It might be fun to make a baby the old-fashioned way, but enduring fertility treatments is a lot less enjoyable. From hormone injections and ovulation induction to In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and other Assisted Reproductive Therapies, the entire process can be stressful and even heartbreaking. It’s no wonder that a whole suite of complementary medical services have developed to help hopeful mothers and their partners. So how can alternative medicine help, and what are some complementary medicine options in fertility?
Until fairly recently, a clear line was drawn between modern and traditional medicine. Medical doctors and doctors of osteopathy, along with numerous health care providers, practiced “standard medical” care. Just as it sounds, “alternative medicine” was an “instead of” approach––practitioners and those who sought treatment did it as an alternative. The two approaches were viewed as rivals: Eastern vs Western; Modern vs Traditional. In the 20th century, older remedies were replaced by newer ones with little consideration about what was being supplanted.
Today that is changing. The wall between standard and alternative treatment has at least been scaled if not dismantled completely. That’s because the backbone of modern medicine is research and provable results. As alternative therapies demonstrate their efficacy, doctors practicing standard medicine feel comfortable recommending them to their patients. Over 60 million people in the United States alone access Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) every year. It’s a component in cancer treatments, weight loss, and numerous other medical conditions. For anyone facing a barrage of fertility treatments, there are a number of CAM options. They not only work for couples struggling to conceive but anyone who wants to feel better and improve their overall health.
Herbal and Natural Therapies
For many women, adjusting their vitamin intake or adding a special blended tea to their nighttime routine is part of trying to get pregnant. However, just because a product is natural does not mean it’s safe. Many poisons occur naturally. Your healthcare provider should be informed about any supplements, herbs, or other natural products you are taking and be consulted before you try anything new. Some pose a particular risk to women who are trying to get pregnant. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health offers information on a variety of herbs, including risks to women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
This ancient Chinese treatment involves the insertion of needles into various areas of the body. Fertility clinics often offer it as part of their program or recommend acupuncturists to their clients. In one 2014 study, women who had acupuncture performed on the day of embryo transfer enjoyed a higher percentage of live births than those that didn’t. As a popular alternative therapy for a variety of medical conditions, it may help by reducing stress, improving blood flow, and reducing uterine contractions. While it is generally safe, the exact way it benefits patients remains inconclusive.
Diet and Exercise
While complementary medicine often utilizes ancient practices, diet and fitness routines can be monitored with modern devices. Eating well and exercising can improve your outlook and increase fertility. Treatments to improve your chances of conceiving can increase anxiety, which ironically will diminish your chances of becoming pregnant. That’s why many women hoping to conceive make changes to their diet and exercise more often. Some also participate in yoga and tai chi.
Unfortunately, a study conducted in a pair of Montreal fertility clinics reflected what other research into alternative therapy has borne out. Generally men not only refused to participate in complementary medicine but were openly skeptical of the process. Some women may prefer to pursue yoga, acupuncture, etc. away from their partners. Still, if they feel isolated partly because invasive treatments directly affect their body, convincing men to participate might not only reduce both partner’s stress but also increase the chance of conception.
Written by John Bankston
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine
- More Than One-Third of U.S. Adults Use Complementary and Alternative Medicine, According to New Government Survey
- Herbs at a Glance
- COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE
- Acupuncture and In Vitro Fertilization: A Retrospective Chart Review
- Acupuncture: In Depth
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use in Infertility: Cultural and Religious Influences in a Multicultural Canadian Setting