How to Best Use Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine to Treat Female Infertility and Improve the Success Rate of IVF Treatments

Women with infertility cannot become pregnant and though some of them do become pregnant, often it is difficult to achieve a successful pregnancy due to miscarriages. The goal for treating female infertility is not only to be able to become pregnant but also to prevent miscarriages and to deliver a healthy baby.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have been used to treat infertility and prevent miscarriages for about two thousand five hundred years in China. Through clinical practices for thousands of years and experience with numerous cases, ancient Chinese medical physicians found that using needles to stimulate some specific points on the meridians of the body can help treat infertility, points such as SP6 (it is on the spleen meridian, on the medial side of the lower leg, superior to the prominence of the medial malleolus) and REN 3, 4, 6 (they are on the conception meridian, on the midline of the lower abdomen and between umbilicus and the pubic symphysis).

And there are many Chinese herbal formulas devised by ancient Chinese medical physicians that were successful in treating infertility and preventing miscarriages; for example, Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan (which means: “pills of five seeds to bring forth offspring”) is a classic herbal formula to treat infertility. Shou Tai Wan (which means: “Fetus Longevity Pill”) is commonly used to treat miscarriage and/or pre-miscarriage with lower back pain, abdomen pain and uterine bleeding during pregnancy. Today, these formulas are still  recommended remedies by Chinese medicine doctors and Western medical physicians in China to help infertility and miscarriage.

In China since the 1980’s, there are numerous studies that have shown the strong advantages of acupuncture and Chinese medicine in combination with western medicine to treat infertility due to various factors, including anovulation, luteal phase defect, follicular maldevelopment, inadequacy of the corpus luteum function, obstruction of the fallopian tube(s), immune infertility, and so on, for example:

It was first reported in 1981 that acupuncture is effective in the promotion of ovulation and success in becoming pregnant. Of the 50 women with anovulatory that received acupuncture treatment, 45 women successfully ovulated and 28 women got pregnant [1].

Another study done in 1984 showed, of the 24 women who had anovulatory that received acupuncture stimulation at point SP6, 18 women successful ovulated and 16 became pregnant [2].

It was reported in 1991 that 60 cases of infertility due to luteal phase defect were treated with Chinese herbs. After the treatment, the hyperthermal phase score of basal body temperature (BBT) was noticeably augmented, the hyperthermal phase 7-8 days after ovulation enhanced, the transitional period of BBT remarkably reduced, and the pregnancy rate in 32 uncomplicated cases of luteal phase defect was 56% [3].

There were reports that Acupuncture treatment for infertility caused by endometriosis in 72 cases, after treatment for 3-9 menstrual cycles, there were 42 cases of pregnancy, accounting for 58.33% [4]. Acupuncture combination with Chinese herbs treatment for 20 cases of tubal obstruction infertility showed that there were 12 cases of pregnancy [5].

It is most interesting that Chinese herbal formula can benefit immune infertility. A Chinese classic formula Zhibai Dihuang Wan was used to treat infertile couples with antisperm and/or antizona pellucida antibodies in their blood serum; after the treatment the antibodies were changed to negativeness in 81.3% of immune infertile couples. All of 8 women were successfully pregnant in 1-9 months after antibodies negative conversion and the negative status lasted throughout the course of pregnancy [6].

Practitioners in Europe and the United States also reported that women who had infertility issues and were treated with acupuncture and Chinese medicine successfully become pregnant, and acupuncture was involved in improving the success rate of IVF treatment. It was reported that in Germany 160 women underwent IVF of which, 80 women received acupuncture and 80 women did not. The success rate in the acupuncture group is 42.5%, while in no-acupuncture group was only 26.3% [7]. A study in America showed a similar result: 51% of the 114 women with acupuncture involved in IVF treatments became pregnant versus only 36% of the women with IVF alone. Advanced analysis of this study revealed that the rate of miscarriage in the IVF-only group was 20%, while in the acupuncture group was 8%; furthermore, women who obtained acupuncture had lower rates of ectopic pregnancies [8].

From current research, many studies such as those from the Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York, United States reveal that acupuncture and Chinese medicine benefits infertility in the following ways:

Acupuncture induces ovulation by positively effecting the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis in the brain; normalizing hormone and endocrine systems; promoting the secretion of pituitary, follicle growth, FSH (Follicle-Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Luteal Hormal); which play key roles in fertility [8-14].

Acupuncture enhances the blood supply of the uterus and ovaries, promoting blood flow to the endometrium [15-17].

Chinese herbal formulas have similar effects to acupuncture as above. Chinese herbal formulas can affect ovary, follicle and uterus as well. They can improve the development of the ovaries, quality of ovulation and cleavage capacity; increase ovary’s weight, stimulate the release of GnRH (Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone), increase the total number of follicles; they also can encourage the development of the uterus, increase uterine weight, increase thickness and the number of glands [18-20].

It should be pointed out that immune system problems are what commonly lead to infertility and/or miscarriage. Women may develop antibodies or immune cells that attack the man’s sperm, mistaking it for a toxic aggressor. Certain autoimmune diseases, in which the woman’s immune cells attack normal cells in her own body may also lead to ovarian problems. The clinical study illustrated that acupuncture and Chinese medicine have special advantages in the treatment of infertility (or miscarriage) due to antibody or immune system problems [4].

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are positively effective against many diseases related to infertility such as pelvic inflammatory disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, ovary problems, luteal phase defect, and other uterine problems. Treatments for these conditions also provide a better environment for infertility treatment.

Usually, Chinese medicine and acupuncture treatments for infertility focus on regulating the menstrual cycle, inducing ovulation and preventing miscarriage.

