USA Today Article on Fertility and Acupuncture
USA Today published a very positive article on acupuncture's use for fertility, something that we work with on a daily basis at the Northside Holistic Center. The majority of the article is reprinted below. Other links on infertility and Chinese medicine can be found here, here and here.
Infertile women sing acupuncture's praises
by Claudia Pinto
Brooke Akin underwent three rounds of artificial insemination at $3,000 a pop. She took fertility drugs that made her feel moody. Yet, after three and a half years of trying, she still wasn't pregnant.
A stainless steel acupuncture needle is so fine it does not stimulate pain reflexes on the nerve endings where it's applied.
Akin, 29, of Hermitage, Tenn., says her doctor recommended that she undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF), which costs roughly $15,000. But after some initial skepticism, Akin decided to put modern medicine aside and try the ancient practice of acupuncture.
"I was pregnant by the third month. It was awesome," says Akin, who gave birth to her son, Hudson, in October. "He's my little acupuncture baby."
It's estimated that 10 percent of all women are unable to become pregnant after trying for a year. It's a problem of special interest to the growing number of women who have waited until their late 30s and early 40s to have children.
Spurred, in part, by reports of celebrities such as Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and Khloe Kardashian trying it, more and more of these women are turning to acupuncture -- the practice of inserting thin needles into the skin to relieve pain or promote healing -- to address fertility issues.
Some women turn to acupuncture after not being able to conceive naturally. Others do it in conjunction with IVF or other medical treatments. Or as a last-ditch effort after trying everything modern medicine has to offer.
Science is untested
While these anecdotal stories sound promising, Dr. Esther Eisenberg, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, says there hasn't been a large comprehensive study looking at whether acupuncture really helps women become pregnant.
"We don't know the answer," she says.
Eisenberg says she's more likely to recommend that women do things that have been proven to increase the likelihood of pregnancy, such as exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy body weight, and staying away from cigarettes.
She did note that women who want to try acupuncture should rest assured that it isn't going to hurt them in any way.
Akin says the relatively low cost of acupuncture compared to IVF is actually one of the reasons she decided to try it. Costs typically range from $60 to $120 per treatment. Akin underwent weekly treatments for three months before getting pregnant.
"IVF is so invasive and so costly," Akin says. "I just wasn't ready for it."
An ancient practice
Akin was surprised that she looked forward to getting pricked every week.
Initially, she worried it would hurt, but she says the needles are so thin that she could barely feel it when 15 or so were inserted in her head, stomach, arms and legs. With the soft music and dim lighting, Akin says she found the experience to be pretty relaxing.
"It's kind of like being in a spa," Akin says, adding that afterward she felt a lot healthier than she did taking fertility drugs.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is the leading cause of infertility. And according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, most cases of female infertility are caused by problems with ovulation, which is typically marked by irregular or absent periods.
Acupuncturist Mark Shprintz, owner of Nashville Healing Arts, explains that acupuncture is thought to improve the blood supply to the ovaries, which may improve their quality and function. Shprintz says acupuncture has been used to treat such fertility problems for more than 2,000 years. It's nothing new, he says.
"When people hear about the Khloes and the Mariahs, it sparks an interest," he says.