Getting Baby on Board:

Acupuncture May Help Couples Facing Infertility Challenges

 

(July 2009)

 

For couples who are trying to start a family together, challenges relating to fertility, or infertility, among men and women can cause a lot of stress and heartache. Unable to conceive through traditional methods, many couples seek out alternative ways to get pregnant, including In Vitro Fertilization Pre-Embryo Transfer (IVF-PE). Although advances in medical technology over the last 3 decades have dramatically increased the possibility of achieving successful pregnancy through IVF-PE, currently only 1 out of approximately every 5 attempts is successful. Acupuncture, often combined with herbal treatments, has been used for centuries to treat some causes of infertility and recent studies have indicated that acupuncture may increase these chances for successful in vitro fertilization, resulting in pregnancy.

 

Raby Institute acupuncturist, Janice Scott Staron recently conducted research through Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Division of Reproductive Medicine to better understand the therapeutic effect of acupuncture on In Vitro Fertilization Pre-Embryo Transfer (IVF-PE). In the research study, test subjects were given either real acupuncture or sham (placebo) acupuncture immediately before and immediately following embryo transfer. Although official results are still pending, physicians involved commented on the relaxed nature of the patients who had received acupuncture treatments prior to implantation. The study was made possible by the efforts of Dr. Raby while she was Medical Director of the Center for Integrative Medicine. Dr. Raby was responsible for finding the private funding for the research project, as well as desiging the research protocol and recruiting the Reproductive Endocrinologists who participated in the study.


This study at NMH follows on the heels of independent research studies around the globe that support the efficacy of acupuncture on increasing the percentages of successful pregnancies achieved with in vitro fertilization. One of the landmark studies on this topic was completed in 2001 by German scientists. The main objective of the German study was to evaluate whether acupuncture accompanying embryo transfer increased clinical pregnancy rate. During the study, a test group of patients received acupuncture treatment shortly before and after embryo transfer. Each acupuncture treatment lasted 25 minutes using specific acupuncture points. The control group received no acupuncture treatments. A 17% increase in clinical pregnancy rate was observed in the group receiving acupuncture compared to the control group that did not receive acupuncture.

 

Additional research conducted in Europe and North America spanning more than a decade reinforces positive correlations between acupuncture and increased pregnancy rates.

 

  • In May 2005, another German study found that true acupuncture versus sham (placebo) acupuncture resulted in a 33% pregnancy rate versus 15% respectively.
  • A 1996 Swedish study showed that patients undergoing acupuncture twice weekly for four weeks prior to egg retrieval showed an increase in uterine blood flow and a decrease in uterine rigidity.
  • Studies at Cornell University in New York suggest that there is a strong link between acupuncture and regulation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine can be used to treat other types of fertility issues as well. Women attempting to conceive may undergo acupuncture treatments to increase blood flow to the reproductive system or to reduce anxiety (which can be a cause of infertility). Acupuncture may also treat some causes of male infertility, such as low sperm count.


If you are interested in learning more about how acupuncture may improve your fertility, please call us at 312-276-1212 or email us for more information. You may also schedule an appointment with Janice Scott Staron, L.Ac, MSOM for a complete consultation on the many ways acupuncture can contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

"Dr. Raby is professional, humanistic, compassionate and sincere."
- Raby Institute patient