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Making the Case for an Alternative Treatment for Female Infertility

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I can remember when my (now) wife and I were dating. As many couples do, we talked about our plans for the future, jobs, a home, and having kids. Fortunately for us, my wife became pregnant with my first daughter a short time after we were married. For many couples, that is not the case. All of their talk about the plans for their future becomes stagnant because of the inability of the female to become pregnant. This can take a physical, spiritual, economic, and emotional toll on the couple’s relationship.

Assisted reproductive technologies can be expensive. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the average cost for a single in vitro fertilization treatment in the United States is $12,400.00. Many couples try several of these treatments before a successful pregnancy occurs. Insurance often only covers a portion of these treatments. Medications that increase ovarian stimulation can also become expensive, and often have undesirable side effects.

What if there was a combination of alternative techniques that increased a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant? IVF doesn’t always work the first time. Medications don’t always work. Will this alternative technique work? There are no guarantees. What is guaranteed, however, is that the cost will be far less than anything else being attempted. The side effects, in this case, will actually be pleasant instead of undesirable.

Let’s start from the beginning. What is infertility? “Infertility is defined as the inability of a couple to conceive within 1 year” (Akhter & Jebunnher, 2012). This is the generally accepted time period for a diagnosis, though it may differ slightly from practitioner to practitioner.

Now that we know what infertility is, let’s ask the question, what causes female infertility? Infertility is due to a male factor is diagnosed in 25% of cases, a female factor in approximately 60% of diagnosed cases, and the factor affecting infertility is found to be neither male nor female in approximately 15% of cases. (Akhter & Jebunnher, p. 200). Female infertility is more prevalent because their reproductive system is more complex than that of the male.
Female infertility can be caused by a number of factors. Some of these factors include age, gynecologic infections, surgery, smoking, ovarian factors, tubal factors, and psychological and stress factors. Infertility can also be diagnosed with an unknown etiology. The proposed combination treatment for female infertility can address several of these factors. The treatment may assist the body to accept conception via intercourse, but more likely, it will increase the chances of pregnancy via an assisted reproductive technology (medication or IVF).

The Alternative Treatment for Female Infertility (ATFI) will involve a combination of commonly used techniques, including Swedish massage, visceral manipulation, lymphatic drainage, and reflexology. The treatment will be performed twice per week, and last approximately 1 hour 20 minutes per session. Massage therapy is not unheard of in terms of infertility treatments. Clear Passage Therapies out of Gainesville, Florida claims to have a technique that has resulted in 28 births from women who were previously diagnosed with an infertility problem (Women’s Health Weekly, 2002).

Swedish massage involves the manipulation of the body’s soft tissues to relax muscles and fascia, enhance blood flow, promote relaxation, and promote healing. The overall relaxation of the muscles and fascia can reduce stress and help the body to conceive. The emotional relaxation is also beneficial.

Visceral manipulation is a technique that breaks up abnormal adhesion's between the organs and other connective tissue in the body. Using abdominal massage, adhesion's can be broken up that may hinder the natural function of the pelvic organs. Abdominal adhesion's can be caused by surgery, endometriosis, pelvic infections, or have an unknown etiology.

Lymphatic Drainage Therapy is a gentle technique used to move lymph fluid though the body. Lymphatic’s are a system of vessels that transport lymph fluid throughout the body. This fluid is responsible for transporting white blood cells and is a major player in the body’s immune system. Major concentrations of lymph vessels and lymph nodes are located in the neck, underarms, breasts, and inguinal are (groin). Lymphatic drainage produces a sympathetic-suppressive effect in the body. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for many of the “rise and fall” systems of the body, such as pupil response, GI motility (why your stomach tightens up when you are stressed), and the fight or flight mechanism in your body. The fact that LD suppresses the sympathetic nervous system may aid in the reduction of uterine spasm, thus relaxing the uterus allowing it to more readily accept implantation.

Reflexology involves using pressure points in the feet to affect specific areas of the body. This technique works to balance the body’s natural energy force, or Qi. Another effect is returning homeostasis to the nervous system and the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller. Concentrating on the area of the foot directly connected to the female reproductive system can have a beneficial effect on the flow of Qi through that area.

As with any treatment for infertility, nothing can be guaranteed. The potential benefit of this treatment far outweighs the chance that it might not work. Whether being used to increase the chances of pregnancy via natural methods, or to potentate the effect of an assistive reproductive technology, ATFI has the potential to bring music to your ears, the pitter patter of little feet.

John Napolitano is the owner of Napolitano Massage Therapy: A Medical Massage Therapy Practice. His is a New Jersey Certified Massage Therapist and has been practicing for 20 years. He is also certified in prenatal massage therapy. In addition, John is a Licensed Registered Nurse specializing in pediatric and adult critical care. He can be reached at jnaprn@me.com.

Akhter, N. and Jebunnaher, S. (2012). Evolution of Female Infertility. Journal of Medicine, 13(2), 200 – 209.

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