In vitro fertilization is codified as IVF. In vitro refers to lab glass containers, usually petri dishes; in vivo is a reference to live whole organisms, from rats to humans. IVF takes an ova or ovum (egg or eggs) from an infertile woman’s ovaries, fertilizing it or them into a petri dish (in vitro), then removing the zygote (fertilized egg or eggs) from the lab environment and inserting into the woman’s uterus.
For the treatment, patient is made to lie down on a special table while the tiny, hair-thin acupuncture needles are placed in different spots on the body. The needles are sterilized and single-use, the number varies according to treatment. Most people barely feel them, and most of the patients report feeling relaxed and calm during the treatment. These points (where needles are placed), according to the Chinese tradition, run along lines of energy, or meridians. From the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) perspective, the idea is that an imbalance of these energies in the body can lead to illness, including infertility. Correcting the imbalance by stimulating particular points along the meridians is thought to improve health.
Acupuncture for infertility is probably the most popular and commonly recognized alternative treatment for those trying to get pregnant.
Acupuncture is the practice of inserting needles into the body to stimulate healing. It can enhance circulation of blood in the pelvis, relax the cervix and uterus, regulate the menstrual cycle and can even dissolve small fibroids, when combined with Chinese herbal therapy.
Why Acupuncture for Infertility?
Acupuncture has been clinically found to improve IVF success rate by 40-60.
Studies conducted have located the possible connections between acupuncture and fertility:
- Acupuncture may improve sperm quality and counts in infertile men.
- Acupuncture may improve the lining of the endometrium, including increased the blood flow to the uterus.
- Acupuncture may help regulate hormone levels, specifically gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which in turn may improve ovulation rates.
- Acupuncture may help women with PCOS (most common female endocrine disorders) and anovulatory cycles.
- Acupuncture may help those with thyroid problems. (And problems with the thyroid can lead to problems with fertility.)
- Acupuncture may increase the number of follicles produced during an IVF treatment.
Acupuncture & Moxibustion
It has been observed that using moxibustion in combination with acupuncture, greatly enhances the healing of infertility. There are different types of moxibustion, also called moxa. Moxa comes from the word mugosa, which means Mugwort herb.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is burned in different ways for moxa treatment. The use of moxa, bring heat to the area being treated. Mugwort is known to stimulate blood flow to the pelvic area, especially the uterus. This enhances the healing benefits of acupuncture. It is especially effective for what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) refers to as blood stasis, or a cold uterus. In other words,”Cold uterus” means that the uterine lining has not responded appropriately to the warming hormone (progesterone). The vessels which supply blood to the uterus are constricted as a result of this “cold” response.
For needle top Moxa: Mugwort is rolled up into a ball and placed on the needle top and burned. This heats up the needle. Moxabustion enhances the healing action of that specific acupuncture point.
The Right Time for Treatment
At the very least 1 month before transfer of fertilized egg, twice per week. After the transfer within 24 hours ideally.
The relaxation response to acupuncture treatment is undisputed. Even in studies where acupuncture didn’t improve pregnancy rates, researchers noted that the patients were more relaxed and more optimistic after treatments. Given the high levels of stress couples go through during fertility treatments, a little relaxation and lowered stress brought on by acupuncture treatment probably won’t hurt, and may rather help.
If you have been struggling with fertility issues or plan IVF consider acupuncture and moxibustion as another tool for increasing your chances of pregnancy.