The team found Chinese herbal and acupuncture therapies could work to boost Western-style fertility treatments
Traditional Chinese medicine has long been used to ease pain and treat disease.
Now researchers have found it can also boost fertility if used in combination with fertility treatments.
A team led by Dr Shahar Levi-Ari from Tel Aviv University compared the success rates of couples using intrauterine insemination (IUI) both with and without Chinese herbal and acupuncture therapies.
IUI involves a laboratory procedure to separate fast moving sperm from more sluggish sperm.
The fast moving sperm are then placed into the woman’s womb close to the time of ovulation when the egg is released from the ovary in the middle of the monthly cycle.
The results, which have been published in the Journal of Integrative Medicine, show a significant increase in fertility when the therapies are administered side-by-side.
When combining IUI with traditional treatments, 65.5 per cent of the test group were able to conceive, compared with 39.4 per cent of the control group, who received no herbal or acupuncture therapy.
The scientists said the method is as ‘close to nature’ as possible and can be used by women employing sperm donors, or after a partner’s sperm is centrifuged to enhance its motility in the uterus.
Dr Lev-Ari said he had long been interested in how Chinese herbal and acupuncture therapies could work to boost Western-style fertility treatments, contributing to an increase in conception and take-home baby rates.
In a retrospective study, his team followed the progress of 29 women between the ages of 30 and 45 who were receiving IUI treatment combined with TCM therapy, and compared their results to a control group of 94 women between the ages of 28 and 46 who were undergoing IUI treatment alone.
In addition to their IUI treatments, the 29 women in the first group received weekly sessions of acupuncture and a regime of Chinese medicinals, which consisted of powdered or raw Chinese herbs such as PeoniaAlbae and Chuanxiong.
All herbal preparations were approved by the Israeli Health Ministry.
Out of the 29 women in the test group, 65.5 percent conceived, and 41.4 percent delivered healthy babies. In the control group, only 39.4 percent conceived and 26.9 percent delivered.
The vast difference in success rates is even more surprising when the age of the average participant was taken into account.
The scientists noted: ‘The average age of the women in the study group was 39.4, while that of the control group was 37.1. Normally, the older the mother, the lower the pregnancy and delivery rates.’
There are several theories as to why Chinese medicine can be beneficial to fertility rates, including the possibility that herbal remedies and acupuncture can affect the ovulation and menstrual cycle, enhance blood flow to the uterus, enhance endorphin production and induce calm.
Now that the researchers have established that traditional remedies can have a major impact on the success of fertility treatments, they plan to design randomised clinical trials, including placebos, to further validate their initial findings.