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Acupuncture For Infertility

Acupuncture has been used to naturally increase fertility for over 3000 years. Consider that throughout history in Chinese culture the inability to have a child; especially a male child was considered a serious tragedy. When infertility afflicted a couple, there was a lot of motivation for Chinese physicians to develop effective treatments. The first published account of this is seen in medical literature dating back as far as 11 A.D. The Chinese look at five principal organs – the liver, spleen, heart, lung, and kidney – and use acupuncture to release blockages from these systems so that energy or chi can move freely. This helps the body return to good health. Promoting fertility is one benefit that can be obtained. Acupuncture to kidney points releases psychological blocks that interfere with reproduction. Acupuncture helps the body to become balanced and healthy. There are many studies that show great success when using acupuncture and it has been widely used in the West.

When deciding to try acupuncture for infertility, you should be ready to commit to a health plan.  It is not a magic bullet.  It will take a series of sessions for period of say three months. The first treatment is built upon by the next, so it has a compounding effect.  No one can agree on how or why this therapy works. The traditional Chinese practitioner’s explanation involves concepts such as ‘Qi’ or chi, imbalance and a restoration of harmony to the body, but according to Western medicine, the explanation is more likely to lie in brain chemistry

.However, a slightly more Western way of looking at the effects points less to the mystical Qi and more towards the solid science of brain chemistry. It has been noted that acupuncture increases production of endorphins, the body’s natural “feel good” brain chemical that also plays a role in regulating the menstrual cycle, egg production and possibly ovulation.

It has also been found that acupuncture treatment for infertility increases blood supply and flow to the reproductive organs, leading to speculation about increased egg follicles and elevated hormone levels around the ovaries.

Here are some of the benefits of Acupuncture for infertility

Making you more relaxed: Stress and anxiety from any source can interfere with hormone regulation and the endocrine system, which are both fundamental to reproductive health. Acupuncture can have profound effects on the mind and emotions, creating a deep sense of relaxation and ease. Trying to get pregnant can be very stressful. Thus, acupuncture helps relax the mind and makes one less restless. Some women feel very anxious about maintaining a pregnancy and acupuncture can help mange these fears.

Regulates the menstrual cycle: Acupuncture can be used to regulate the menstrual cycle. Often infertility is associated with irregular menstruation. Menstrual cycles ideally follow a regular pattern of between 25 to 32 days. This shows that the flow of energy and blood are balanced and free-flowing enough to support the reproductive system. Acupuncture may work to speed up this process and help you to feel the natural flow of a working cycle.

Enhance egg development: Acupuncture is a safe and painless way to improve both the quality and quantity of healthy eggs. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can increase the circulation of nutrients and oxygen rich blood to the uterus and ovaries, while also regulating hormone function.

Acupuncture supports wellbeing: Acupuncture, along with a healthy diet can greatly help in improving your overall health as a means to achieve better emotional balance, wellbeing, improved sleep, and enhanced energy.

Achieving good health definitely influences the body’s internal hormones, metabolisms, and chemicals, which eliminate various factors that cause of infertility

Causes of infertility

Infertility is a couple's problem, and is commonly due to some contribution from both the male and female partners. Approximately 40% of the time, the male contributes a significant part of the fertility problem.

Female Causes


Female infertility may be broken into several categories:

 

  1. Ovulatory problems 
  2. Cervical factors 
  3. Pelvic and tubal factors, and 
  4. Uterine factors


Often, a combination of these problems exists.


Ovulation is a complex event in which hormonal signals and physical events are linked in a delicate balance. Women ovulate most effectively in their late teens and early twenties. By age 35-38, most women may experience a decline in the ability to ovulate effectively. 

Ovulation can be seriously affected by:


1. Abnormalities of the thyroid gland 
2. Overproduction of prolactin (a hormone leading to breast milk production) 
3. Excessive male hormone (androgens) 
4. Physical stress, psychological stress and extreme lifestyle changes


Cervical infertility involves inability of the sperm to pass through the mouth of the uterus due to damage of the cervix. 
Causes include the following:


1. Inadequate or inhospitable cervical mucous 
2. Cervical narrowing or "stenosis" 
3. Infections of the cervix with common sexually transmitted diseases 
    (chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomonas, as well as mycoplasma hominis and ureaplasma urealyticum) 
4. Immune attack of sperm or "sperm allergy"


Pelvic causes include any disruption of the normal pelvic anatomy:


