Researchers at Tel Aviv University possibly found a way to boost the chances of conception – by combining traditional Chinese medicine with Western fertility treatment.
Chinese medicine is used to help relieve chronic pain, treat diseases and improve fertility. In the Western medical community, Chinese medicine is known as TCM, an acronym to describe the various methods of treatment, which include acupuncture and herbal treatments.
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Western fertility treatment, Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), is a conventional medical treatment that aims to separate the fast moving sperm from the slow sperm in a laboratory setting. Once the fast moving sperm is identified, it is inserted into the woman’s womb during ovulation – the peak time to conceive.
According to the researchers, there are multiple benefits of TCM treatments as it works holistically to correct bodily imbalances. There are multiple theories as to why Chinese herbs and acupuncture treatments can be beneficial for fertility, as they help to encourage ovulation and regulate the menstrual cycle, as well as to enhance blood flow to the uterus. In addition, they can encourage production and secretion of endorphins to the central nervous system, which can induce a sense of calmness. All of these factors are important components for successful conception.
Dr. Shahar Lev-Ari, a cellular biologist and head of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, joined forces with Keren Sela, a TCM practitioner with an interest in women’s health. The two tried to measure the effectiveness of herb preparations and acupuncture in combination with IUI fertility treatment.
Their results, which were recently published in the Journal of Integrative Medicine, show that when TCM is used in conjunction with IUI treatments, the chances of conception are significantly increased. The researchers found that 65.5 percent of the women who had both TCM and IUI treatments were later able to conceive, compared to 39.9 percent of women who were administered the IUI treatment only.
In another study, Lev-Ari and Sela followed the progress of 29 women aged 30 to 45 who had a combination of TCM treatments and IUI, as well as a a group of 90 women aged 28 to 46, who received IUI as a stand-alone treatment.
The women in the first group were given IUI treatments and were prescribed weekly acupuncture sessions, along with various raw and powdered Chinese herbs approved by the Israeli Health Ministry. Each prescription varied according to the women’s personal needs. Out of these women, 65.5 percent conceived and 41.4 percent delivered healthy babies. Compared to them, women who were only administered IUI treatments did not enjoy the same results: only 39.4 percent of the women conceived and 26.9 percent delivered babies.
This significant difference in fertility and birth rates is particularly surprising considering that the average age of the women in the first group was 39.4, while that of the second group was 37.1. Normally, the older the mother, the lower the pregnancy and delivery rates, the researchers explain.
The research team now hopes to continue the scope of this research by designing randomised clinical trials, which will include placebo treatment to further validate their initial findings.
Photo by marniejoyce