Recently, infertility specialists have been focusing on factors
outside of the reproductive system in order to solve the puzzle of
infertility. More and more centers for infertility are partnering
with acupuncturists, yoga centers and other stress reduction or
lifestyle maximization programs. This may be why a study published
in the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research (JVSR), a
peer-reviewed scientific journal devoted to subluxation-based
chiropractic research, is getting a lot of press – most of it very
It's too soon to call this an infertility
breakthrough, but it's certainly intriguing. The study, which was
published in three parts, detailed a number of cases where infertile
women undergoing chiropractic care became pregnant. While some of
these women went to the chiropractor with a view toward helping
their fertility, others went merely to have their spines adjusted
but then became pregnant while under chiropractic care.
Miracle or Coincidence?
About 13 years ago, my best
friend underwent infertility treatments. Ultimately, she became
pregnant via in vitro fertilization (IVF). She and her husband
wanted to have more children but knew they couldn't afford the high
price of infertility treatments again. It looked as if they would
have to stop at one.
About 18 months after the baby was born, her mom talked her into
seeing a chiropractor for some ongoing problems with her back. Two
months later, shortly after she returned from a long weekend away
with her husband, she was startled to discover she was pregnant.
After hearing about this study, I called my friend and asked if
she thought chiropractic had anything to do with her successful
second pregnancy. Amazed, she told me that she'd always thought it
was just that they'd had a relaxing vacation, but she said the
chiropractic may have definitely played a part.
When I told Dr. Madeline Behrendt my friend's story, she laughed
delightedly, glad to have these theories bolstered once again. Dr.
Behrendt is the author of the infertility series, an associate
editor of JVSR and the chair of the council on women's health for
the World Chiropractic Alliance. Dr. Behrendt says that it's
anecdotal evidence like my friend's that prompted the study in the
"This is occurring in practices all over the country, but
definitive research includes very specific guidelines, and I wanted
to operate and present under those guidelines," she says. "The
purpose of the study was to start establishing solid evidence for
what people in practices have been reporting for a very long time."
Dr. Behrendt makes it clear that chiropractic in and of itself is
not a "cure" or a treatment for infertility. However, what
chiropractic does is to correct distortions in the parts of the body
where the reproductive organs are located. It seems that doing so
can sometimes lead to fertility.
The Science Behind the Study
Dr. Frank Painter
maintains the Chiropractic
and Infertility page for the Chiropractic Resource Organization
and operates a practice in LaGrange, Ill. He explains that the roots
of the study and the idea behind chiropractic as help for
infertility lie in good science.
"Peristaltic motion is a term that describes muscular
function controlled by our autonomous nervous system," he says. "If
you look at where the uterus is, an egg has to go down a little tube
and is propelled via peristaltic motion. If it happens to be
fertilized but there is insufficient peristaltic motion, it cannot
be delivered to the uterus."
Furthermore, Dr. Painter says, in theory, if this peristaltic
motion is so disturbed that it backs up and delivers uterine tissue
into the abdominal cavity or onto the ovaries, it can result in
endometriosis. He knows of at least five studies where women who
were close to being surgical candidates because of endometriosis
ultimately found relief in chiropractic care.
Dr. Behrendt says that this should almost be intuitive knowledge,
simply because of the relationship to the placement of the spine and
the placement of the reproductive organs.
"When people come to chiropractors and list their concerns or
health histories, we give them fair warning that people under
chiropractic care have seen changes in fertility," Dr. Behrendt
says. "The nerves to the reproductive system run through the spine,
and if there's a distortion, it can affect fertility."
Although the study is small, its
subjects come from a wide range of socioeconomic and religious
backgrounds. There is also a significant age range, from 22 to 65.
The 65-year-old did not get pregnant, but after a lifetime with no
menstrual periods, she began menstruating four weeks after beginning
"The design of the study was very important to me," Dr. Behrendt
says. "I wanted all different ages, circumstances and techniques, so
I invited many people to participate. The result was that it wasn't
one specific type of woman, doctor, age group, technique or symptom.
Some women had never had a menstrual cycle, one had colitis and
another blocked fallopian tubes. The only commonality was changes in
Both Dr. Painter and Dr. Behrendt stress that
the outcomes of this study transcend chiropractic techniques. Within
the case studies, there were a number of chiropractic techniques
practiced. Like in any profession, chiropractic practitioners tend
to become very attached to their own techniques. Regardless of the
technique, the basic result is the same. And that's important,
because Dr. Painter doesn't want to see a "technique war" over this
"We really want to draw away from the techniques used to achieve
this result and focus on the result itself," he says. "There's
nothing to support one approach over another."
While not conclusive, the results of this study are compelling,
and it's an approach that certainly can't do any harm. Chiropractic
is also often covered by insurance.
Dr. Jeanne Ohm, executive coordinator of the International
Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA), says she and her husband,
who have both been in practice for more than 20 years, have seen
amazing results that can't always be adequately explained by
traditional medical practices.
"This is a heck of a lot less expensive and less traumatic than
most fertility treatments," she says. "There's no reason a woman
can't try getting her body to work properly before she tries medical
Want to see
and Flexibility: Yoga When You're Trying to Conceive
for Infertility: Do You Know Your Options?
the Point: Acupuncture for Conception