There is a growing trend with fertility and acupuncture. Can acupuncture help fertility? Would I have been able to conceive faster? Will my IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatments been more successful? I will explore these issues and hopefully this helps you make the best decision for you in your fertility journey.
This is not meant to be medical advice or a diagnosis. As always, please seek your medical provider’s input to determine if acupuncture may benefit you.
When I embarked on my fertility journey more than ten years ago, I was not aware of the use of acupuncture to treat fertility issues.
I simply had no idea even though I knew acupuncture was not something new. With all the shots I was being subjected to on a daily basis with my IVF treatment, I wouldn’t think more needles would help. But can it? Can acupuncture help with fertility?
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese treatment and a form of natural health care that takes a holistic approach to understanding, treating and preventing illness.
Treatment is based on the theory that illness, disease and health problems such as, infertility, stem from an interruption of the body’s natural flow of energy (called chi) in the body.
The practice involves stimulating the body’s chi with tiny needle injections. In most fertility cases, the needles are focused around the legs, lower back or lower abdomen.
How It Helps With Fertility – Women and Men
For women, acupuncture may be used when trying to conceive, immediately before beginning fertility treatment, or during the first few weeks of pregnancy.
The goal of acupuncture treatment while trying to increase a woman’s fertility is to improve blood flow to the ovaries and endometrium. This may encourage the ovaries to function properly and may help to increase the lining thickness of the uterus.
For men, acupuncture may assist in increasing sperm count, quality and motility. All important aspects to improve chances of a woman’s conception.
Acupuncture and IVF
Acupuncture may help regulate hormones, improve the menstrual cycle and promote ovulation as well as relieve stress by working on the central nervous system during IVF treatments.
When undertaking IVF, acupuncture treatment is done prior to and immediately after an embryo transfer in order to increase the chances of implantation. This is because acupuncture may serve to relax the uterus at the time of transfer if undertaken at the correct time.
Because IVF treatments can be a very stressful and emotional time for women and couples, acupuncture may also assist to alleviate stress and allow your body to function at its best possible health status.
The research, although small, behind acupuncture and IVF varies.
Some research has shown that acupuncture in conjunction with other fertility treatments increases success rates by 50%. A landmark research study in 2002 followed 160 IVF participants and showed that patients who received acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer had a 42.5% pregnancy rate as compared to a 26.3% pregnancy rate among the control group who did not receive acupuncture treatment.
While other research shows that acupuncture does not improve IVF success rates. Published in May 2018 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), it states that this most recent study is hailed as the most definitive evidence yet that acupuncture has no benefit in terms of increasing the chance for a live birth with IVF.
Benefits of Acupuncture
The use of acupuncture as a whole has many benefits for a person’s reproductive system. It helps to induce ovulation and regulate hormones. It is known to improve energy levels, weight, stress and cardiovascular health.
What is important to take note of is acupuncture’s overall effect on stress. Having a diagnosis of infertility and having to undergo IVF treatment is very stressful. The effects of stress on your body can cause many ailments – both physically and emotionally.
Acupuncture treatment has been proven to help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Lower stress levels during clinical fertility treatments may assist with pregnancy, but does not guarantee successfulness.
When pregnant, acupuncture combined with good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle may assist in stress reduction, minimize nausea, and alleviate lower back pain or pressure that is common in the later stages of pregnancy.
East Meets West
Exploring Eastern wellness and treatment options with more traditional Western medical options is becoming the norm these days and a viable option to consider as a way to grow your family.
IVF treatments are expensive and may seem invasive, therefore more people are turning to holistic approaches to deal with fertility issues which explains the growing trend of acupuncture. Acupuncture may be used in conjunction with IVF or solely on its own. It is for both women and men.
When deciding to try acupuncture, it is important to chose a qualified acupuncturist and let your fertility specialist know about the therapy. They can work hand in hand to provide your best treatment options. Some fertility clinics now have a acupuncturist as part of their clinic staff, so you wouldn’t have to look further for one who specializes in fertility acupuncture.
I’ve used meditation to ease the stress of my infertility journey, but I have never tried acupuncture while I was undergoing IVF or while pregnant. However, I do have many friends who have, whether they were dealing with fertility issues or not, used acupuncture to solve various ailments.
One thing they all state is the stress relief factor of it. They’ve all experienced a sense of peace and calming effect after their treatments. Whether it truly helped with conceiving remains to be seen.
So there’s definitely a connection between fertility and acupuncture. It is worth a try, even if it’s just to manage the overall stress of having fertility issues. It may not guarantee to help you conceive faster or improve your chances with IVF, but it definitely will help improve your stress levels at the very least.
Have you tried acupuncture? Would you be willing to use acupuncture to get pregnant or while undergoing IVF? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.