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Infertility Treatments and IVF Procedure May be Aided by Acupuncture in Toowoomba

Female and male infertility have become rife in modern times and infertility treatments are sought by many couples leading up to an IUI, IVF or ICSI etc. procedure. There is some research evidence that Chinese medicine treatment may assist in supporting specific fertility treatments such as IVF, and there is also broad agreement by Chinese medicine practitioners and other health practitioners about acupuncture as an adjunct treatment for IVF. Subsequently, many health practitioners may recommend acupuncture as an adjunct treatment that may assist with IVF treatment. There is continuing research about how acupuncture can assist with the effectiveness of IVF treatment and you should consult your treating practitioner/s about how acupuncture may be able to help you. For both female and male infertility issues it is generally prudent to see a gynaecologist or reproduction medicine specialist first to determine the root cause of the infertility, and what fertility treatments they propose. This makes the acupuncture treatments more focused on addressing the symptoms. Generally, treatments for the symptoms associated with infertility can be performed by a qualified local acupuncturist. Before the acupuncture treatments commence, the acupuncturist will determine the root cause of the infertility according to the TCM diagnostic paradigm. Adjunct acupuncture treatments may include acupuncture, electroacupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, laser acupuncture, herbal supplements etc.

Adjunct acupuncture treatments generally require 1-2 acupuncture treatments per week for a period of several weeks or months depending on the underlying symptoms associated with female infertility or male infertility. So, to find out more about adjunct acupuncture treatments for the symptoms associated with infertility, or to book your adjunct course of acupuncture fertility treatments give us a call on (07) 4636 6100 now.

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How Medical Infertility Treatments and IVF Procedures May be Aided by Acupuncture

Colette Bouchez wrote the WebMD feature article titled, “The Ancient Art of Infertility Treatment” (1). In the article that was reviewed by Dr Brunilda Nazario, MD, she stated, “when it comes to getting pregnant, old world techniques may be just what today’s high-tech doctors will order”.

“Most of our patients are referred to us by reproductive medicine specialists — they are usually women who have failed one or usually more than one attempt at IVF (in vitro fertilization), and their doctor is looking for something to help implement the success of their treatment, over and above what the protocols alone can accomplish,” says Raymond Chang, MD, the medical director of Meridian Medical and a classically trained acupuncturist as well as western-trained medical doctor.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine treatment that relies on the painless but strategic placement of tiny needles into a “grid-like” pattern that spans the body, from head to toe. The needles are used to stimulate certain key “energy points” believed to regulate spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical balance. And, for many women, it’s often just what the doctor ordered.

“It can allow you to cross the line from infertile to fertile by helping your body function more efficiently, which in turn allows other, more modern reproductive treatments, like IVF, to also work more efficiently,” says James Dillard, MD, assistant clinical professor, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and clinical adviser to Columbia’s Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Indeed, in a study of 160 women, published April 2002 in the reproductive western medical journal Fertility and Sterility, a group of German researchers found that adding acupuncture to the traditional IVF treatment protocols substantially increased pregnancy success.

In this study one group of 80 patients received two, 25-minute acupuncture treatments — one prior to having fertilized embryos transferred into their uterus, and one directly afterwards. The second group of 80, who also underwent embryo transfer, received no acupuncture treatments.

The result: While women in both groups got pregnant, the rate was significantly higher in the acupuncture group — 34 pregnancies, compared with 21 in the women who received IVF alone. (Bolding and underlining are mine).

But possibly increasing the odds of IVF is not the only way acupuncture can help. Dr Chang, MD, says it can also work to stimulate egg production in women who can’t — or don’t want to — use fertility medications to help them get pregnant.

When you compare the pregnancy rates for an egg producing drug such as Clomid to acupuncture alone, the rates are equal — a 50% chance of pregnancy in three months for general patients — to those not undergoing IVF,” says Chang. – (Bolding is mine).

Unfortunately, however, Chang says that because acupuncture generally stimulates the growth and release of just one egg, it can’t be substituted for fertility drugs used in IVF, since they work to produce the multiple eggs necessary to achieve success with this treatment.

How Acupuncture May Work to Assist in Supporting Specific Fertility Treatments Such as IVF 

According to the traditional Chinese medicine explanation, acupuncture stimulates and moves Qi (pronounced “Chee”) a form of life energy that ancient wisdom says must flow through the body unhampered from head to toe, 24/7. When it doesn’t, illness or malfunctions such as symptoms associated with infertility arise.

“Acupuncture works to restore the flow of Qi — your essence, your body energy — so with regards to infertility, treatment has a calming, restorative effect that increases a sense of well- being and ultimately helps the body to accept the creation of life,” says acupuncturist Ifeoma Okoronkwo, MD, a professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine.

