With 11 percent of American women suffering from infertility and 7.4 million women shelling out for in-vitro fertilization and other costly fertility treatments, infertility is fast becoming one of the largest healthcare costs across the nation. Although the healthcare community is making incredible breakthroughs, the success rate of advancements such as IVF are still a staggeringly low 20-30 percent, despite the cost.

Recently however, a new study shows promise in aiding in the treatment of infertility by utilizing a unique and cost-effective physical therapy technique the is simple and less invasive than many more traditional practices. (Fertility Myths: Separating Fact from Fiction.)

Originally published in the journal Alternative Therapies, the study observed more than 1,300 women who suffered from the three primary causes of infertility: pain during sex, hormonal imbalances, and adhesions. Researchers discovered that after these women underwent physical therapy, they experienced an incredible 40 to 60 percent success rate in getting pregnant (depending on the underlying cause of their infertility). According to Alternative Therapies and an article in “The therapy most 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.”

“Keep in mind, this is a specialized method of physical therapy which decreases adhesions, or internal scars that develop wherever the body heals from infection, inflammation, surgery, trauma or endometriosis (a condition where the uterine lining grows outside the uterus),” says Larry Wurn, the lead author and a massage therapist who developed the technique used in the study. Acting like an internal glue that can block fallopian tubes, cover the ovaries so eggs cannot escape, and form on the walls of the uterus, decreasing the chance for implantation. these adhesions suffocate the reproductive structures, which are in need of uninhibited mobility to function correctly.

“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 a Chicago-based clinic that specializes in physical therapy for fertility called Flourish Physical Therapy. In this case, the therapist manually manipulates the pelvic visceral organs from the outside—a process that Sacker describes as “not terribly painful, but not exactly a spa treatment either.”

By increasing blood flow and mobility, this form of physical therapy can increase a woman’s chance of pregnancy. “A malpositioned uterus, restricted ovaries, scar tissue, or endometriosis, can all reduce blood flow to the reproductive organs, limiting fertility,” Sackar explains. But, by realigning the organs and breaking up scar tissue, blood flow is increased, which, according to Sackar, not only strengthens your immune system, but allows your body the ability to balance 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.

Therapists also have a unique opportunity to address the emotional toll of infertility, as they work closely with patients to address more then physical trauma. “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. (In fact, Stress May Double Risk of Infertility.)

Sackar recommends trying physical therapy before other fertility treatments because of its non-evasive nature and lower cost. “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.”

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