Integrative Medicine Blog

Acupuncture, Stress and Infertility

Rebecca Rice, Licensed Acupuncturist Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Acupuncture has a positive effect on reducing stress in women experiencing infertility

One of the reasons people use acupuncture is to help them relax and to reduce stress.

A recent randomized controlled trial shows that acupuncture has a positive effect on reducing stress in women experiencing infertility.  The University of Western Sydney study also found that acupuncture created feelings of relaxation and improved the coping ability of women affected by infertility.  The women also reported a sense of pause and of taking a time out from stress and preoccupation with their fertility.

Recognizing Stress Contributors

Many situations can be stressors. Dealing with infertility is a unique stressor. The patient is faced with day to day reminders of their hope and desire for a child which can be emotionally and mentally overwhelming. Along with the psychological effects, the fertility patient also has physical strain put on the body as a result of medications taken to improve fertility (if they are choosing to use allopathic medicine).  Side effects of fertility medications may include headache, bloating, abdominal pain and pressure, mood swings, extreme fatigue, nausea, constipation, heart palpitations, dizziness, blurred vision and hot flashes.

How Stress Affects Fertility

The effect of stress on fertility is observable in additional ways.  Chronic stress causes sustained levels of cortisol and epinephrine.  High levels of these stress hormones can inhibit ovulation.  Sustained stress also effects blood circulation causing reduced blood flow to the uterus and ovaries.  Implantation may also be impaired as stress can alter the proteins needed to secure the embryo to the uterine wall.

Acupuncture Recommendations in the Treatment of Infertility

Unexplained infertility accounts for 30-40% of infertility cases. Chronic stress is considered an influence on those diagnosed with unexplained infertility.  Along with acupuncture’s ability to create a sense of ease, it improves circulation, supports ovulation and normalizes hormones.  These phenomena have a huge influence on our reproductive capacity.  For these reasons many Reproductive Endocrinologists (Physicians who specialize in the treatment of infertility) recommend acupuncture as an adjunct or in preparation for IUI’s, IVF cycles and medicated or non-medicated cycles.  I recommend coming to an Acupuncturist as soon as a couple notices difficulty in conceiving so that the acupuncture, herbs, and diet changes can be incorporated to prepare the body for conception with the common side effect of conceiving naturally.

Resources:
Smith CA, Ussher JM, Perz J, Carmady B, Lacey SD. J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Oct 6. [Epub ahead of print]
The Effect of Acupuncture on Psychosocial Outcomes for Women Experiencing Infertility: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. 1 Centre for Complementary Medicine Research, The University of Western Sydney , Sydney, Australia

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