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Boosting Your Chances with Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been a primary method of medical care in China for over 3,000 years; however, it's only recently caught on in mainstream western practice. Acupuncture has been used by millions of Americans and performed by thousands of physicians, dentists, acupuncturists, and other practitioners for relief or prevention of pain and for a variety of health conditions. However, it is still somewhat controversial and the U.S. medical community is in disagreement regarding its efficacy.

Acupuncture is often used by itself as a treatment for infertility, as well as a complementary therapy to modern fertility treatment and has shown promise in treating elevated FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), repeated pregnancy loss, unexplained (idiopathic) infertility, luteal phase defect, hyperprolactinemia, PCOS, and male factor infertility. Most practitioners and experts agree that good candidates for acupuncture therapy are those who have a functional, rather than a structural, reason for infertility (damaged fallopian tubes is an example of a structural reason).

Although modern science has failed to explain how acupuncture works, Chinese practitioners believe that energy (qi, pronounced "chee") flows through the body along 20 major channels called meridians. When the flow of energy is obstructed, energy builds up in some areas of the body, while depriving other areas. These meridians are accessible through 400 different points and, based on the problem you're experiencing, different combinations of points are stimulated using thin, solid needles of varying lengths. The needles are inserted into the skin at certain areas on the body for 20 to 60 minutes during which time pulsating electrical current may be applied to the needles to enhance the treatment (called electro-acupuncture).

Acupuncture is a relatively painless procedure with minimal side effects when performed by a certified professional. Many people report feeling heaviness or tingling at the acupuncture site during the procedure and you may feel slightly sleepy, relaxed, or even energized afterwards. The most common risks associated with acupuncture include puncturing organs, transmitting infectious diseases, broken or forgotten needles and minor bleeding. You should not undergo acupuncture if you have a bleeding disorder or are using blood thinners.

Most practitioners recommend seeing a patient for one hour, once or twice a week for a series of weeks or months. Acupuncture ranges from about $30 to $200 per treatment and some insurance plans cover acupuncture.

Modern medical experts believe that the needles stimulate the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord and brain, promoting the body to heal itself and reduce pain. Another hypothesis is that changes to the central nervous system during acupuncture alter the regulation of blood pressure and flow, as well as body temperature. Traditional practitioners believe that acupuncture is useful in treating infertility because it helps regulate your body's system, increases blood flow to the reproductive organs, and stabilizes pituitary and ovarian hormone levels, all of which increases ovarian function in women and sperm production and motility in men. The improved circulation to the ovaries means healthier eggs, and the increased blood flow to the uterus increases the health and thickness of the uterine lining, which can help it retain and nourish a fetus to full-term. It is also thought that acupuncture helps women to relax during modern fertility treatments.

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