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A number of studies have confirmed the efficacy of acupuncture in Recent Research on Acupuncture & IVF
In an article published by W. Paulus, M. Zhang, I. El-Danasouri, E. Strehler and K. Sterzik titled,” Influence of Acupuncture on the Pregnancy Rate in Patients Who Undergo Assisted Reproduction Therapy,” appearing in the April 2002 issue of Fertility and Sterility, German researchers announced that they had increased the success rate by nearly 50 % in women undergoing in vitro fertilization. The researchers, led by Dr. Wolfgang E. Paulus and colleagues at the Christian-Lauritzen-Institut in Ulm, Germany, said they do not know why acupuncture works and plan to conduct more studies. “Acupuncture seems to be a useful tool for improving pregnancy rate after assisted reproductive techniques.” they wrote. “The analysis shows that the pregnancy rate for the acupuncture group is considerably higher than for the control group ( 42.5% versus 26.3%),” they wrote.

Working with a team at the Department of Chinese Medicine at Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, China, Paulus and colleagues tested 160 women undergoing in vitro fertilization. Half received the standard in vitro fertilization, while half were given acupuncture treatments before and after. “We chose acupuncture points that relax the uterus according to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine,” they wrote. They said acupuncture can affect the autonomic nervous system-involved in the control of muscles and glands-and thus, theoretically, should make the lining of the uterus more receptive to receiving an embryo.

According to the report, about 26% of women who did not receive acupuncture became pregnant, compared with nearly 43% of women who underwent the traditional Chinese therapy before and after embryo transfer. There were no differences in age, number of transferred embryos, or the number of previous cycles between the two groups of patients. In this study, women received acupuncture along the spleen and stomach channels in an attempt to relax the uterus and improve the flow of energy to this region. They also received acupuncture needles in their ears to stabilize the endocrine system.

“The results demonstrate that acupuncture therapy improves pregnancy rate,” concluded Dr. Paulus and colleagues” However, more research is needed to determine whether the higher pregnancy rate among women receiving acupuncture was due to actual physiological or psychological effects,” they added. “If these findings are confirmed, they may help us improve the odds for our IVF patients,” Dr. Sandra Carson, president-elect of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, said in a prepared statement after the publication of this study in Fertility and Sterility.
Article from Acupuncture Today (October, 2005, Vol 06, Issue 10) Abstract of the Article
In many cultures, Women are unfairly blamed for the inability of a sexually active couple to conceive. In reality, men suffer from infertility issues just as frequently as women. According to statistics from the National Infertility Association (an organization also known as RESOLVE), between 35% and 40% of infertility problems among couples are actually caused by male conditions. Several factors may be responsible for male infertility, including low sperm count, abnormal sperm shape and size, and reduced motility. Lifestyle, genetics, and physiological changes can also raise or lower male fertility levels, and can significantly affect a man’s ability to produce offspring.

Previous research has shown that acupuncture can improve fertility levels in women. Fewer studies on male infertility have been conducted, although evidence suggests that acupuncture can have an effect on sperm production and quality, without causing any changes in behavior or sexual desire. A recent trial published in Fertility and Sterility has shown effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of the infertility.

Semen samples were collected from each of the men after a 3-day period of sexual abstinence. Two samples were collected from each patient: One obtained the day before treatment began, the other after the last acupuncture treatment. Samples from the treatment group were then randomized with semen samples from 12 untreated control patients and analyzed. Compared to the control group, motility levels increased significantly in semen samples in the men receiving acupuncture. The number and percentage of healthy sperm also increased dramatically in the acupuncture patients. After 10 sessions of treatments, the median percentage of healthy sperm increased more than four-fold. In addition, significant changes in sperm structure and quality were seen in the samples from the acupuncture group. Before treatment, only 22.5% of the sperm samples in the acupuncture patients contained normal-shaped acrosomes, a cap-like structure that develops over the anterior portion of a sperm cell’s nucleus. After treatment, the median percentage of normal acrosome shapes showed a “statistically significant improvement” to 38.5%.

Similarly, the percentage of sperm with a normal axoneme pattern increased significantly among men receiving acupuncture. (The Axoneme is a microscopic structure that contains a series of tubules arranged in a distinct pattern, and is believed to aid in sperm motility.) While acupuncture appeared able to improve the overall quality and structural integrity of sperm, it was ineffective against some common sperm pathologies. Apoptosis levels (Programmed cell death) in sperm samples were reduced slightly, but not to a statistically significant degree. Median percentages of necrosis (unprogrammed cell death) and sperm immaturity also decreased slightly in the acupuncture group, but not to a level considered statistically significant. The authors concluded that despite the inability of acupuncture to significantly reduce some sperm abnormalities, the treatment could be used to improve overall sperm quality, leading to the possibility of increased fertility.

“In conjunction with ART or even for reaching natural fertility potential, acupuncture treatment is a simple, noninvasive method that can improve sperm quality,” the authors concluded. Further research is needed to demonstrate what stages and times in spermatogenesis are affected by acupuncture, and how acupuncture caused the physiologic changes in spermatogenesis.”
CHINESE HERBS AND FERTILITY
by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon.
Chinese herbs have a long history of use in aiding fertility. Records indicating herbal treatment of infertility and miscarriage date back to 200 A.D., including mention of formulas that are still used for those purposes today, in the famous medical text Shang Han Lun. The first book devoted solely to gynecology and obstetrics, The Complete Book of Effective Prescriptions for Diseases of Women, was published in 1237 A.D. In modern China, herbs are used to treat infertility in both men and women and the results of large scale clinical trials are reported in Chinese medical journals; these results have been abstracted in English by a research group in Hong Kong since 1986, and translations of whole articles are obtained, by request, from several translators.