Alternative therapies for fertility
From acupuncture to yoga, non-medical approaches may help couples trying to conceive.
Wed, Apr 10 2013 at 4:36 PM
Infertility, defined as the inability to conceive after a year or more of trying, affects about 10 percent of couples — 6.1 percent of women between the ages of 15-44 according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Interestingly, infertility's been fodder for television conversation in episodes of "Downton Abbey," "Parks and Recreation" and "New Girl" recently. But the media’s attention to the travails of celebrities trying to conceive may have you thinking that IVF and surrogates are the only means available for couples having difficulty conceiving.
Yet there are many ways couples can boost their fertility naturally including acupuncture, Chinese medicine, supplements, fertility yoga and others. Most couples like to explore some of these options before venturing into more expensive — and invasive — treatments. Here, we look at a few of the top natural fertility boosters:
“Almost any time you go for acupuncture for anything the acupuncturist typically works on two things — the acute problem that you came for and what it is about your body that is making you have that acute problem,” says Kelly LeGendre, L.Ac., an acupuncturist at The Fix Community Acupuncture in Tucson.
In regard to fertility, the Eastern perspective looks for energetic imbalances, where energy is blocked and how to get energy to flow more freely. From a Western perspective, acupuncture improves fertility by increasing blood flow to the uterus, and that in turn can thicken the endometrial lining, which makes implantation easier. “There is definitely a balancing and regulating affect on hormones that can regulate ovulation and can relax the uterus and decrease uterine contractions that interfere with implantation,” says LeGendre.
Acupuncture releases beta-endorphins, and in addition to having a stress relieving affect, it has been show to improve all of your reproductive hormonal functions. So, not only does it soothe the sympathetic nervous system, but it has an effect on the entire nervous system.
In addition to needling, most acupuncturists also prescribe Chinese herbs in correlation with regulating hormones and balancing your menstrual cycle. Different formulas are given depending on what each woman’s specific issues are.
A study in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine found women receiving Chinese herbal treatments were twice as likely to get pregnant within a four-month period as those receiving conventional Western medical fertility drug treatment or IVF. LeGendre says it usually takes about three months of once weekly treatments and she often sees a pregnancy in the three- to six-month window.
LeGendre also recommends women’s male partners have treatment, as acupuncture and Chinese medicine can improve both sperm count and quality.
“We all know what it’s like when shoulders and neck get tight, so imagine all the structures in your body doing that because of the stress of trying to conceive,” says Jennifer Colletti, a master yoga teacher and Ayurveda yoga specialist at Fertile Grounding Yoga in Minneapolis.
Stress really hardens the body, so fertility yoga works on opening up the body with a lot of flow movements and breath work that can open the heart and uterus, or the low belly area — the musculature and ligaments there. Colletti explains that when we stress, we round in and crunch into the fetal position, and so the heart and uterus are shutting those areas of the body off. The idea is to soften and open those areas with gentle poses. Of course, yoga is a relaxing, stress-relieving and restorative treatment, too.
Some of Colletti’s clients are undergoing ART (artificial reproductive therapy), and some aren’t. “The way I look at it is if we want children in our lives, we have to make space for them and when our lives are overwrought with stress, there is no space for babies, so I teach them to find space in their lives so they can invite babies in.” Fertility yoga opens up that space in both your mind and body. Colletti said she doesn’t boast the successes, but she sees many, many pregnancies.
Researchers have found that 83 percent of couples living a fertility-friendly lifestyle got pregnant within one year. That includes:
- Stop smoking
- Avoid environmental toxins
- Get plenty of sleep
- Avoid alcohol
- Skip recreational drugs
- Eat healthy
“We tell men not to sit in a hot tub, not to work outdoors in prolonged warm temperatures, avoid tight undergarments, and avoid biking for long time periods, as warm temperatures can affect the production of sperm,” says Maher Abdallah, M.D. FACOG, an OB-GYN at American Reproductive Center in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Being overweight can also greatly reduce fertility, so diet and exercise is crucial.
Other natural treatment approaches
Other natural fertility treatments include chiropractic adjustments, hypnosis, and colored glasses that control melatonin production and may increase fertility by simulating approaching winter, the time of maximum fertility.
Wearing glasses before bedtime that block blue light may create an effect like actual darkness as far as the production of melatonin is concerned. This may simulate the longer nights of autumn, and since the majority of births occur in July, November is considered peak fertility month. Every month is November when wearing the special glasses. Of course, we’ve heard of stranger things than trying to fool Mother Nature into getting knocked up.
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