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The Use of Acupuncture in Treating Infertility

Medically reviewed by 
 
The Use of Acupuncture in Treating Infertility

Infertility, a widespread issue impacting nearly 19% of couples around the globe, has led many to explore a range of treatments and therapies to overcome their challenges. Conventional infertility treatments primarily center on medical interventions like IVF. In contrast, acupuncture adopts a holistic approach by targeting the root causes of infertility and fostering overall reproductive health. This approach empowers individuals and couples by highlighting the potential benefits of fertility acupuncture, which has been demonstrated to boost pregnancy rates when combined with other treatments.

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What is Infertility?

Infertility is a complex medical condition that affects both men and women, hindering their ability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term. It is defined as the inability to achieve pregnancy after 12 months of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse or after six months for women over 35. The prevalence of infertility has grown in recent years, with millions of couples worldwide seeking medical help to overcome this challenge.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient practice that originated in China and involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body. It is based on the concept of Qi, the vital energy that flows through the body, and aims to balance the flow of Qi and promote overall well-being. While acupuncture has gained popularity in recent years as a complementary therapy for various health concerns, including infertility, it's crucial to seek a licensed acupuncturist for safe and effective treatment. A licensed acupuncturist has received extensive training and adheres to strict safety and hygiene protocols, ensuring patients receive the highest quality of care. 

What Causes Infertility?

Infertility is a condition that can be caused by a range of factors, including lifestyle, genetic, and medical factors. Understanding the underlying causes of infertility is critical in determining the most effective treatment options for individuals and couples.

Gynecologic Disorders

Gynecologic disorders can play a significant role in infertility, particularly in cases of ovulatory dysfunction. Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), premature ovarian failure, and excessive prolactin production can all impact reproductive function. Other conditions such as damage or blockage to the fallopian tubes, endometriosis, pelvic adhesions, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), uterine fibroids, uterine polyps, and other anatomical conditions can all impact the ability to conceive.

Male Infertility Factors

Male infertility factors can also play a significant role in infertility, particularly in sperm production issues, sperm transportation problems, varicocele, hormonal imbalances, genetic disorders, and unexplained infertility.

Lifestyle Factors

Lifestyle factors significantly influence reproductive function and may contribute to an increased risk of infertility in both men and women. These factors include age, smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity or being underweight, stress, poor diet, and inadequate nutrition.

As people age, their fertility tends to decline, with women experiencing a more pronounced decrease in fertility after age 35. Men may also experience a decline in sperm quality and quantity as they age, but this decline is generally more gradual.

Smoking is a lifestyle factor that can adversely affect fertility. It has been shown to cause a reduction in sperm count, motility, and morphology in men. At the same time, women who smoke may experience reduced ovarian function, hormonal imbalances, and an increased risk of miscarriage.

Alcohol consumption is known to have adverse effects on fertility as well. Excessive alcohol intake can lead to decreased sperm production in men and disrupt hormonal balance in women, potentially causing irregular menstrual cycles and reduced chances of conception.

Obesity or being underweight can also impact reproductive function. Excess body fat can lead to hormonal imbalances and reduced fertility in both men and women. Being underweight may result in irregular menstrual cycles, decreased ovulation in women, and reduced sperm quality in men.

Stress is another factor that can negatively affect fertility. Chronic stress can lead to hormonal imbalances, which can disrupt the menstrual cycle in women and lower sperm count in men. Additionally, stress may cause individuals to adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating, smoking, or excessive alcohol consumption, which can further impair fertility.

A poor diet and inadequate nutrition can also contribute to fertility issues. Consuming a diet that lacks essential vitamins and minerals can lead to hormonal imbalances and decreased fertility. In particular, deficiencies in key nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to reduced reproductive function in both men and women. Imbalances in the gut microbiome can also contribute to infertility in both men and women

Environmental and Occupational Factors

Exposure to toxins and chemicals such as heavy metals and pesticides can increase the risk of infertility.

