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Traditional Chinese Medicine for Infertility

Acupuncture

Qi meridians are accessible through 400 different acupuncture points on the body and, based on the problem you're experiencing, different combinations of points are stimulated using needles of varying lengths. Placing these solid, thin needles on certain locations around the body unblocks the meridian obstructions and restores the flow of energy. The needles are left there for 20 to 60 minutes, during which pulsating electrical current may also be applied to the needles to enhance the treatment (called electro-acupuncture).

Western 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 helps it retain and nourish a fetus to full-term. It is also thought that acupuncture helps women to relax during modern fertility treatments.

Several studies have shown acupuncture to increase the success rate of IVF treatments, and to lower the rate of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. Receiving acupuncture treatments before and after IVF embryo transfer may increase the chance that the embryo will be implanted successfully and reduce the chance of miscarriage. The effectiveness of IVF drugs and procedures may also improve if acupuncture is done about once a week in the month or two leading up to the start of IVF and then continued regularly during the whole cycle.

Herbs

Chinese herbs are used to correct the underlying imbalance in order to restore normal body function. More than 150 different herbs are regularly used to treat infertility, and practitioners mix together up to 30 different herbs to create the perfect concoction specifically designed for the individual patient. Depending on the problem you may ingest the herbs in the form of pills, tablets, granules, or decoctions (teas).

In Chinese clinical studies, daily or periodic use of herbs usually resulted in restored fertility within three to six months. In the U.S., however, the dosage of herbs is usually lower, so it is estimated that pregnancy can be achieved within six to twelve months.

In the U.S., Chinese herbs are considered traditional foods, not drugs; as a result, they have not been formally tested for safety or efficacy. If you are undergoing IVF or other traditional fertility treatment, don't take any herbs without the consent of your reproductive endocrinologist. In addition, if you suspect you are pregnant, stop taking any herbs immediately, as some may be harmful to the fetus. It is generally considered unnecessary to take herbs during pregnancy; however, women with a history of miscarriage or who are deemed high risk for miscarriage may wish to take certain herbs.

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