If you’ve ever struggled to get pregnant, you know how stressful the ordeal can be. Between constant doctor’s visits and repeatedly crushed hopes, this struggle can put a strain on you and your partner’s well-being that isn’t easily relieved. Unfortunately, the stress caused by infertility can also make the problem more difficult to overcome. One of the best ways to combat the stress of infertility is through the use of acupuncture. Before we get into that, though, let’s explore acupuncture for stress and fertility and the science of stress and its impact on fertility.
The link between stress and fertility
Stress may feel like an unhelpful burden, but it serves an important biological and evolutionary function. Whether your stress comes from a real, physical threat like starvation or an emotional or social threat, the effect is the same. Stress floods your body with a hormone called Cortisol, which gives you a boost of energy to escape whatever is causing it.
While this makes sense in the event of real danger, it creates a dilemma. Under intense stress, your body must prioritize its most basic functions that keep you alive, and it uses limited resources to accomplish the task. This is bad news for your body’s more complex functions, including reproduction.
If infertility is the source of your stress, it can create a negative feedback loop. You are stressed because you can’t get pregnant, and that stress makes it more difficult to get pregnant. The longer this goes on, the worse the stress can get, making it increasingly difficult to escape the cycle.
This is true for both men and women. Female fertility hormones like Estrogen and Progesterone are made from the same components as Cortisol, meaning that your body must choose where to allocate its resources. The more Cortisol, the less Estrogen and Progesterone. In men, Cortisol production can take the place of Testosterone production, which is essential to creating sperm.
These theories have been backed up through experiments. A 2016 study found that women’s self-reported stress levels during their ovulatory windows reduced probability of conception, supporting the idea that stress management is essential for aspiring mothers. Another 2016 study found a strong correlation between self-reported stress and semen quality for men.
Acupuncture and stress
Beta-endorphins are commonly known as the “feel-good” hormones. If you’ve ever felt amazing after a good, hard workout, you’ve felt this “feel-good” effect. The release of these hormones is a key component to acupuncture’s success in dealing with stress. They combat the production of Cortisol to reduce the negative side effects of stress and help your body out of sympathetic mode, more commonly known as ‘fight or flight’ mode. When your body enters a more relaxed state, also known as parasympathetic mode, it’s encouraged to produce the hormones you need to feel happy, relaxed, and ready to conceive.
Acupuncture, Chinese medicine and Fertility
For women attempting to get pregnant artificially through a process like assisted reproductive therapy (ART) or in vitro fertilization (IVF), acupuncture works in tandem with the process to increase your chances of getting pregnant. A 2002 study of women undergoing ART found that those who used acupuncture had a 42.5% success rate, while those without acupuncture had a success rate of only 26.3% A 1997 study found that male patients who exhibited low fertility potential and reduced sperm activity benefit from acupuncture as well.
The reasons for these results are complex and have many contributing factors. For women, acupuncture treats fertility-related problems like implantation issues, hormone imbalance, low egg quality, lack of cervical mucus, and luteal phase defect. In men, acupuncture can help increase sperm count and motility, enhance libido, and improve sperm morphology.
The success of acupuncture in treating fertility is also not limited to just reproductive mechanics. Acupuncture has been shown to improve blood flow to your reproductive organs and uterine lining, which improves fertility as well. Acupuncture also supports digestion, optimizing your assimilation and absorption of nutrients, ensuring that the reproductive system has the resources it needs to succeed.
The integration of ancient wisdom and modern science
Acupuncture has its roots in traditional Chinese medicine, and these processes are now better understood through modern science. Traditional Chinese medicine describes the process of acupuncture as one that balances the flow of energy—usually called chi or qi—which is thought to move within your body and energize all actions that take place there. It is believed that inserting needles into the exact right points will rebalance your energy, promoting overall wellness. Some think of it like a dam in a river. If your chi gets blocked up, you must remove the obstruction.
Modern science has integrated this ancient wisdom with contemporary medical techniques. Our modern understanding of the body’s endocrine and reproductive systems gives us new insights into why acupuncture has had such an enduring influence on the body and mind. By combining these approaches into a single paradigm through integrative medicine, we’ve gained a more comprehensive understanding of the human body and how to promote successful reproductive and improved overall health.
Acupuncture with Shelly Weber-Tompkins
Should you decide that acupuncture is the right choice to treat your stress and infertility, Shelly Weber-Tompkins and her team make the process easy, comfortable, and personal. When using Acupuncture for Stress and Fertility we will ask you about your unique fertility journey, current health, and lifestyle. Once we’ve assessed how best to proceed, we’ll begin work on a personalized treatment. In addition to the acupuncture itself, we may also send you for lab testing on hormonal imbalances and prescribe custom herbal formulas and supplemental routines when needed. Our goal is to guide you toward your best health and highest fertility potential.
Shelly Weber-Tompkins also works with couples remotely by Zoom or phone, for fertility and health assessments with a plan to maximize their results. This is especially helpful for those not living in the San Diego area but want professional guidance in holistic ways to improve their fertility. You can contact our office for more information and to set up an appointment.
Shelly Weber-Tompkins has studied Chinese medicine and fertility for over 33 years and has learned firsthand through her own studies just how powerful these techniques can be. In addition to her extensive experience in acupuncture and herbal medicine, she is also a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner and a former professor and clinical supervisor in OB/GYN and Infertility. Her passion lies in helping couples achieve their dreams of having a family.
Our clinic provides the highest quality fertility acupuncture in San Diego, so if you are suffering from infertility-related stress, contact us today to end the cycle of Cortisol-induced infertility.