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Chinese medicine emphasizes the proper conditions for a successful and healthy pregnancy. This is where Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can play a very important role in improving In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) outcomes.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been practiced for thousands of years. While Western medicine has been slow to embrace the benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is some evidence to suggest the benefits of a combination of Eastern and Western medicine. Studies have shown that Traditional Chinese Medicine, and specifically acupuncture, can improve blood flow, enhance the immune system, and increase pain tolerance. While there are many wild and unsubstantiated claims to the benefits of acupuncture and herbal remedies, Arizona Center for Fertility Studies believes that there can be a symbiosis to the combination of acupuncture and in vitro fertilization (IVF). Acupuncture, applied by inexperienced practitioners, can actually compromise an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle by decreasing blood flow to reproductive organs. However, when done correctly, some studies have shown that acupuncture can increase implantation rates, improve uterine and ovarian blood flow, increase live birth rates, increase sperm counts, morphology and motility and reduce miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies and decrease stress. Care has to be taken, however, because there is a substantial number of studies that show little to no beneficial advantage of acupuncture and herbal treatments.
Central to the discipline of acupuncture is the concept of chi (also commonly spelled "qi" or "ki") which is a fundamental concept rooted in traditional Chinese culture. Simply defined, chi is that life force or spiritual energy which is part of every living thing that exists. Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture are parts of an ancient system of techniques used to facilitate the flow of chi as a means of enhancing vitality and/or addressing health issues.
Acupuncture involves the stimulation of specific points on the body along pathways called "meridians" which are channels acting as highways carrying chi energy to various regions of the body.
Acupuncture points are points along the meridians which associate with corresponding organs and/or health states. Acupuncture is a method for the manipulation of these points through the use of thin needles in order to aid the flow of the body's vital energy (chi) for the purpose of dealing with specific conditions and diseases.
We all know that blood runs through our blood vessels to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the tissue and remove toxic material to ensure the optimal function and health of each organ. We can actually see the blood vessels through areas of our body covered by thin skin such as wrists and forearms. Alongside blood vessels, run meridians which act as highways carrying chi to different parts of the body. We neither see meridians nor the energy flowing inside them.
In Chinese medicine, disease happens if the flow of chi is disturbed or blocked. By inserting thin acupuncture needles into specific acupuncture points, blockage of energy can be released to resume the flow of the vital force to the target organ ensuring it's optimal function. For example, if there is a blockage inside the meridians supplying chi to the lungs, the person can manifest the sign of imbalance in the form of asthma or cough. By inserting acupuncture needles into the corresponding points, the blockage will be removed and the flow of energy to the organ (lungs in this example) will be resumed, ensuring optimal function and remedying the imbalance manifesting as cough or asthma.
Scientific communities are becoming increasingly fascinated by the effectiveness of Chinese medicine and specifically acupuncture and this in turn has led to a number of empirical efforts to better understand acupuncture. Of the more notable topics of focus for such research have been the meridian pathways and the validity of the notion that they carry chi or life energy throughout the body. A number of studies have used radioactive tracers, such as technetium-99 (commonly used in thyroid scans), to trace the meridians by injecting into both acupuncture points along meridians and non-acupuncture points (point also not corresponding to blood vessel locations). Following the injections, the areas are then photographed using scintiphotography (gamma camera) to determine the path taken by T-99. The results repeatedly show that the T-99 that was injected into acupuncture points followed a path that was consistent with the paths and locations along the meridians as defined in the meridian chart. On the other hand, when T-99 was injected into non-acupuncture non-vessel points, it did not spread and stayed local.
Biopsies of acupuncture points have shown higher concentrations of nerves and blood vessels as compared to non-acupuncture points.
In other studies, scientists have recorded levels of endogenous opioidbiochemical compounds (endorphins) which are natural compounds produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. Endorphins have long been known to have mood enhancing, pain modulating, and immune enhancing qualities. Endorphins also play a role in the regulation of the body's "fight or flight" response and its long term effects on health. Measurements of endorphins present inside the spinal fluid before and after acupuncture treatments indicate that acupuncture has certain triggering effect on the production of endorphins.By lowering the body's internal stress level, acupuncture may play a role in helping woman deal with the stresses of infertility treatment.
Many of the therapeutic effects of acupuncture are exerted via endorphin production. Endorphin levels are shown to remain high for 24-48 hours after treatment. Each acupuncture treatment can add to the lasting effect of the previous treatment session. For this reason, multiple treatments are usually recommended for the purpose of stabilizing the endorphin levels and the resulting effects on well-being".
Used with permission of Dr. Sima Aidun
While there is still much research to be done confirming the beneficial aspects of acupuncture in in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments, and there are studies that support as well as refute its benefits, Arizona Center for Fertility Studies supports a woman's decision to use acupuncture and herbal treatments by an experienced and licensed practitioner; as well as allowing her acupuncturist to work in our office before and after embryo transfer.
Although, many woman have found an acupuncturist that they are comfortable with, Arizona Center for Fertility Studies works with and recommends, Dr. Sima Aidun, who is a licensed and experienced practitioner in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Dr. Sima Aidun, N.M.D. 10752 N. 89th Place, Suite 124 Scottsdale, AZ 85260
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