The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 10 per cent of women suffer from infertility. More and more of them are turning to assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as in-vitro fertilization and artificial intrauterine insemination. However, there are some that alongside scientifically proved methods undergo more exotic ones and turn to acupuncture as an art of healing that may help boost fertility.

In Western medicine, infertility is defined as the inability to conceive despite having unprotected sexual intercourse for a year or longer. There are various reasons for infertility such as environmental changes, stress levels, hereditary conditions and other factors. According to Chinese medicine practitioners, infertility may also be the result of weak or disrupted energy flow.

Acupuncture is a 2,000-year-old practice that originated from China and is one of the many forms of traditional Chinese medicine. Over the years, it has gained popularity as a complement to ART in the treatment of infertility. Studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of acupuncture in improving fertility and increasing ART success rates.

A paper published in 2002 by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine highlighted a study in which 160 patients undergoing ART were divided into two test groups — embryo transfer with acupuncture; and the control group, which underwent embryo transfer without acupuncture.

The first group of patients underwent acupuncture sessions 25 minutes before and after embryo transfer and the outcome of the research revealed that the acupuncture group recorded 42.5 per cent in clinical pregnancies, while the control group recorded 26.3 per cent, indicating that acupuncture does indeed contribute to a higher pregnancy rate after ART. According to Sin Yen Suan, clinician-in-charge of the Chinese Medicine Centre at IMU Healthcare (IMUH), acupuncture helps by improving uterine artery flow, decreasing uterine contractions, and supporting endometrial lining and implantation, all of which can help increase the likelihood of conception.

Acupuncture involves inserting sterile and disposable, hair-thin needles into various meridian points to help correct the Qi flow,” says Sin, an experienced Chinese medicine practitioner specializing in treating male and female reproductive issues: “It can stimulate the brain to regulate the body’s neuroendocrine system and help the flow of hormones stimulating the adrenal glands, ovaries and other organs and systems related to reproduction.”

Sin explains that the first step is to check whether infertility is being caused by disrupted Qi flow due to a poor lifestyle, pre-existing conditions, diseases or other factors. Chen Lee Lu Siang, a Chinese medicine practitioner at IMUH, says that she has seen many patients successfully conceive after combining acupuncture with fertility treatment: “There is a documented case where a patient conceived within a month after undergoing Chinese medicine and fertility treatment. However, everyone reacts differently. Some may take up to a year to conceive, especially if the woman is over 40,” she says.

Chen notes that many people still do not realize that stress can significantly affect a person’s ability to conceive. Many women are stuck in a perpetual cycle of stress due to the inability to conceive, especially after repeated tries. This further decreases their chances of a successful pregnancy. According to a study by the Boston University School of Public Health, higher levels of stress are associated with lower odds of conception for women.

Stress and anxiety can hinder pregnancy as cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone, may affect ovulation. Acupuncture can help reduce stress by utilizing the body’s natural antidepressants. It does this by encouraging the body to release endorphins that lower stress levels.

 

Photo: New Straits Times
Based on the article by the New Straits Times

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