The normal menstrual cycle includes the follicular phase, ovulation phase, luteal phase and menstruation phase. Women with infertility often have an accompanying disorder and/or dysfunction of these phases. The best way to treat these conditions is by using different special herbal formulas, acupuncture protocols and techniques at different phases of the menstrual cycle depending on the conditions present. Timing of the phases: around the 4-13th days of the cycle is the follicular phase, promoting follicle development is important; around the 14th day of the cycle, the ovulation phase, inducing ovulation is needed; while around 16 – 28th days, the luteal phase occurs. It is necessary to promote the secretion of LH; moreover, it is needed to lead bleeding in the menstruation phase. Especially important is acupuncture treatment for menstrual cycle dysfunction be done once or twice per week for 3 to 6 months (or more). However, it is necessary and important to use electric- acupuncture once a day for the consecutive three days before ovulation in order to inducing ovulation.

Additionally, the treatment plan of acupuncture and Chinese medicine together involving women undergoing IVF treatment is similar as above, but there is a special plan that consists of one session of electric-acupuncture treatment given within 1 hour before the embryo transfer and 1 hour after implantaion.

Women with a history of miscarriage may be more susceptible to infertility, and even after they become pregnant it is still easy to miscarriage. Helping them to become pregnant and preventing miscarriage is most important; therefore, a detailed treatment plan and schedule are necessary. Usually, the treatment with acupuncture and Chinese medicine is needed for three to six months before making a plan for pregnancy. Considering that most miscarriages occur within the first three months of pregnancy, once they become pregnant they still need treatments to prevent the miscarriage. This course of treatment may last twelve weeks or more depending on the timing of her last miscarriage.

Chinese medicine and acupuncture also benefits women with pre-miscarriage problems. Common symptoms like lower back pain, abdominal pain and uterine bleeding during pregnancy. The signs  of effective treatment are the disappearance of the above symptoms within 3 days to 1 week. The immediate use of acupuncture and Chinese herbs are necessary afterwards.

Dr. Yang has treated many cases of female infertility in the China and United States over the last 20 years. He has successfully helped women with infertility to become pregnant and prevent miscarriage by using only acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas. Dr. Yang has also been involved in helping women undergoing IVF treatment to successfully get pregnant and prevent miscarriage via applying acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas.

References:

1. Zhong, L. M. Acupuncture combination Chinese herbs treating 50 cases of anovulation. Jiangxi Traditional Chinese Medicine (in Chinese), 1981; (4):32

2. Chen, D. Y. Acupuncture on Sanyingjiao (Point SP6) induced ovulation. Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine (in Chinese), 1984; (9):521

3. Lian, F. The treatment of Traditional Chinese Medicine for luteal phase defect–an analysis of 60 cases. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine (in Chinese), 1991; 11(2):115

4. Chen, Q, et al. The clinical observation of 72 cases for Acupuncture treatment of endometriosis, Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion  (in Chinese), 1996, 16(2) 25.

5. Zhao R.  Acupuncture combination with Chinese herbs treatment for 20 cases of tubal obstruction infertility. Journal of Clinical Acupuncture (in Chinese), 2004, 20 (1): 22.

6. Li, D. J, et al. Treatment of immune infertility with Chinese medicinal herbs of ziyinjianghuo. Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine (in Chinese), 1995; 15(1):3

7. Paulus, W. E, et al. Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertil Steril, 2002; 77(4):721-4.

8. Manheimer E, et al. Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ, 2008; 336(7643):545-9

9. Yu, J, et al. Relationship of hand temperature and blood ß-endorphin immunoreactive substance with electric -acupuncture induction of ovulation (in Chinese). Acupuncture Research (in Chinese), 1986; 11(2), 86-90,

10. Zhou, CH, et al. Experimental study of the mechanism of acupuncture inducing ovulation. J Combining Chinese and Western Medicine (in Chinese), 1986; 6(12), 764,

11. Yu, J, et al. The clinic observation of Electric-acupuncture to ovulation, blood FSH, LH levels and follicular growth. Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine (in Chinese), 1998; 9 (4):199-202.

12. Chang. R, et al. Role of acupuncture in the treatment of female infertility. Fertility and Sterility, 2002; 78 ( 6) 1149-53

13. Sha, J. E, et al. Clinical study of 84 cases on Acupuncture treatment for infertility of premature ovarian failure. Journal of Clinical Acupuncture (in Chinese), 2000; 14 (6): 16.

14. Zhong, L. M. et al. The mechanisms of Chinese medicine and acupuncture promoting ovulation (in Chinese). Tianjin Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1990; 16 (5) :17-18

15. Goswamy, R.K, et al. Doppler ultrasound studies of the uterine atery in spontaneous ovarian cycles. Hum. Reprod., 1988; 3, 721-726.

16. Goswamy, R.K, et al. Decreased uterine pertusion – cause of infentlity. Hum. Reprod. 1988; 3, 955-959.

17. Liu, W. C, et al, The influence of acupuncture on serum hormones of dysfunction uterine bleeding (in Chinese). Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion (in Chinese), 1991; 11(5), 37-38,

18. Liu, J. X, et al. The clinical and experimental study about YangjingTang promoting ovulation (in Chinese). Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 2001; 21 (2):94-98.

19. Zhang, S.C, et al. The clinic and experiment studies about tonify kidney formulas to regulate menstruation and promote ovulation. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine (in Chinese), 1999; 40 (6):369-371.

20. Lian, F, et al. The experiment study about ErZhi Tiangui Fang to egg quality in rats (in Chinese). Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 2004; 24 (7):625-627.

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