Almost one in six couples experience fertility problems. Studies show that whilst 40% of the time infertility is the result of female factors, 40% it is also the result of male factors and 20% of the time the result is a combination of both women and men.
Acupuncture is one of the most popular alternative therapies for treating fertility issues. Research indicates that couples who are supported with acupuncture for fertility are significantly more likely to fall pregnant naturally or to successfully conceive following an IVF cycle.
In general, Acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messages molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus providing physical and emotional wellbeing. This can play a significant role in optimising sexual health in both males and females.
Acupuncture and Female Fertility
In women, female fertility can be boosted by balancing hormone function and regulating cycles. Stress and other factors can disrupt the function of the hypothalamus pituitary-ovarian axis (HPOA), causing hormonal imbalances that can negatively impact fertility. Acupuncture has been shown to affect hormone levels by promoting the release of beta-endorphin in the brain, which affects the release of gonadotropin releasing hormone by the hypothalamus, follicle stimulating hormone from the pituitary gland, and oestrogen and progesterone levels from the ovary (Ng 2008, Huang 2008, Lim 2010, Stener-Victorin 2010).
Acupuncture can be used to increase blood flow to the reproductive organs. Stress also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which causes constriction of ovarian arteries. Acupuncture inhibits the sympathetic activity, improving blood flow to the ovaries (Stener-Victorin1996, Huang 2008), improving egg quality, the thickness of the endometrial lining and the chances of successful embryo implantation.
One of the most common causes of female infertility is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). By reducing sympathetic nerve activity and balancing hormone levels, acupuncture has been shown to reduce the number of ovarian cysts, stimulate ovulation, enhance blastocyst implantation and regulate the menstrual cycle in women with PCOS (Stener-Victorin 2000, 2008, 2009, Zhang 2009).
Acupuncture and Male Fertility
In males, fertility requires normal sperm production and sperm motility, and adequate sexual performance, functions that require normal levels of testosterone.
Male infertility can be due to a number of factors, including abnormal spermatogenesis: reproductive tract anomalies or obstruction, inadequate sexual and ejaculatory functions; and impaired sperm count and motility (Patki 2004: Isidori 2005; Doyle 2010.
Men produce new sperm all the time. It takes approximately 72-90 days to create and mature sperm. During this crucial time, acupuncture can be helpful in treating the underlying condition or imbalance that optimise fertility. Recent studies have shown that Acupuncture can effectively support functional problems being treated by Western medicine in helping to increase sperm production, to promote healthy sperm and to improve motility.