With as many as 10 percent of women suffering from infertility1, more and more couples are turning to Assisted Reproductive Treatment (ART) such as in-vitro fertilisation and intrauterine insemination. Many are also going one step further: seeking alternative treatments such as acupuncture and other forms of Chinese Medicine (CM). Infertility from the CM perspective In Western medicine infertility is attributed to lifestyle and environmental changes, stress levels, hereditary conditions and other factors. From the CM practitioner’s perspective, however, infertility may also be the result of weak Qi (energy flow) or disrupted Qi flow. A paper2 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. Those that underwent acupuncture sessions 25 minutes before and after embryo transfer recorded a 42.5 percent success rate in clinical pregnancies while the control group recorded a 26.3 percent success rate. Does this prove that acupuncture can help? According to Sin Yen Suan, Clinician-in-Charge of the Chinese Medicine Centre at IMU Healthcare (IMUH), the first step would be to check the cause of the infertility—is it caused by disrupted Qi flow due to poor lifestyle, pre-existing conditions, diseases or other factors?
Sin noted that acupuncture3 can improve uterine artery flow, decrease uterine contractions, and support endometrial lining and implantation, all of which can help increase the likelihood of conception. “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,” she added.
Sin also explained that while a menstrual cycle of 28-35 days produces good eggs, some women have cycles that are as short as 21 days and others as long as 60 days. “Women who have irregular menstrual cycles benefit from acupuncture because it helps restore the balance to the Qi, promote blood flow to the pelvic area and regulate menstrual cycles,” she said. Sin’s fellow IMUH CM practitioner Dr Chep Lee Lu Siang has seen many of her patients successfully conceive after combining acupuncture with their fertility treatments. “There is also a documented case where a patient conceived within a month after undergoing CM and fertility treatments. However, everyone reacts differently to the same treatment. Some may take up to a year to conceive, especially if the woman is over 40,” she said.
|Infertility, stress and acupuncture|
|Many women are stuck in a perpetual cycle of stress due to the inability to conceive, especially after repeated tries. “According to a study by Boston University School of Public Health , higher levels of stress are associated with lower odds of conception for women. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce stress by utilising the body’s natural antidepressants4. It does this by encouraging the body to release endorphins that lower the stress levels,” Chep said.|
Is acupuncture right for you? Remember that while acupuncture is a safe, affordable and non-invasive complementary treatment, you should always be diligent in your research. Read up to see if it is suitable for you. Dr Hea Ai Sim, also a Chinese Medicine practitioner from IMUH’s CM team specialising in women’s health advise couples to check with complementary and alternative practitioner bodies such as the Federation of Chinese Physicians & Acupuncturists Association of Malaysia5 or the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Division under the Ministry of Health to ensure that the acupuncturist is licensed and experienced. “Once you have chosen to go ahead, talk to your acupuncturist or CM practitioner about your medical history, lifestyle and nutrition. Ask questions and make sure you are comfortable with the treatment,” adds Dr Hea. Treatment is highly personalised. The more information your practitioner has the better the outcome, so make sure your practitioner is in contact with your doctors and gynaecologists; and always communicate with them.
|Questions You Can Ask a Practitioner|
|• Are there other CM treatments that will complement acupuncture? (Some practitioners may prescribe moxibustion or herbal medicine for those not on fertility drugs)|
|• What is the acupuncture procedure like?|
|• How many sessions of acupuncture are required?|
|• What is the duration of these sessions?|
|• Are there follow-up treatments once I have successfully conceived? (Your acupuncturist or CM practitioner may have follow-up treatments to strengthen your body.)|
This article is brought to you by IMU Healthcare. References:  Infertility is a global public health issue ‘Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy’, Fertility and Sterility, Volume 77, Issue 4, April 2002, pp.721-724  ‘Acupuncture and the ART of Conception’, Pacific Fertility Center, retrieved on 8 April 2019 from https://www.pacificfertilitycenter.com/treatment-care/other-fertility-treatments/acupuncture  Sniezek, D. P., & Siddiqui, I. J. (2013). Acupuncture for Treating Anxiety and Depression in Women: A Clinical Systematic Review. Medical acupuncture, 25(3), 164–172. doi:10.1089/acu.2012.0900  (Federation of Chinese Physicians and Acupuncturists Associations Malaysia (FCPAAM), 2019)
|In the News|
|Star (Online and Newspaper)||Treating Infertility with Needles|
|New Straits Times||Acupuncture and ART|