Family Planning Boards
Modern medicine can certainly inspire awe. In vitro fertilization labs and sophisticated ultrasound scanning machines appear very impressive and reassuring when you are struggling to conceive a child. However, even though the effectiveness of reproductive technology has improved dramatically, more patients than ever before are turning to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) either as an alternative to conventional medicine or in combination with it.
CAM involves much more than the personal touch: Research has shown that CAM can enhance the fertility of patients when used in conjunction with traditional fertility therapies. Acupuncture, massage therapy, herbal therapy, hypnosis, nutritional counseling, and stress reduction have all been evaluated for their impact on fertility.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy used to treat thousands of ailments and is one of the most studied of CAM procedures. Traditional Chinese Medicine treats the body as a whole. When a woman receives acupuncture care for fertility, the entire picture of her health is taken into consideration. Traditional acupuncture therapy is believed to regulate spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance. Acupuncture can be given regularly during attempting conception, for several weeks before a treatment cycle, or immediately before and after an embryo transfer procedure.
The use of acupuncture has been shown in some studies to improve pregnancy rates. In a 2001 study, 42.5 percent of the group treated with acupuncture became pregnant, whereas only 26.3 percent of the non-treated group became pregnant. It is thought that the increase in pregnancy rate is due to stress reduction, decreasing the contractility of the uterus, normalizing hormones that regulate ovulation, and improving blood flow to the pelvic organs.
Acupuncture may also help male infertility. In a study published in Fertility and Sterility in 2005, researchers analyzed sperm samples from men with infertility of unknown cause before and after acupuncture treatments. They found that acupuncture was associated with fewer structural defects in sperm and an increase in the number of normal sperm.
Like acupuncture, hypnosis has a long history. It has been included in Western medicine since the late 1800s, when doctors used it to help sedate patients before surgery. The process of hypnosis usually begins when a trained therapist asks a person to focus his or her attention on a specific point or idea. This results in a sleep- or trance-like state in which the patient is more receptive to suggestions. One study demonstrated that when used with in vitro fertilization (IVF), the success rate in those who had undergone hypnosis was significantly better than those who had not (53.1 percent versus 30.2 percent).