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 with getting 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.
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: 1) elevated FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) of 10 mIU/ml or higher 2) fallopian tube occlusion 3) Endometriosis- when the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus causing significant pain, abnormal bleeding, infertility 4) 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 5) Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)-loss of ovarian function before a woman is 40 years old and 6) Unexplained Infertility (Rice, 2015)
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.
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.
Dr. Susane (Susie) Mukdad is the founder of Healing Hands Physical Therapy, Inc., located in Willow Springs, IL.
Being a new mom is such a blessing, a new chapter in a woman’s life filled with joy, happiness, and many surprises! But giving birth can also bring about many changes in a woman’s physical, emotional, and social health. Increased level of sex hormones can result in physiological, cognitive, and musculoskeletal changes. These fluctuations continue to occur after birth, placing a new mom, who is now faced with many physical and emotional challenges at risk for burn out. In addition, new moms have to worry about their careers and relationships, suffer sleep deprivation, and the availability for support from their family and friends all of which can affect a new mom’s self-esteem, mood, and most importantly parenting ability.
According to a recent CDC survey, approximately 8-19% of women experience postpartum depression. In most cases, this occurs during the first 3 mo postpartum.
So, how can a new mom improve her well-being after having a baby?
"The number of women who were 'at risk' for postpartum depression prior to the treatment, dropped by nearly 50% at the end of treatment"
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association reports that participating in an individualized exercise and education program can significantly improve postpartum well-being. The researchers performed a Randomized Control Trail that looked at 161 new moms all of which were randomly selected into two groups: 1) Mom & Baby Program + Education 2) Education Only. The Mom & Baby Program consisted of an individualized postpartum exercise regimen for 60 min/1x per week conducted by a licensed physical therapist. In addition, participants received 30-minute educational sessions from various healthcare professionals that included, physical therapist, health psychologists, nutritionists, midwives, and speech pathologists. The Education Only group received informational material mailed to them over an 8-week period. Treatment lasted for a total of 8 weeks.
When the two groups were compared, the results were significant! Moms that were in the Mom & Baby Program + Education group reported significantly better well-being and depressive scores and the number of women who were “at risk” for postpartum depression prior to the treatment, dropped by nearly 50% at the end of treatment.
So what does this all mean?
It means that having a support group, someone coaching you through a safe exercise program and educating you on the ins and outs of being a new mom can be extremely beneficial to your health and overall well-being, reducing your risk of the postpartum blues. Having a team of well rounded healthcare practitioners such as physical therapists, doulas, midwives, and nutritionists can significantly improve your experience of being a new mom and provide you with the lasting support that you need to not only take care of yourself, but also your new baby.
Norman, et al. An Exercise and Education Program Improves the Well-Being of New Mothers: A Randomize Control Trial. PHYS THER. 2010; 90:348-355