Infertility? This Is How Physiotherapy Can Help You Get Pregnant

Infertility is often times a very sensitive subject for couples who are struggling to conceive. In the US, there are approximately 6.7 million women who are facing challenges on how to get pregnant. (CDC 2006). In 2015, a ten-year retrospective study examined the efficacy of manual physical therapy to treat female infertility and discovered significantly positive outcomes.

In Nigeria, 25% of married couples suffer infertility. Gynecologists report that 40 -45% of the visits they have are due to casesof infertility. Currently, the ‘best’ available form of treatment is IVF and IUI ; the success rate of IUI is 10 – 15 per cent, The success rate of IVF is 25 – 30 per cent .

Researchers found that after they went through physical therapy, the women experienced a 40 to 60 percent success rate in getting pregnant (depending on the underlying cause of their infertility). The therapy specifically benefited women with blocked fallopian tubes (60 percent became pregnant), polycystic ovarian syndrome (53 percent), high levels of follicle stimulating hormone, an indicator of ovarian failure, (40 percent), and endometriosis (43 percent). This specialized physical therapy has even helped patients undergoing IVF raise their success rates to 56 percent and even 83 percent in some cases, as shown in a separate study.

The study looked at data collected from 2002-2011, which included approximately 1,392 patients treated for infertility.

It specifically included those with single or multiple causes for infertility that involved:

  • Elevated FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) of 10 mIU/ml or higher
  • Fallopian tube occlusion
  • Endometriosis- when the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus causing significant pain, abnormal bleeding, infertility
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)- a condition that affects female hormone regulation at times producing multiple follicles that remain as cysts in and around the ovary
  • Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)-loss of ovarian function before a woman is 40 years old and
  • Unexplained Infertility (Rice, 2015)

Physical therapy aids pregnancy

Patients were treated using an individualized physical therapy treatment plan that was named the CPA (Clear Passage Approach) protocol. This protocol was tailored to meet the individual needs of the patients and to treat specific sites of restrictions and immobility within each patient’s body. Treatment included integrated manual therapy techniques focused on minimizing adhesions and decreasing mechanical blockages in order to improve mobility of soft tissue structures. Visceral manipulation was also used to help restore normal physiologic motion of organs with decreased motility.

The application of these specific manual therapy modalities are thought to activate the central nervous system by stimulating a local tissue response and thus increasing communication with higher control centers in the brain that have the ability to positively influence the activity of the ovary and uterus, as a result effecting hormone production and regulation.

This isn’t your regular ol’ PT though. The specialized method of physical therapy decreases adhesions, or internal scars that occur wherever the body heals from infection, inflammation, surgery, trauma or endometriosis (a condition where the uterine lining grows outside the uterus), says Larry Wurn, lead author and a massage therapist who developed the technique used in the study. These adhesions act like an internal glue and can block fallopian tubes, cover the ovaries so eggs cannot escape, or form on the walls of the uterus, decreasing the chance for implantation. “Reproductive structures need mobility in order to function correctly. This therapy removes the glue-like adhesions that bind structures,” he adds.

A similar method widely used by niche physical therapists is called the Mercier technique, says Dana Sackar, member of the American Academy of Fertility Care Professionals and owner of Flourish Physical Therapy, a Chicago-based clinic that specializes in physical therapy for fertility. During treatment, the therapist manually manipulates the pelvic visceral organs from the outside—a process that Sackar says isn’t terribly painful, but isn’t exactly a spa treatment either.

So how does pushing on a woman’s abdomen help boost her baby-making chances? Primarily by increasing blood flow and mobility. “A malpositioned uterus, restricted ovaries, scar tissue, or endometriosis, can all reduce blood flow to the reproductive organs, limiting fertility,” Sackar explains. By repositioning the organs and breaking up scar tissue, blood flow is increased, which, she says, not only makes your reproductive system healthier, but also helps your body to balance out its hormones naturally. “It prepares your pelvis and organs for optimal function, sort of like how you do training runs to prepare your body to run a marathon,” she adds.

These techniques also help fertility by addressing the emotional roadblocks, as therapists work closely with patients to address mental needs as well as physical. “Suffering from infertility is extremely stressful, so anything we can do to help reduce that stress is good too. The mind-body connection is very real and very important,” Sackar says.

Because it’s non-invasive and cost-effective, Sackar recommends trying physical therapy before other fertility treatments. She says she also works closely with patients’ OBGYNs and other fertility specialists, using the therapy to enhance their medical options. Alternative therapies can sometimes get a bad rap, which is why Sackar thinks scientific studies like this are so important. “It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation—the two types of medicine can work together,” she says.

At the end of the day, everyone wants the same thing—a successful pregnancy and a happy, healthy (and preferably not bankrupt) mama. So it’s worth trying a variety of options to achieve that. “Some women can snap their fingers and get pregnant like that,” Sackar says. “But many women need an ideal situation to conceive and that can take work. So that’s what we do with this physical therapy, we help them get to that point.”