1. Scar tissue or "adhesions" 
2. Endometriosis 
3. Blocked, scarred, or distorted fallopian tubes 
4. Benign tumors (fibroids) of the uterus


Uterine causes include:


1. Thin or abnormal uterine lining 
2. Anatomic problems (polyps, uterine fibroids, abnormal shape of the uterus, septum or "dividing wall" within the     uterus)


Unexplained Infertility 


Approximately 10% of infertile women suffer from unexplained infertility. This simply means that the commonly performed tests to diagnose the cause of infertility are all normal and do not define the reason for infertility. However, a more thorough search for a cause should be made, since many subtle abnormalities may be discovered to explain the infertility. Usually such problems are due to:


1. Difficulty in picking up the egg by fallopian tube 
2. Failure of implantation of the embryo into the uterus 
3. Failure of the sperm to fertilize the egg even when in contact.


Male Causes


Low sperm counts, abnormal sperm morphology (shape), and low sperm motility are usually asymptomatic conditions to most males. Most cases of low sperm counts are "idiopathic" or unexplained. Some cases are associated with a swollen varicose vein in the scrotum, called a varicocele. 

Some simple abnormalities may be improved by reducing stress, reducing heat to the genitals (e.g. avoidance of tight clothing, saunas or hot tubs), or by changing harmful lifestyle habits (avoiding tobacco, alcohol, or drugs such as marijuana). Short-term illnesses, significant stressful periods, and some medications may temporarily affect sperm counts. 


The following causes of male infertility should be investigated:

1. Exposure to hazardous toxins, chemicals, or radiation 
2. Infections such as mumps, or venereal diseases 
3. Testicular injury (sports or work injury) 
4. Childhood illness (failure of a testicle to descend properly) 
5. Blockage of one of the ducts allowing flow of sperm from the testicle
Injury, infection or prior vasectomy

Genetic absence of these ducts (cystic fibrosis)
 
6. Immune reaction against sperm (antisperm antibodies) 
7. Testicular failure and other hormonal problems 
8. Chronic medical illness (thyroid disease, diabetes, and hypertension) 
9. Spinal cord injuries and paralysis 
10. Varicocele.

Agnus Castus for Fertility

Agnus-castus also known as Chasteberry, is popular herb that grows in the Mediterranean countries, where the chaste tree grows in nature. It is very popular with women trying to get pregnant. But can agnus castus be used for fertility? How does it actually work?

Agnus castus acts by balancing the fertility related hormones thus shifting the ratio of estrogen to progesterone, though it does not contain any hormones itself but just helps the body increase its ability to produce more hormones. Agnus castus is also helpful for reducing high prolactin secretion which is commonly associated with lack of ovulation.

One of the great aspects of using this herb is that it corrects the most common hormonal problem with women which is insufficient progesterone during the luteal phase. This is because it is shortened in the second half of the cycle. This period where the egg needs to be released, thus the hormone helps fertility at the vital time in a woman’s menstrual cycle.  As well as restore hormones, it can be used to achieve the following:

  • Helps with scanty periods
  • This herb has also been used to increase stimulation of breast milk production
  • Regulates periods
  • Reduces the symptoms of PMT/PMS (water weight, bloating, irritability, fatigue, cramps and headaches.
  • Reduces acne associated with menstrual cycle.
  • Assists with heavy bleeding
  • Helps with periods that are painful
  • Helps resolve PCOS
  • Balances the ratio of progesterone and estrogen by balancing excess estrogen.
  • It can be a good overall woman’s tonic especially combined with sage.
     

How to take Agnus Castus (Vitex/chasteberry)

The easiest and most effective way to take agnus castus is in tincture form. This is because when herbs are in liquid form the herbs are easily dissolved. They are therefore absorbed faster so their action is quicker. When the herbs are in dry form either as tablets or capsules, they have to be digested first. This may be a problem as our ability to absorb and therefore benefit from the herbs is as good as our digestive system. You should consult your herbalist or health care professional skilled in the use of herbs for advice.

It is safe to take agnus castus throughout your whole cycle until you fall pregnant. Some women choose to take it either in the first half or second half of their cycle thinking that this will be more effective. However this does not allow sufficient time for the herb to build up in your body and address the cause of the infertility. So many women give up too soon thinking that the herb is not working for them but it said that it should be used for three to six months.
The key to becoming fertile is not just taking a herb to address some symptoms of infertility but to address the body as a whole using lifestyle changes, diet, breathing techniques, acupuncture, relaxation techniques, in addition to any herb.

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