One of the biggest contributors to “unknown infertility” issues is stress. It is proven that acupuncture increases fertility by relaxing the body and decreasing stress. As an expectant mom you need to find ways to relax, including regular acupuncture treatments, to significantly increase your chances of pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Future articles will cover acupuncture’s role with IVF, IUI, fertility drugs, pregnancy, induction and post-birth.
Statistically, 40% of infertility is caused by problems in the female, while another 40% is caused by problems in the male, such as low sperm count or motility. Some known causes of female infertility are anovulation and endometriosis. The remaining 20% is caused by unknown factors.
What Are These “Unknown Factors?”
What I’ve found in treating hundreds of people is that one of the biggest “unknown factors” causing infertility is stress. When you think about how you feel when you’re under stress, it’s easy to understand how it can affect pregnancy. Think about having intercourse while worrying about work. When you’re not in the moment, she is closed off and unreceptive to him, and he is closed off and unable to perform. When you’re taking your temperature every day and waiting, and then trying to schedule and reschedule to have intercourse at just the right moment, it’s a recipe for stress and frustration. In addition, so many things outside of the desire to get pregnant already cause stress, it’s truly a wonder to me that unexplained infertility only accounts for 20% of the problem.
How Does Stress Effect Fertility?
Scientifically, hormones like cortisol, which rise and often remain high during times of chronic stress, alter the brain’s neurochemical balance. This affects the balance of the pituitary, hypothalamus and reproductive glands, which is key to the reproductive cycle and ovulation. Stress can also create spasms in both the fallopian tubes and the uterus, which can interfere with movement and implantation of a fertilized egg. In men, stress can alter sperm counts, motility, and cause impotence.
Studies show that acupuncture infertility treatment counters the effects of stress. Here are some ways it helps:
- Acupuncture releases endorphins in the brain, which counters the effects of cortisol and stress. Endorphins also help regulate the menstrual cycle.
- Acupuncture may be changing the blood supply to the ovaries, possibly dilating the arteries and increasing blood flow. This would help the ovaries receive more stimulation.
- Acupuncture infertility treatment produces few or no side effects while performing essentially the same function as fertility drugs do: stimulating the hypothalamus to effectively balance the endocrine system and its hormones. This can affect female and male infertility. Less or no side effects mean less stress.
- Acupuncture can help stimulate egg production in women who don’t wish to use fertility medications. Or, acupuncture can help in addition to fertility medications.
- Acupuncture may also help when the lining of the uterus is too weak to maintain a pregnancy. A weak uterine lining is a big contributor to chronic miscarriages. By increasing blood flow to the uterus, the lining may be better able to absorb the nutrients and hormones necessary to help it grow strong enough to hold onto an implanted embryo.
While stress is not the only “unknown factor” affecting fertility, based on the conclusions above and my own experiences with patients, it is definitely one of the most serious. Once stress is reduced, and we bring more balance to the body’s natural functions with acupuncture and sometimes traditional Chinese herbal formulas, the chances of a healthy pregnancy are greatly increased.
During acupuncture treatment, I also remind my patients to have patience. It’s so important to allow your body the time to prepare for pregnancy. Your mind may have decided it’s time to get pregnant, but your body needs to get in alignment with it too. The more in alignment your mind and body, the more likely you’ll experience a healthy pregnancy that leads to your heart’s desire: a strong, healthy baby.
Sources: Medical Acupuncture, 2000, Sandra Emmons, MD; Fertility and Sterility, 2002, Raymond Chang, MD, Zev Rosenwaks, MD, Reproductive Endocrinologist, Cornell University