The study compared manual physical therapy treatment to previously published success rates with standard, conventional treatments for female infertility. The results were astounding. Researchers discovered that with the application of the CPA manual therapy approach, fallopian tube patency of at least one fallopian tube was 60.8% successful. When compared with the reported success rates in the literature, “it was observed that the CPA performed as well as or at higher rates of success than surgery did.” The rate of pregnancy for those patients with at least 1 open fallopian tube was also very successful with an overall pregnancy rate of 56.64% post CPA treatment.

For those women with endometriosis (n=558), the success rates for pregnancy post CPA treatment was 42.8%. For those who underwent IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) after CPA treatment, the pregnancy rates were even higher at 55.4%. These findings were also comparable to or better than standard medical interventions published in current literature.

Manual therapy has even shown to decrease elevated FSH levels and improve pregnancy rates by almost 50%. Researchers acknowledge that, to date, there are no medical treatments that represent standard care for women with elevated FSH levels and require more investigation for comparative results.

Of the 59 women with PCOS, the overall pregnancy success rate was 53.57%. The only significant and direct comparison with standard of care literature was with the use of metformin. Comparably, CPA produced significantly higher rates of pregnancy than with metformin alone. No statistically significant outcomes were reported. Unexplained infertility and POF had the least success rates of pregnancy reported. This is most likely attributable to a lack in subject size and/or no published medical treatment in these specific patient cases, further warranting the need for future investigation.

In conclusion, manual physical therapy has been shown to reverse female infertility in cases such as occluded fallopian tubes, endometriosis, hormone dysregulation, and PCOS. With all of the conventional options available, it is wonderful to know that manual therapists specializing in pelvic health have a clinical significance in helping change the lives of women struggling with infertility.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2006-2010). Infertility. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/infertility.htm
Rice AD, Patterson K, Wakefield LB, Reed ED, Breder KP, Wurn BF, King CR, Wurn LJ. Ten-year Retrospective Study on the Efficacy of a Manual Physical Therapy to Treat Female Infertility. Alternative Therapies. 2015.(21)3;32-40.


Little Things We Do Innocently That Can Be Harmful To Our Health

1. Snoring
You may think of snoring as a sometimes annoying or embarrassing, side effect of sleep. But before you discount your snoring as nothing out of the ordinary, consider this: People whose snoring is caused by severe sleep apnea have a 40 percent greater chance of dying early than do their peers. That’s because this sleep disorder is related to a host of health problems, from heart disease to depression.
Causes: Obstructed nasal airways, Poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue, obesity, poor pillows
Solution: Change Your Sleep Position, Lose Weight, Avoid Alcohol, Practice Good Sleep Hygiene, Open Nasal Passages, Change Your Pillows, Stay Well Hydrated.
2. Excessive TV
Young adults who watch a lot of TV and don’t exercise much may start to see the effects of their unhealthy habits on their brains as early as midlife, a new study suggests. In the study, researchers looked at the TV viewing habits of more than 3,200 people, who were 25 years old, on average, at the start of the study. The people in the study who watched more than 3 hours of TV per day on average over the next 25 years were more likely to perform poorly on certain cognitive tests, compared with people who watched little TV, the researchers found.
Solution: Physical activity! Keep it moving!!
3. Skipping breakfast


Skipping the morning meal can throw off your body’s rhythm of fasting and eating. When you wake up, the blood sugar your body needs to make your muscles and brain work their best is usually low. Breakfast helps replenish it.Breakfast kick-starts your metabolism, helping you burn calories throughout the day. It also gives you the energy you need to get things done and helps you focus at work or at school. Those are just a few reasons why it’s the most important meal of the day.

Many studies have linked eating breakfast to good health, including better memory and concentration, lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, and lower chances of getting diabetes, heart disease, and being overweight.

Solution: You already know, Eat your breakfast like a KING, Lunch as a PRINCE and Dinner like a PAUPER. You can talk to a dietitian for proper dieting tips.


4. Lagos Traffic

According to a CNN report, a 2012 study by Washington University in St. Louis noted that long commutes eat up exercise time. Thus, long commutes are associated with higher weight, lower fitness levels, and higher blood pressure—all strong predictors of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.

The study also notes that “being exposed to the daily hassles of traffic can lead to higher chronic stress.”

One of the stress triggers while driving during a traffic jam is impatience—having to wait for the traffic to move and dealing with the mistakes of other motorists on the road. Commuters who are exposed to air pollution, like those riding in non-air conditioned vehicles such as napeps and motorcycles, double their health risk.

Aside from stress, they are also exposed to pollutants that can affect the lungs. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that air pollution is to blame for 3.2 million preventable deaths worldwide every year.

Also, it is also worthy of note that traffic congestion can put you at a long term risk for musculoskeletal disorders in you lowback, Neck, knees, hips etc.

Solution: Sitting exercises while in traffic, lumbar pillows for the low back, adequate leg room, use your air conditioner if you have one, listen to radio or find a good distraction to help ease the stress.


5. Skipping Medications

It can be easy to forget to take your meds if you are feeling fine. High blood pressure is called the silent killer because you don’t feel it, but feeling well is no justification for stopping taking your pills. Do not stop taking your pills till the prescribing doctor says so.

Also, mixing of prescribed drugs with herbs can be very toxic to our health in many ways. Drug interaction can be fatal in some cases.

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