It is estimated that one in seven couples has difficulty conceiving .
Identifiable causes of infertility include: ovulatory disorders in 27% of couples; tubal damage in 14% of couples; low sperm count or low sperm quality in 19% of couples. In 30% of couples the cause of infertility remains unexplained . Female fertility also declines with age. Acupuncture is a popular treatment choice for infertility .
Randomised trials in China have demonstrated significantly better pregnancy rates with acupuncture.
Research has established plausible mechanisms to explain how acupuncture may benefit fertility:
- regulating fertility hormones – stress and other factors can disrupt the function of the hypothalamic 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 gonadotrophin releasing hormone by the hypothalamus, follicle stimulating hormone from the pituitary gland, and oestrogen and progesterone levels from the ovary.
- increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs – stress also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which causes constriction of ovarian arteries. Acupuncture inhibits this sympathetic activity, improving blood flow to the ovaries , enhancing the environment in which ovarian follicles develop. It also increases blood flow to the uterus , improving the thickness of the endometrial lining and increasing the chances of embryo implantation.
- counteracting the effects of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – PCOS is one of the most common causes of female infertility. 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