Medical Conditions and Medications

Medical conditions such as thyroid disorders, autoimmune diseases, cancer and cancer treatments, certain medications, and drug use can also impact reproductive function and increase the risk of infertility.

Genetic Factors

Chromosomal abnormalities and inherited genetic disorders can also play a role in infertility, particularly in cases of unexplained infertility. 

Functional Medicine Labs to Test for Root Cause of Infertility

Functional medicine labs can be used to help practitioners get to the root causes of infertility. Here are some particularly helpful labs:

Hormone/Gynecologic Testing

The Fertility Profile by ZRT Laboratory uses dried blood and saliva samples to evaluate 12 different hormones, proteins, and antibodies to help diagnose hormone-related causes of infertility. This test can help diagnose conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), premature ovarian failure, and excessive prolactin production, which can all impact reproductive function. 

The DUTCH Cycle Mapping Plus by Precision Analytical offers an in-depth examination of a woman's hormonal fluctuations throughout her monthly cycle, including hormone metabolites and the Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR), to give insights into the stress response. This aids in pinpointing concerns related to infertility, PCOS, and other symptoms that persist throughout the month. By tracing estrogen and progesterone levels across the menstrual cycle, the test delivers a comprehensive understanding of a woman's hormonal patterns, addressing critical inquiries for individuals struggling with ongoing symptoms, infertility, or PCOS. This assessment can prove invaluable for women experiencing infertility or irregular cycles in evaluating hormone levels across an entire menstrual cycle.

Stool Testing

The GI-MAP test from Diagnostic Solutions uses qPCR technology to identify the DNA of different microbes in your stool. It can help detect infections, dysbiosis, and imbalances in your gut microbiome that may contribute to infertility. By measuring inflammation, digestion, and immune function markers, this test can help you optimize your gut health and support your overall wellness. This may improve fertility by addressing underlying issues related to gastrointestinal disorders or autoimmune diseases that could impact reproductive health.

Micronutrient Testing

The Micronutrients Panel by Vibrant America measures the levels of various nutrients within both blood cells and serum. It aims to detect any possible nutrient deficiencies affecting an individual's health and fertility. One of the ways nutrient deficiencies can impact reproductive health is by affecting hormone production and balance. By identifying and addressing these deficiencies, this test may help improve fertility.

Heavy Metals

The Heavy Metals, 21 Toxic test by Access Medical Laboratories can measure the presence of 21 toxic heavy metals in your body. Heavy metal accumulation can negatively impact your reproductive health, making monitoring and evaluating your exposure and detoxification status important. This test may help identify potential risks and improve fertility.

Environmental Exposure Testing

The GPL-TOX Profile is a urine test offered by Great Plains Laboratory that can screen for 173 toxic chemicals, including pesticides. As these chemicals can affect the reproductive system, it is essential to get your levels tested if you feel like you have had previous exposure.

Thyroid Testing

The Complete Thyroid Panel from Precision Point analyzes various biomarkers in your blood to help diagnose thyroid disorders and monitor thyroid hormone replacement therapy. It measures parameters such as TSH, T3 (free and total), T4 (free and total), reverse T3, and thyroglobulin and thyroid peroxidase antibodies. Imbalances in thyroid function, such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and Graves' disease, can impact fertility. By providing a comprehensive view of thyroid function by measuring both the active and inactive forms of thyroid hormones and the autoimmune markers for thyroid disease, this test can help you identify the root cause of your thyroid symptoms and guide your treatment options which may improve fertility.

Genetic Testing

The Chromosome Analysis Karyotype test by BioReference Laboratories analyzes the number and structure of chromosomes in a sample of cells. This test can help diagnose chromosomal disorders that may cause infertility issues. For example, Klinefelter syndrome in males (XXY instead of XY) and Turner syndrome in females (X instead of XX) can both cause infertility. 

