Infertility and subfertility are on the rise, in both women and men, all across the world.
Being infertile is the inability, as a couple, to get pregnant after 6 – 12 months of trying. Subfertility refers to having a reduced chance of becoming pregnant, relative to other couples.
It is estimated that 12-15% of couples want, but are unable, to conceive. Due to this, fertility treatments such as IVF, IUI, hormonal or drug approaches, surgical procedures, and more, are rapidly increasing in popularity.
"It is important to note that not ALL Infrared Light systems are equal. At Coeur Cryo, we use the most advanced Whole Body Red Light Therapy (Near & Far) available in combination with the unique Variable Optics™ technology (not widely available) which provides the exact specifications in wavelengths for the maximum benefit in promoting fertility."Susan Kellner, Coeur Cryo Owner
Light therapy (sometimes known as photobiomodulation, LLLT, red light therapy, cold laser, etc.) shows promise for improving the health of a lot of different body parts and has been studied for both female fertility and male fertility. Is light therapy a valid fertility treatment? In this article, we will discuss why light might be all you need…
Light therapy is a novel treatment idea for infertility, and although it falls under the same ‘ART’ (assisted reproductive technology) classification as IVF, it is a much cheaper, non-invasive, and easier-to-access treatment. Light therapy is very well established for the treatment of eye health issues, pain problems, wound healing, etc., and is being vigorously studied across the world for a wide range of conditions and body parts. Most of the current light therapy for fertility research is coming out of 2 countries – Japan and Denmark – especially for research on female fertility.
50%, about half, of all infertile couples are due to solely female factors, with a further 20% being a combination of both female and male subfertility. So around 7 out of every 10 conception issue can be improved by addressing female reproductive health.
Thyroid problems and PCOS are among the leading causes of infertility, both being severely underdiagnosed. Endometriosis, fibroids, and other unwanted internal growths account for another large percentage of infertility cases. When a woman is infertile, 30%+ of the time there will be some degree of endometriosis. Other common infertility causes are; fallopian tube blockages, internal scarring from surgery (including C-sections), and other ovulation problems besides PCOS (anovulation, irregular, etc.). In many cases the cause of infertility is just unexplained – it’s not known why. In some cases, conception and egg implantation occur, but at a later point in early pregnancy, there is a miscarriage.
With the rapid rise of fertility problems, there has been a commensurate rise in infertility treatments and research. Japan as a country has one of the worst fertility crises in the world, with one of the highest rates of IVF use. They are also pioneers in studying the effects of light therapy on improving female fertility….
Light therapy uses either red light, near-infrared light, or a combination of both. The ideal type of light for a specific purpose varies based on the part of the body.
When looking at female fertility specifically, the primary targets are the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and general hormonal systems (thyroid, brain, etc.). All of these tissues are inside the body (unlike male reproductive parts), and so the type of light with the best penetration is necessary, as only a small percentage of the light hitting the skin will penetrate down into tissues like ovaries. Even with the wavelength that gives the optimal penetration, the amount that penetrates is still very small, and so a very high intensity of light is required as well.
Near-infrared light at wavelengths between 720nm and 840nm have the best penetration into biological tissue. This range of light is known as the ‘Near Infrared Window (into biological tissue)” because of the unique properties of passing deep into the body. Researchers looking at improving female infertility with light have overwhelmingly selected the 830nm near-infrared wavelength for study(1-6). This 830nm wavelength not only penetrates well but also has potent effects on our cells, improving their function.
Some of the early research out of Japan was based on ‘The Proximal Priority Theory’. The basic idea is that the brain is the master organ of the body and all other organs and hormonal systems are downstream from the brain. Whether or not this idea is correct, there is some truth to it. Researchers used 830nm near-infrared light on the neck of infertile Japanese women(1), hoping that the direct and indirect (via the blood) effects on the brain would ultimately lead to better hormonal and metabolic situations across the entire body(3), especially the reproductive system. The results were great, with a high percentage of women previously deemed ‘severely infertile’ not only getting pregnant but also achieving live births(1,2,4)– welcoming their baby into the world.
Light On the Neck
Following on from the studies using light on the neck, researchers were interested in whether or not light therapy might improve the success rates of natural pregnancies and IVF.
