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Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs for IUI Support

IUI for Infertility

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is a fertility treatment which involves placing sperm inside a woman’s uterus to increase the number of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes and subsequently increase the chance of fertilization. IUI provides the sperm an advantage by giving it a head start, but still requires a sperm to reach and fertilize the egg on its own.

IUI is most commonly used for unexplained fertility, cervical factor infertility, low sperm count or decreased sperm mobility, and ejaculation dysfunction. It is also used when there is a need of donor sperm to conceive, including when same-sex couples or a single woman wishing to conceive.

The success of IUI depends on several factors, including maternal age, the cause of infertility, and the fertility drugs (if any) used. On average, the success rate of IUI is 10-20% for women under 35 and 2-5% for women over 40.1 The success rate of IUI is 4% for women who did not use fertility drug during IUI cycles, and 8-17% for women who used fertility drugs to produce multiple, high-quality eggs during IUI cycles.2

IUI is a relatively simple and safe procedure. There is a small risk of infection and spotting following IUI procedure. If fertility medications are used to induce ovulation, there is a risk of pregnancy with multiple babies. Sometimes the ovaries over-respond to fertility medications (particularly the medications given as injections) and numerous eggs may be matured at one time and possibly released. This condition, called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, can result in an enlarged ovary, fluid buildup in the abdomen, and cramping.3

 

Supporting IUI with TCM

TCM provides natural, least invasive, effective, safe, and cost-effective treatment to enhance both male and female fertility. Not only helping couples achieve natural pregnancy, TCM also improves the success rate of IUI.

A study conducted in Tel Aviv University in in Tel Aviv, Israel showed the pregnancy rate of 65.5% and live birth rate of 41.1% in patient group who received a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine treatments with IUI cycle. The pregnancy rate was 39.4% and live birth rate was 26.9% in the patient group with IUI cycle without TCM treatment.4

 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the most popular form of TCM treatment modalities. Acupuncture involves the insertion of sterilized, single-use, very thin stainless steel needles into specific points on the body known as acupuncture points. The acupuncture points are located on the meridians, where Qi (the vital energy of the body) flows through to provide the body with strength and nourishment.

Acupuncture increases blood flow to the pelvic cavity and strengthens the function of reproductive organs, balances the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis to regulate and improve the body’s natural hormonal production, increases energy level, reduces stress, and relaxes the body.

 

Chinese Herbs

Chinese herbal medicine promotes blood flow to the reproductive organs to improve sperm parameters in male and egg quality and thickness of uterine lining in female by nourishing Qi and Blood and restoring the balance of Zang Fu organs. By thickening and strengthening uterine lining, Chinese herbs help increase implantation rates and prevent miscarriage.

 

 

TCM Can Support IUI by:

  • Improving sperm quality and quantity
  • Enhancing the health of follicles and eggs
  • Increasing blood flow to the uterus to improve the quality of endometrium lining and overall uterine environment
  • Preventing uterine contraction to enhance embryo implantation
  • Alleviating the side effects of fertility medications
  • Reducing stress levels and relaxing the body
  • Improving energy level and overall health

TCM Treatment Plan

Preparation for IUI cycle

We highly recommend starting TCM treatment 3 months before IUI cycle as the eggs begin their maturation 90 days before they are chosen for ovulation, and the sperm maturation process takes about 70-90 days. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine for 3 months prior to IUI cycle allow the opportunity to improve egg and sperm quality, optimize hormonal balance, strengthen the uterus, and improve general health and well-being.

During this time, a weekly acupuncture treatment and daily Chinese herbal medicine are recommended. Depending on TCM diagnosis based on your medical history and presentations, adjustive treatment procedures, such as electro-acupuncture and moxibustion, will be added to acupuncture treatments. For women with complex or challenging health situations and for men with low sperm quality and quantity, 6 months or longer preparation time and/or more frequent acupuncture treatment is advisable.

 

Ovarian Stimulation / Monitoring Phase

During this phase, TCM treatment focus on enhancing the development of follicles and uterine lining, reducing stress and anxiety. If ovarian stimulating medications are used to prompt the ovaries to mature and release an egg or multiple eggs, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help reduce the side effects of fertility medications, such as hot flushes, headaches, and mood swings.

Generally, 1-2 weekly acupuncture treatment and daily Chinese herbal medicine are recommended. Chinese herbs can help stimulate ovulation, improve the uterine lining, and reduce the side effect of fertility medications, and there is no evidence of negative interaction between Chinese herbs and fertility medications. However, many fertility doctors are unfamiliar with, and therefore hesitant about, Chinese herbs. In this case, all herbal formulas will be stopped 2 weeks prior to fertility medications, and only acupuncture treatments will be provided.

 

Before and After IUI Procedure

Acupuncture treatment for men on the day of semen collection is unnecessary. For female, acupuncture treatments on the day before and the day of IUI procedure (ideally right after the procedure) can reduce uterine contractions and promote general relaxation. If you were on Chinese herbal medicine, it will be paused once your fertility doctor detected ovulation until the result of IUI comes because different herbs may be used after the procedure.

An acupuncture treatment 5-7 days after IUI procedure is advised to further assist implantation and embryo development. When pregnancy occurs, we highly recommend a weekly acupuncture treatment through the end of first trimester to prevent miscarriage and support a healthy pregnancy.

 

 
 
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