, here’s a quick recap: A woman must release an egg from one of her ovaries which must join with a man’s sperm along the way to the uterus to fertilize. The fertilized egg must go through the fallopian tubes and implant on the inside of the uterus. So, a problem with any of these steps can cause issues getting or staying pregnant.

Infertility can be caused by any number of issues including:

  • A lack of ovulation
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Blocked fallopian tubes
  • Fibroids
  • Insufficient eggs or poor egg quality
  • Environmental toxins including endocrine disruptors
  • Low sperm count
  • Abnormal semen
  • Getting pregnant later in life

Whatever the reasons, infertility is heartbreaking for the couples that go through it.

Conventional Methods for Treating Infertility

When it comes to treating infertility, common methods include intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). IUI is the process of placing a concentrated sample of sperm directly in the uterus at the proper time to help a women get pregnant. It can be done with or without fertility drugs. IVF is a more intensive process and it works by manually combining the egg and sperm in a laboratory dish, and then transferring the embryo to the uterus. This requires fertility drugs. IUI costs around $800 per treatment and it’s usually done before IVF. IVF costs at least $12,000 but it can often cost as much as $17,000 per round.

Using Chinese Medicine to Treat Infertility

There are a number of reasons why people might turn to less invasive fertility treatments like Chinese medicine instead of Western treatment methods. Here are a few:

  • In general, it’s just a fraction of the cost of IVF. Costs are usually between $60 and $100 per treatment.
  • It’s less invasive.
  • It doesn’t require fertility drugs.
  • Many find the treatments relaxing and even pleasurable.

According to Sara Putnam of One Life Wellness, Chinese medicine practitioners take a holistic look at patients. They look beyond the obvious to all areas of physical and emotional health and then they tie everything together. Putnam helps patients all along the spectrum of fertility issues from those that are just beginning to try to conceive to patients who are using it along with Western treatments like IVF.

“We look at the root of the problem from emotional trauma to stress,” says Putnam. “Even digestion can play a role. For example, if your digestive system isn’t absorbing nutrients then it can be hard to get pregnant.”

Putnam uses acupuncture points customized for each patient’s fertility issues. For example, certain points can regulate ovulation or induce menstruation. Other points can influence hormones like the pituitary gland and hypothalamus. Acupuncture can also increase blood circulation which keeps everything healthy and can increase the flow of cervical fluid.

Diet can also play a role. And while Putnam contends that dietary changes vary between patients based on needs, certain inflammatory foods are often removed from the diet including:

  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine

These food groups constrict blood flow, which is generally a negative for fertility. Tobacco (obviously!) is also off limits. Putnam may also combine massage with other treatments like Chinese herbs and cupping for the best results. She encourages couples to look toward a more holistic approach before exploring conventional treatments. Even if you choose IUI or IVF, Chinese medicine can increase your chances of these treatments being successful.

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