The fertility rate in the United States has been declining for the past few decades. The fertility rate is the number of children an average woman bears over the course of her life. The replacement rate is 2.1. If the average woman has more children than that, population grows. Today, America's total fertility rate is 1.93, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; it hasn't been above the replacement rate in a sustained way since the early 1970s.
Infertility is defined as the inability to become pregnant after a year or more of sperm insemination or well-timed, unprotected vaginal intercourse. Infertility may be a temporary or a permanent condition; this depends on the available treatments, the cause, and the fertility of the partner at any particular point in time.
Infertility is often incorrectly considered "the woman's problem". To improve the couple's chances of conception a child together, both the man and the woman should be evaluated, and treated, if necessary, Because conception is a complicated process, it depends upon several factors.
There are many potential causes for infertility or reproductive problems. Chronic illnesses, as well as their treatments, can lead to fertility problems. Illnesses like diabetes and hypothyroidism can cause fertility problems. Insulin, antidepressants, and thyroid hormones may lead to irregular menstrual cycles, for example. Premature ovarian failure has become a common cause of infertility in younger women, often diagnosed as “unexplained infertility”.
Environmental toxins and xenoestrogens in foods are known to cause hormone disruption, and free radical damage to both ovaries in women and sperm production in men. Certain toxins such as phthalates may be linked to genital abnormalities in boys. Products that contain phthalates include food packaging, cosmetics, make-up, soaps, fragrances, shampoos, hairspray, nail polish, pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, building materials, vinyl flooring, paints, adhesives, detergents, solvents, lubricating oils, plastic bags, garden hoses, automobiles, children’s toys, modeling clay, glow sticks, cleaning products, and as inert ingredients in insecticides. In many instances phthalates are not identified on product labels.
40% of infertility can be due to male factors, and acupuncture also treats male partners of women trying to conceive. Medication used to treat peptic ulcers or hypertension can cause male factor infertility, including problems with sperm production or their ability to fertilize the egg. In men, average sperm concentration went from 72 million/ml in 2001 to 52 million/ml in 2011. When sperm concentration drops below 40 million/ml, conception becomes difficult. Researchers agree that diet, lifestyle, and exposure to chemicals are causing the worldwide decline. Fertility issues are environmental issues
Couples experiencing difficulty conceiving may be referred to a fertility specialist for evaluation. Typically, blood testing, genetic testing, and sperm testing are done to determine if there are any medical or hormonal abnormalities that need to be treated.
Currently, there are several medical treatments for infertility performed by MDs who specialize in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). These treatments are typically hormones to induce ovulation, IUI or intrauterine insemination, which is a procedure in which sperm are placed directly into the uterine cavity near the time of ovulation and IVF, or in-vitro fertilization, which is a procedure that involves retrieving eggs and sperm from the bodies of the male and female partners and placing them together in a laboratory dish to enhance fertilization. Fertilized eggs are then transferred several days later into the female partner's uterus where implantation and embryo development will hopefully occur as in a normal pregnancy.
Success rates with IUI can vary from 5% to 20% for a single cycle, depending on the age and health of the couple. With several IUI cycles, the conception rate can be even higher. According to the American Pregnancy Association, the success rate of conception with IVF is 10%-35%, again depending on the age and health status of the couple. Both IUI and IVF procedures can cost several thousand dollars per cycle or treatment, and are not always covered by insurance.
From the viewpoint of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture and Naturopathic Medicine, other factors contributing to infertility include imbalances in the energy meridians of the body, toxic overload, and lifestyle factors such as poor diet, stress, and lack of proper sleep.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are affordable therapies that have been used safely and effectively alongside with IUI and IVF, as well as a stand-alone treatment for infertility. Studies have shown that acupuncture can improve the success rate of IVF by 40%-60%. The typical cost for an Acupuncture session is only $85.00.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help improve fertility and the success of IVF in a number of ways:
1. Improve the function of the ovaries to produce better quality eggs
2. Restore hormonal balance and blood flow to the ovaries to produce a large number of follicles
3. Increase blood flow to the uterus to increase thickness of the uterine lining
4. Reduce stress, increase relaxation and improve sleep
5. Lessen the side effects of drugs used in IUI and IVF
6. Balances the immune system
7. Improves sperm count, motility, and morphology.
Using proven Acupuncture techniques, Chinese herbal medicine, detoxification, nutritional counseling, nutritional supplementation, and stress reduction can help to restore balance and overall wellness. Restoring balance allows the body’s hormones and natural cycles to become more regular, and increases the body’s response to IUI and IVF, thus improving fertility.
Traditional Acupuncture involves inserting extremely thin, sterile, stainless steel, disposable needles into specific points on the surface of the skin, restoring balance to the body, mind, and spirit along with the correction of infertility-related imbalances and deficiencies. This age-old system of medicine has stood the test of thousands of years and yet continues to rise above and improve health even in our modern western culture. This sophisticated yet subtle method of treatment is so effective because of its focus on each individual's particular needs. At the same time, acupuncture is a very relaxing and rejuvenating treatment.
Dr. Helene Pulnik is a board-certified, licensed Naturopathic Physician, and Licensed Acupuncturist. She is also a Registered Pharmacist and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition.
She has studied infertility treatment using acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, and stress reduction with Mike Berkley, Lac. In New York, and Dr. Randine Lewis, author of The Infertility Cure.
Integrating the wisdom of proven acupuncture techniques and natural medicine, Dr. Pulnik treats couples by supporting the body’s natural cycles to enhance fertility. Dr. Pulnik provides Acupuncture, detoxification, herbal, and nutritional counseling for infertile couples.
- Acupuncture & IVF: Increase IVF Success by 40-60% by Lifang Liang
- The Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Updated Tables, September 2012 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility: Handbook for Clinicians (pocket sized) by Dan I. Lebovic, John David Gordon and Robert N. Taylor
- The Infertility Cure: The Ancient Chinese Wellness Program for Getting Pregnant and Having Healthy Babies, by Randine Lewis, Ph.D.
- Declining Sperm Counts, BMJ. 1996 July 6; 313(7048): 43–45,