Acupuncture is a wonderful way to naturally promote fertility without side effects. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are beneficial for women’s health issues such as reducing pain and premenstrual syndromes associated with menstruation, regulating the cycle and balancing hormones, and reducing or resolving reproductive health issues.
Most women experience some problems with their cycles during their reproductive years. One of the more common negative experiences is premenstrual syndrome (PMS). A more severe manifestation is premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMS is considered by many to be a “normal” part of the menstrual cycle, but is a sign that there is an imbalance, and likely comes with other signs that a woman’s health is not optimal. PMDD is typically treated with antidepressants or other medications, but the underlying issues associated are not addressed. Another common experience is painful cramping before or during the cycle. Less frequent, but common problems include: irregular cycles; long, short, or absent menstrual cycles, and heavy bleeding. Fibroids and cysts are other reproductive health issues that can cause pain and infertility. When there are problems with a woman’s cycle, it is likely that her fertility may be compromised.
In my practice many women complain of PMS symptoms, from mild to severe. Typically these women report feeling improved mood and marked decrease in cramping and pain after one or two acupuncture treatments, although require more treatment for full benefit. Likewise, acupuncture and herbs relieve premenstrual syndrome (PMS) according to recent research. A meta-analysis of 8 acupuncture studies and 11 herbal medicine studies revealed a success rate of 50% or greater for the reduction of PMS and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) (1). Acupuncture and herbal medicine help to create balance in a woman’s reproductive system and throughout her body. Typically with PMS and PMDD a woman will be diagnosed with congestion in the Liver meridian, excess phlegm or fire, deficiency of blood or yin, or a combination of these patterns. While PMS is a relatively simple syndrome, if left untreated the conditions that cause it can manifest into more severe issues, such as cysts or tumors.
Many women who I see in my clinic for fertility treatment are in their late thirties to early forties who have suffered one or more miscarriages while trying to conceive. In Chinese medicine, when a woman reaches 35, she begins to have a decline in Stomach Qi and begins to have deficiency of Kidney Yin and Yang. Stomach Qi is important for building Qi and Blood in the body, so it is more difficult to have the proper Qi and Blood to sustain a pregnancy. Additionally Kidney Yin and Yang are in decline. The Liver, Kidney, Spleen and Stomach, and Ren and Chong meridians are very important in fertility, hormonal balance, and nourishment of a baby. For these reasons, it becomes more challenging to become pregnant and to keep a pregnancy. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are helpful to keeping these meridians healthy and working properly for becoming pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy.
Moxibustion therapy, burning mugwort on acupuncture points or along channels, can be very helpful for women who are having difficulty becoming pregnant, or have suffered one or more miscarriages, especially when there is cold or a deficiency of yang. A cold uterus is quite common in younger women who are experiencing infertility. A womb can become “cold” from improper diet with too many iced, cold, raw foods or foods that have a cold or damp nature. Wearing clothing that exposes the abdomen to cold weather, walking barefoot in the cold or on cold floors can also cause a cold uterus. Surgeries can also introduce cold into the uterus, as can swimming during a period. I find that many of my patients experiencing luteal phase defect, miscarriage, or spotting before their period have deficient Kidney Yang. There is not enough Yang to support a pregnancy, creating a luteal phase without sustained increase in basal body temperature. Moxabustion is indicated for building Yang and warming (which is what Progesterone does after ovulation as well), as well as building Qi and Blood and draining damp accumulation in the body. If there is deficient Progesterone there is more than likely Kidney Yang deficiency.
If acupuncture and Chinese medicine alone have been unsuccessful at treating fertility within a year, or if one wants to attempt IVF immediately, acupuncture shows promise in improving rates of pregnancy in IVF patients (2). Acupuncture helps to improve blood flow in the reproductive organs, relax and reduce stress levels, and balance the nervous system, all of which are helpful for fertility.
If you are a woman, acupuncture can be incredibly helpful for helping your fertility or simply for allowing you greater comfort along your journey from puberty through menopause, reducing symptoms, creating harmony in the body, and without negative side effects or harm from medications.
Men should not feel left out, acupuncture and moxibustion are also helpful for idiopathic infertility, including sperm abnormalities. The patients in a study in Brazil showed a significant increase in the percentage of normal-form sperm. The authors conclude that acupuncture and moxa treatments seem to favorably modify normal-form sperm counting (3). Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are helpful for treating a variety of problems men may be experiencing with their sex organs, including fertility concerns.
3. Gurfinkel E, Cedenho AP, Yamamura Y, Srougi M.Effects of acupuncture and moxa treatment in patients with semen abnormalities. Asian J Androl. 2003 Dec; 5(4):345-8.