Correlating Stress and Infertility, and the Benefits of Acupuncture for Treatment
Infertility can be a troubling and stressful diagnosis for individuals and couples hoping to conceive. If we look to the root causes of infertility, we find that stress itself can be a contributing factor in many cases, which can feel like a catch-22 when seeking treatment. Fortunately, acupuncture is considered to be one of the most effective treatments for infertility, and one reason is its effect on stress and anxiety.
Stress & Anxiety and Hormones
The study of the correlation between emotional and physical stress and fertility in both men and women has become more prevalent, and it has been found that it is primarily the neurological effects of stress which can negatively impact fertility.1 For example, the hormones produced by the body experiencing stress and anxiety can effect the glands and brain such as the pituitary, hypothalamus, and adrenals. When these systems are not functioning optimally, hormone secretion balance is disrupted, and irregular fertility or complete infertility can result. For such women with an unbalanced hormone profile, ovulation is observed less frequently or not at all.
Further, research strongly points to the physiological burden of stress on reproductive health while seeking treatment for infertility. Because infertility is often a great source of stress, the treatment for infertility must include the reduction of stress.2 This is where acupuncture can be a highly effective tool.
Treating Stress-Related Infertility with Acupuncture
Though acupuncture has long been used to treat infertility and hormonal imbalances in men and women, scientific investigation is now offering support for what has been observed by clinicians.
Acupuncture is highly efficacious in reducing stress in the physiology, and may be why it is successfully used as a primary treatment for hormonal imbalance and infertility. The application of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and acupuncture specifically, can be scientifically observed to reduce production of neurological chemicals that contribute to stress.3
Clinically, acupuncture has been used extensively for the treatment of stress, and there is evidence to support that when the brain is balanced and stress is reduced, hormonal balance and fertility can be restored.
Beta-endorphins, which are neuropeptides produced by the pituitary gland, are now observed to play a role in the regulation and balancing of hormones, and thus, the occurrence of regular ovulation and overall fertility. 4 Acupuncture has been shown to raise beta-endorphins levels even one day post-treatment.5 When opioid peptide beta-endorphins are increased, the physiological stress-response is reduced, which greatly supports overall hormonal and balance, semen health, and ovulation regulation.
And, naturally, acupuncture in this way interrupts the cycle of stress and anxiety contributing to infertility, which in turn contributes to stress and anxiety.
1. JG Schenker, et al, Stress and human reproduction, European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology, June 1992.
2. L Xu, et al, Psychological aspects of infertile couples in China, Zhonghua Fu Chan Ke Za Zhi, April, 1994.
3. D Chao, et al, Naloxone reverses inhibitory effect of electroacupuncture on sympathetic cardiovascular reflex responses, American Journal of Physiology – Heart and Circulatory Physiology, June, 1999.
4. AS Sprouse-Blum, et al, Understanding endorphins and their importance in pain management, Hawaii Medical Journal, 2010.
5. F Petti, et al, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1998.