In vitro fertilization is known as a last resort when traditional methods of conception have failed. The cost per cycle can be very high, even unfeasible for many couples, with others taking out loans as a gamble to fund it. The success rates of IVF can be very low, especially in women aged 35 years or more. Given the high cost and low success rate, improving the chances of an IVF cycle is critical to achieve the goal of pregnancy. Eliminating the need for IVF and getting pregnant naturally after failed cycles is even more appealing.
Implantation rates of the fertilized egg (critical for both IVF and regular pregnancy) are thought to be related to mitochondrial function(8). Lower-performing mitochondria hinder the functioning of the egg cell. The mitochondria found in egg cells are inherited from the mother and can have DNA mutations in certain women, especially as age advances. Red and near-infrared light therapy work directly on the mitochondria, improving function and reducing issues like DNA mutations. This explains why a study from Denmark showed that two-thirds of women who previously had failed IVF cycles achieved a successful pregnancy (even natural pregnancies) with light therapy. There was even a case of a 50-year-old woman getting pregnant!
Light On the Abdomen
The protocol used in this study from Denmark(7) involved 3 near-infrared light therapy sessions per week, with the light being directly applied to the abdomen, at quite a large dose. If the woman did not conceive during the current menstrual cycle, treatments continued into the next. Out of a sample of 400 previously infertile women, a whopping 260 of them were able to conceive following near-infrared light treatments. Declining egg quality is not an irreversible process, it would seem. This research raises questions over the ART process of removing a woman’s egg nucleus and inserting it into the egg cells of a donor (known as mitochondrial transfer, or 3-person/parent babies) – is it really necessary when a woman’s own egg cells can be potentially restored with a non-invasive therapy.
Using light therapy directly on the abdomen (to target the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, egg cells, etc.) is thought to work in 2 ways. Firstly it optimizes the environment of the reproductive system, ensuring egg cells are released during ovulation, can travel down the fallopian tubes, and can implant into a healthy uterus wall with good blood flow, a healthy placenta can form, etc(23). The other mechanism involves improving the health of the egg cell directly. Oocyte cells, or egg cells, require huge amounts of energy compared to other cells for the processes related to cell division and growth. This energy is provided by mitochondria – the part of a cell affected by light therapy. Declining mitochondrial function can be seen as the key cellular cause of infertility(8). This may be the key explanation for most cases of ‘unexplained’ fertility and why fertility declines with advancing age – the egg cells just can’t make enough energy. Evidence that they require and use so much more energy is found by the fact that there are 200 times more mitochondria in egg cells when compared to other regular cells. That’s 200 times more potential for effects and benefits from light therapy relative to other cells in the body. Of every cell in the entire human body, male or female, the egg cell may be the type that receives the most drastic enhancements from red and near-infrared light therapy. The only problem is getting the light to penetrate down to the ovaries (more on that below).
Both of these light therapy or ‘photobiomodulation’ effects together create a healthy and youthful environment, suitable to support a growing embryo.
It is important to note that not ALL Infrared Light Therapies are equal. At Coeur Cryo, we use the most advanced Whole Body Red Light Therapy (Near & Far) available in combination with the unique Variable Optics™ technology (not currently widely available) which provides the exact specifications in wavelengths for the maximum benefit in promoting fertility.
Our members have unlimited access to our Whole Body Red Light Therapy through their monthly membership but in addition, we offer a single treatment or packages of 6 and 12.
Pay us a visit and see what it can do for you and your growing family!
(Please keep an eye out for our blog on "Male Infertility and the Known Benefits of Red Light Therapy".)
- Personal Overview of the Application of LLLT in Severely Infertile Japanese Females. Ohshiro. 2012
- Treatment Of Female Infertility Incorporating Low-Reactive Laser Therapy (LLLT): An Initial Report. Iwahata et al. 2005
- The Proximal Priority Theory: An Updated Technique in Low-Level Laser Therapy with an 830 nm GaAlAs Laser. Ohshiro. 2012
- Analysis of the curative effect of GaAlAs diode laser therapy in female infertility. Taniguchi et al. 2010
- Proximal Priority Treatment Using The Neck Irradiator For Adjunctive Treatment of Female Infertility. Fujii et al. 2007
- A case where low reactive level laser therapy was thought to be extremely effective in the treatment of female infertility. Fujii et al. 2004
- PhotoBioModulation for Infertility. EC Gynaecology 8.9. 2019
- Why do older women have poor implantation rates? A possible role of the mitochondria. Bartmann et al. 2004
(Article content attributed to Red Light Man)