Other Lab Tests

For women, Antral Follicle Count (AFC) and Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) are other tests your doctor may measure to check your fertility status. AFC (Antral Follicle Count) is a test that measures the number of small follicles present in both ovaries using transvaginal ultrasound. This test can provide information about a woman's ovarian reserve and her potential to produce eggs that can be fertilized for pregnancy. A less specific but also less invasive test, AMH, assesses a woman's ovarian reserve. AMH is a hormone produced by the cells in the ovarian follicles, and its levels can indicate the number of eggs remaining in the ovaries.

For men, a semen analysis is a key diagnostic tool for assessing male fertility. To obtain this evaluation, a man should consult with his primary healthcare provider or urologist, who can recommend how to obtain this test.

How Does Fertility Acupuncture Work?

Fertility acupuncture is a specialized branch of the ancient Chinese medical practice of acupuncture, designed to enhance an individual's fertility and improve the chances of conception. It involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body, targeting the flow of vital energy, or Qi, and restoring balance to the body's systems. By working with the body's natural rhythms and processes, fertility acupuncture aims to increase the likelihood of conception without using invasive treatments or medications that may have side effects.

Fertility acupuncture is believed to provide many benefits that support both male and female reproductive health. In women, fertility acupuncture may help regulate hormone levels, improve blood flow to the reproductive organs, and enhance the overall quality of the uterine lining, thus providing a more favorable environment for implantation. For men, acupuncture for fertility may improve sperm quality, count, and motility, all of which play a significant role in successful conception. As a holistic approach, fertility acupuncture addresses emotional and psychological factors that may impact fertility, such as stress and anxiety. By considering the whole person and not just the reproductive system, fertility acupuncture can offer a well-rounded and comprehensive approach to improving one's chances of conceiving.

How to Find a Fertility Acupuncturist Near Me

Finding a qualified fertility acupuncturist can be crucial in your journey toward parenthood. To help you locate a certified and experienced fertility acupuncturist near you, consider the following suggestions:

Begin your search by consulting reputable directories. Check the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) directory, which lists all practitioners certified with the organization. Additionally, the Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Board of Reproductive Medicine (ABORM) is another trusted source to find specialists in the field.

Finding an acupuncturist who is also an herbalist is highly recommended, as herbal remedies can significantly address fertility issues. Look for an acupuncturist with experience in obstetrics and gynecology to ensure they possess the necessary expertise in dealing with fertility-related concerns.

When discussing your potential acupuncturist's training, qualifications, and experience, specifically inquire about their experience with fertility treatments. Ensure they thoroughly understand infertility issues and pregnancy and experience treating patients with similar concerns. Confirm that the acupuncturist uses disposable needles and follows proper safety protocols to minimize the risk of infection.

Inquire about treatment costs, including acupuncture sessions, herbal remedies, and any additional services they may recommend. This will help you budget accordingly and evaluate whether their fees align with your financial constraints. Seek recommendations and referrals from your fertility clinic, friends, or family members who have undergone similar treatments. Personal referrals provide valuable insights into a practitioner's quality of care and bedside manner.

Acupuncture for fertility is typically recommended for at least three months, with one to three sessions per week, before beginning conventional fertility treatments. Regular follow-ups may be necessary during pregnancy, so ensure you understand the expected treatment timeline clearly. Maintaining open communication with your primary healthcare provider or fertility specialist throughout your acupuncture treatments is essential. Inform them of any herbs or supplements you take to ensure no contraindications with other medications or treatments.

Summary

Fertility acupuncture is an ancient technique that has gained traction in modern times as a complementary therapy for those facing infertility challenges. Millions of individuals worldwide have benefited from this holistic approach, which aims to restore balance and promote fertility. By integrating fertility acupuncture with conventional treatments, couples can increase their chances of conception while enhancing their overall well-being. 

Timely consultation with a licensed acupuncturist can help identify potential imbalances, allowing for tailored treatment and improved fertility outcomes. With a comprehensive approach that combines traditional and alternative therapies, individuals can navigate the complexities of infertility and improve their chances of growing their families.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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