By Michelle Fletcher
Acupuncture has been known to cure illness, relieve pain, and chemotherapy-induced nausea. This ancient healing art is now being applied to modern fertilization techniques.
"Acupuncture, which is nontoxic and relatively affordable, holds much promise as a complimentary or alternative fertility treatment," said Dr. Raymond Chang of New York Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Acupuncture is a group of ancient Chinese medical procedures that involve the stimulation of anatomical locations on or in the skin by a variety of techniques-often by thin, metallic needles. These needles are inserted anatomically into defined locations on the body, affecting body function. Acupuncturists state that these points correspond to areas on the body's surface that have greater electrical conductance due to the presence of a higher density of gap junctions along cell borders.
Assisted Reproduction Therapy (ART) has also received beneficial results from applying acupuncture treatments. "Acupuncture seems to be a useful tool for improving pregnancy rate after ART," said W.E. Paulus, researcher with the Department of Reproductive Medicine, Christian-Lauritzen-Institut, in Ulm, Germany. "Our main objective was to evaluate whether acupuncture accompanying embryo transfer increases clinical pregnancy rate."
According to the New York Weill Cornell Medical Center study, acupuncture offers the following fertility-boosting benefits:
- Acupuncture aids in lowering stress hormones, which promote infertility.
- Acupuncture aids in increasing blood flow to the uterus. Since this encourages a thicker uterine wall, fertility is easier.
- Acupuncture further increases the production of endorphins, which have been proven to aid in releasing a decapeptide involved in regulating reproduction.
- Acupuncture stimulates the plasma levels of fertility hormones.
- Acupuncture helps normalize the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis.
- Acupuncture regulates the menstrual cycle, making family planning easier.
- Acupuncture helps women suffering from a hormonal imbalance called polycyctic ovarian syndrome.
- Acupuncture also strengthens the immune system, preventing illness and weakness that may reduce chances of fertility.
"One of the biggest obstacles to any study is a single standard of care," said Dr. Pak H. Chung of New York Weill Cornell Medical Center. "Only appropriate training and certification of acupuncture practitioners by state agencies can fascilitate the integration of acupuncture into the treatment of female infertility, and health care in general."