Could this be the solution to your infertility issues?
If you feel like you’ve tried just about everything imaginable to put a bun in the oven with no positive pregnancy test results in sight (ugh), here’s some new hope: A recent study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found that physical therapy may seriously impact the pregnancy rates of women with fertility issues.
This is big news considering 11 percent of women currently struggle with infertility and 7.4 million have tried crazy expensive treatments like in vitro fertilization.
The 1,392 female patients in the study underwent whole-body, patient-centered manual therapies over a period of 10 years. Researchers worked with women who suffered from a variety of causes of infertility, including endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes, and polycystic ovary syndrome. In addition to inhibiting fertility, these issues can also cause serious sexual pain. For the purposes of the study, the researchers defined infertile women as those under 35 who’ve been trying to get pregnant for at least 12 months and those over 35 who’ve been trying to get pregnant for at least six months (this definition comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines).
By using manual techniques (predominately the Wurn Technique, which is similar to a massage and done at the site of endometrial tissue), doctors went after three primary causes of infertility: pain during sex, hormonal imbalances, and adhesions (scar tissue in the body that can develop if you have endometriosis). The results? Pretty amazing. Depending on the underlying cause, patients experienced anywhere between a 20 and 60 percent success rate and went on to have a healthy pregnancy. “The Wurn Technique is designed to deform and detach the bonds of these tiny but powerful adhesions and return the body to normal, pain-free function,” says Larry Wurn, a licensed massage therapist and co-author of the study, who developed this particular technique with his wife, Belinda, a physical therapist who also co-authored the study. Doctors also used elements of myofascial manipulation, a soft-tissue therapy that involves placing gentle pressure on an area to alleviate pain.
“This is the largest study of its kind ever conducted,” says Wurn, who explains that prior research on this subject has been pretty scarce. So it’s important to note that this is a relatively new area that experts are still exploring. As the researchers point out in the study, “some causes of infertility are straightforward…whereas others are quite complex,” so there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for every woman.
But experts say that for a growing number of women, physical therapy could work hand-in-hand with other types of fertility treatments.
Amy Stein, a doctor of physical therapy and the author of Heal Pelvic Pain, for example, has been working with women dealing with infertility for over 15 years. “Physical therapy complements what the physicians are doing,” she says.
And physical therapy is especially beneficial for women who haven’t been able to get pregnant because sex is too painful, says Sallie Sarrel, a doctor of physical therapy who specializes in internal and external pelvic mobilization. “Physical therapy can help so much with painful sex so that women are able to actually have sex and get pregnant,” she says.
What’s more, experts say they are seeing more and more women turning to physical therapy for a variety of sexual health issues, including experiencing trouble conceiving. Isa Herrera, clinical director of Renew Physical Therapy, a center focused on treating women with fertility issues, says other alternative fertility treatments she’s seen patients try are abdominal massages, Reiki, accupuncture, and chiropractic care.
The bottom line: If you’re struggling to get knocked up, physical therapy could be worth trying.