Ovarian reserve is the quantity of eggs present in the ovaries. Women are born with a given ovarian reserve- the number of eggs does not increase after the birth. Women have about 2 millions of eggs at birth and this number drops to less to 1000 in menopause.
The ovarian reserve diminishes with every ovulation. Any trauma or infection may also reduce it which may result into reproductive problems. As nowadays women tend to give birth later in their lives, the importance of the problem with the progressively diminishing ovarian reserve keeps growing. This is one of the reasons for the increased number of couples searching for assisted reproductive techniques.
In addition, hormones secreted by the ovaries regulate a number of body functions, such as the mineralization of the bones, the sleep, the mood and the libido. Apart from conception problems, the lack or dysregulation of these hormones may lead to osteoporosis, depression and sexual dissatisfaction.
The role of acupuncture
Despite the medical progress in the last years, few options are available for women with diminished ovarian reserve. Alternative treatment methods such as acupuncture are being investigated. Current studies show the last ones could be beneficial for women with reproductive problems, dysmenorrhea and depression.
Changes seen in clinical trials after the use of low-frequency electro acupuncture in patients with low ovarian reserve include:
- Decreased FSH. FSH is a hormone, produced by the brain that regulates the proper functioning of the ovaries. Lower levels of FSH are associated with higher ovarian reserve.
2. Changes in the FSH/LH levels and ratio. LH is another substance secreted by the brain along with FSH. The ratio of the two hormones is more indicative for the reproductive system’s health than their blood levels.
- The levels of estradiol that are under the control of FSH and LH are also improved. Estradiol is an essential hormone secreted mainly by the ovaries. It regulates the ovulation, the development of the reproductive organs as well as the metabolism of the fat tissue and the bones.
- Improved emotional symptoms. At the beginning and in the end of the trials patients were asked to complete a questionnaire in order to determine their mood changes and feelings. After treatment with acupuncture women’s irritability was significantly decreased. This effect is due to the positive impact of acupuncture on the nervous system, including increased secretion of beta-endorphin.
Encouraging results from clinical trials are yet to be studied more precisely in order to determine the exact mechanisms by which the acupuncture acts. Other reproductive system disorders, such as polycystic ovaries syndrome (PCOS) could also be treated with acupuncture. The successful management of this condition by itself may improve the ovarian reserve. That is why the advantages that it brings for patients with reduced ovarian reserve should not be underestimated.
- Columbia University Medical Center, Diminished Ovarian Reserve, http://www.columbiaobgyn.org/condition_treatments/diminished-ovarian-reserve#.WKyCJdSLTDc
- Wang Y, Li Y, Chen R, et al Electroacupuncture for reproductive hormone levels in patients with diminished ovarian reserve: a prospective observational study Acupuncture in Medicine Published Online First: 13 May 2016. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2015-011014