Recent research reporting on two women who were previously diagnosed as infertile but conceived following the introduction of chiropractic care reveals that chiropractic may play an important role in caring for families with infertility challenges.
The research, reported in the Journal of Upper Cervical Chiropractic Research, includes a review of the literature supporting the role of chiropractic in women experiencing infertility.
“Research is revealing that there is a relationship between abnormalities in the spine, the nervous system and the reproductive system” stated Dr. Matthew McCoy, a chiropractor, public health researcher and editor of the journal that published the study. “There are now at least a couple of dozen research studies previously published that show successful conceptions and the delivery of healthy children following the introduction of chiropractic care and the addition of these two add further weight to the evidence.”
Several years ago the issue of chiropractic and infertility made media headlines following a project by Dr. Madeline Behrendt to report on over a dozen cases of infertility that responded to chiropractic intervention. The theory is that misalignments or abnormal mobility involving the spinal vertebrae interfere with the function of the nerves involved in the reproductive system.
“It makes perfect sense when you think about it” stated Dr. McCoy. “As chiropractors we know that spinal nerve interference can lead to all sorts of dysfunction and this is certainly true with reproductive function. Of all the various non-musculoskeletal conditions amenable to chiropractic, anecdotes and testimonials abound on the positive effects of chiropractic care in patients with infertility.”
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after at least 1 year of unprotected intercourse and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that there were 7.3 million infertile women in the U.S. in 2002 with 1.2 million women having had an infertility-related medical appointment. These data also indicate that from 30 years of age and on, rates of infertility increase. There are many reasons for both male and female infertility, including problems with egg production, anatomic, immune and hormonal factors for the female and sperm count for the male.
“Considering the fact that every single function of the body is controlled by the nervous system it should not surprise anyone that removing interference to the neurology that controls reproductive function would lead to alleviation of some of the problems related to infertility” remarked Dr. McCoy. “What is surprising is that more research funding has not been provided to study these effects in larger populations of women. This money is instead spent on dramatic and expensive interventions for infertility.”
According to McCoy “All of the organs of the body need a constant and uninterrupted nerve supply in order to develop and function properly. Abnormal position or movement of the spinal vertebra can develop and this can lead to nerve interference. It is this interference, called vertebral subluxations, that chiropractors correct.”
The two female patients reported on in the study were ages 28 and 37 and presented with a history of infertility and evidence of subluxation in their upper cervical spines. Both patients reported a significant history of motor vehicle accidents with cervical trauma, and were experiencing symptoms related to neuroendocrine dysfunction at the time of the initial examination.
The patients both received specific chiropractic adjustments to their upper cervical spines to reduce vertebral subluxations there. Both patients were able to conceive and deliver with no additional support while under care. Patient number one experienced a resolution of menstrual cycle irregularity and subsequent pregnancy while under chiropractic care, and patient number two was able to conceive without the use of assisted reproductive treatments for the first time. Additional improvements in quality of life were noted for both patients as well.
The authors called for further research to evaluate the safety, efficacy, and cost related to upper cervical chiropractic care and infertility.
Matthew McCoy DC, MPH
Journal of Upper Cervical Chiropractic Research