By placing the needles at key energy meridians linked to the reproductive organs, Okoronkwo tells WebMD acupuncture increases, and more importantly, moves the flow of Qi from areas where it may be too abundant, to areas that are deficient, all in a direction that (may) encourage fertility.

Most experts say you will need about two, 30 minute treatments a week, sometimes for several months, before the effects can be seen. – (Bolding is mine).

However, a slightly more Western way of looking at the effects points less to the mystical Qi and more towards the solid science of brain chemistry.

In studies published in the journal Fertility and Sterility in 2002, Chang, along with noted Cornell University reproductive endocrinologist Zev Rosenwaks, MD, found a clear link between acupuncture treatment and the brain hormones involved in conception.

More specifically their research noted that acupuncture increases production of endorphins, the body’s natural “feel good” brain chemical that also plays a role in regulating the menstrual cycle.

Chang says acupuncture also appears to have a neuroendocrine effect, impacting a three-way axis between the two areas of the brain involved with hormone production (the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands) and the ovaries, a constellation that ultimately impacts egg production and possibly ovulation.

In still another research paper published in the journal Medical Acupuncture in 2000, Sandra Emmons, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health Sciences University, reports that acupuncture may directly impact the number of egg follicles available for fertilization in women undergoing IVF.

“My guess is that acupuncture is changing the blood supply to the ovaries, possibly dilating the arteries and increasing blood flow, so that ultimately, the ovaries are receiving greater amounts of hormonal stimulation,” says Emmons, who also uses acupuncture in her traditional medical practice.

Chang says acupuncture may also help when the lining of the uterus is too weak to sustain a pregnancy — a problem that is also known to increase the risk of chronic miscarriage.

By increasing blood flow to this area, 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, says Chang.

Acupuncture May Assist You in Supporting Specific Fertility Treatments Such as IVF

As good as it sounds, acupuncture is clearly not the panacea for all fertility problems. As Dillard tells WebMD, in instances where a structural defect exists — such as a blocked fallopian tube or a fibroid tumor — acupuncture won’t help you get pregnant.

Likewise, once past a certain age, no amount of tickling your Qi is going to increase necessary hormones that have long gone out of production.

For this reason, many doctors recommend that you have at least a basic fertility workup before attempting acupuncture treatment, particularly if you are approaching, or you are over, the age of 40. – (Bolding is mine).

“If it turns out you have structural problem that requires a traditional medical ‘fix’, then the sooner you find that out and get the proper treatment, the more likely it will be that you can get pregnant,” says Dillard.

At the same time Chang tells WebMD that younger women — those in their early to mid-30s — might want to consider acupuncture first, before investing in expensive and invasive fertility treatments. – (Bolding is mine).

If, in fact, you do seek acupuncture treatment be aware that not all protocols are equal.

“There is tremendous variability within the field — with many different techniques and a great deal of the success dependant upon how much the acupuncturist knows about the treatment of infertility,” says Okoronkwo.

Costs can also vary dramatically, ranging from several hundred dollars to $1,000 or more, depending on how long you are treated, and who is doing the treatment. And while many insurance companies cover the cost of acupuncture treatments, some don’t when treatment involves infertility, so check your policy carefully.

Tips for Finding a Qualified Acupuncturist with a Particular Interest in Working with Patients with Fertility Issues

• Look for a Chinese medicine practitioner that is adequately trained and licensed in acupuncture. Be sure to check that they are registered on the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) website. If they are not registered on the AHPRA website, please report them as they are fraudulent, and a danger to the public.  Question the practitioner to ensure he/she has a sound background in treating the symptoms of infertility. An MD who simply practices acupuncture once in a while often has just several hundred hours experience, compared to several thousand hours of training and practice required for a traditional Chinese doctor.

• Look for an acupuncturist associated with a major governing body e.g. AACMA.

• If you are undergoing fertility treatments with a reproductive endocrinologist, make certain that your doctor has a working relationship with your acupuncturist, and that they work in harmony to establish a treatment regimen.

• If you are not seeing a western medicine fertility specialist, do pay at least one visit to an obstetrician before seeking the help of an acupuncturist — and make sure your obstetrician is aware of your acupuncture treatment plan.

• Although acupuncture often works in harmony with Chinese herbal medicine, if you are undergoing IVF or any traditional fertility treatment, don’t take any herbs without the OK of your reproductive medicine specialist.

• If you are undergoing an IVF protocol and acupuncture simultaneously, once you reach the implantation stage it’s imperative to get a pregnancy test before proceeding with more acupuncture treatments. If you are trying to get pregnant on your own it is equally important to have your pregnancy verified by an obstetrician as soon as possible. Some of the same points used to stimulate the uterus and increase fertility may also cause a miscarriage — so your acupuncturist needs to know if you are, or could be pregnant. – (Bolding is mine).

REFERENCEhttp://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/features/ancient-art-of-infertility-treatment

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