A recent study by scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that sperm counts among men in the west have fallen by around 50% in four decades.
There is nothing new in this study – it was an analysis of more than 100 previous studies in the field, but it certainly highlights what fertility experts have known for decades; that more and more couples worldwide are having problems conceiving.
According to the NHS, one in seven couples in the UK may have difficulty conceiving. The causes of fertility are myriad, from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis and thyroid problems for women, to lower quality sperm and low sperm count for men. But for 25% of couples with fertility issues, a cause cannot be identified.
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) has gained wide acceptance since the world’s first baby was born through IVF in 1978 (remember Baby Louise?). In the UK, more than 250,000 babies were born through IVF. In the western world, 1% (and rising) of all babies are born through assisted reproductive technology.
However, IVF cannot help everyone, with its high emotional, social and financial burden. Fertility drugs have side effects, from bloating and mood swings, to ectopic pregnancy and ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome. The success rate of IVF is highly dependent on the age of the woman undergoing treatment, as well as the cause of infertility.
Unless couples have very specific reasons for going down the IVF route, it’s best to try boosting fertility the natural way first. Some of the suggestions are well-known – get healthy, lose weight, don’t leave it too late, have fun with sex. Less well known is the importance of keeping calm and relaxed and not getting too anxious.
In Chinese medicine, the Uterus Channel or Bao Mai is the channel which connects the uterus to the heart. The heart is particularly susceptible to emotional stress such as anxiety, which in turn can affect the health and receptivity of the uterus. Trying to have a baby can be very stressful, and when the body is in an anxious state, many physiological reactions can adversely affect your ability to conceive. Hormones are released, blood vessels are constricted, and blood moves away from the torso to the limbs as your body gets ready to flee in a ‘fight-or-flight’ response. This means that blood supply to the pelvic organs, the uterus and ovaries is reduced.
Acupuncture helps boost fertility by improving blood flow to the pelvic organs, therefore promoting the growth of endometrial tissue, optimising ovulation, and regulating menstruation. Acupuncture, when performed by a properly trained practitioner, is safe and has very few adverse side effects.