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Can acupuncture and hypnosis treat infertility?

Hypnosis and Infertility
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There haven't been many studies on hypnosis as a successful treatment for infertility. However, more and more are coming out, some with astonishing results. One even suggests that hypnosis can double a woman's chance of getting pregnant when used in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF) [source: Fertility and Sterility Journal]. Like acupuncture, hypnosis has a long history -- and it's actually been included in Western medicine since the late 1800s, when doctors used it to help sedate surgery patients.

The process of hypnosis usually begins when a trained therapist asks a person to focus his or her attention on a specific point or idea. This results in a sleep- or trancelike state in which the patient is more receptive to suggestions. When hypnosis is used to treat diseases, addictions or symptoms, we call it hypnotherapy.

Hypnotherapy is believed to be a successful treatment for a variety of ailments, including anxiety, insomnia, pain management and stress-related illnesses. Some women use it to relieve labor pains. The success of hypnotherapy is thought to be caused by many of the same factors seen in acupuncture. Patients undergoing hypnotherapy may be able to lower their blood pressure or increase their immune-system function, both of which would be beneficial for a woman trying to get pregnant. Women may also be able to balance their hormone levels, which, as we discussed, could increase chances of pregnancy. Another benefit includes reducing unhealthy lifestyle patterns -- like smoking and obesity -- that could decrease fertility in both men and women.

However, in the case of infertility, hypnotherapy's effect on anxiety and stress may be the most important factor. As we saw above, hypnotherapy does seem to be effective on its own, but many studies focus on it in conjunction with the stress of IVF.

In 2006, a team from Soroka University in Israel followed women who were undergoing IVF. Some of the women were hypnotized during the embryo transfer stage, a stressful process that can be impeded by uterine contractions. The study showed that 28 percent of the hypnotized women got pregnant, as compared to 14 percent of the women who didn't receive hypnotherapy. The researchers attributed the success of hypnotherapy to relaxation, which may have reduced uterine contractions [source: Our Jerusalem].

But critics aren'­t convinced. Many of them point to research flaws that could negate the findings. But the study has made an impact by encouraging further studies on the effects of hypnotherapy on infertility.

To learn more about acupuncture, hypnosis and their use in infertility treatment, look over the links on the next page.