Complementary alternative medicine describes techniques that can be helpful when used together with traditional medical care. As it relates to fertility, there are some “standouts” that have been linked to improved outcomes when used in combination with traditional fertility treatments. These complementary therapies are useful adjuncts to treatment but they are not designed to replace appropriately timed evaluations with your doctor or standard recommendations on treatment.
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Eastern medicine that is based on the theory that energy (chi) can be blocked by illness. Acupuncture has been thought to unblock or restore chi and promote energy flow and balance. This therapy can be performed using thin needles or laser therapy along with specific points in your body. Acupuncture has been used to restore ovulation, regulate menstrual cycles, treat pain associated with endometriosis, and even decrease stress associated with conception. Specifically, it is thought to boost fertility by increasing blood flow to the uterus. At our center, laser acupuncture treatment performed at the time of embryo transfer during an in vitro fertilization cycle resulted in a significant improvement in implantation rates. Bottom line, if you enjoy acupuncture then go for it.
The human body contains many more microbial cells than human cells, and the “healthy bugs” that normally colonize the human microbiome have a significant impact on human physiology. Disrupting this delicate ecosystem can lead to diseases and may impact ultimate outcomes such as reproductive success. This is an active area of investigation, and while we don’t have enough data to suggest popping a daily pro-biotic we are searching for the answer.
Eating a well-balanced diet is important, but in specific instances, this may not be enough. Some patients may have an intolerance to gluten (celiac disease) and eliminating this from the diet can enhance fertility treatments. Similarly, a change in diet and regular exercise can help patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome regain normal menstrual cycles.
Exercise increases circulation to the reproductive system and supports a healthy immune system. Yoga is particularly impactful as it promotes a calming environment that can also reduce stress and encourage balance. This CAM technique, like many of the others mentioned, can be a useful adjunct to fertility treatment.