Is acupuncture for fertility a viable treatment option?

Is acupuncture for fertility a viable treatment option?

Fertility issues can be financially and emotionally devastating to a couple, causing many people to turn to alternative methods in an effort to conceive. One of these methods is Chinese medicine, and more specifically, the use of acupuncture for fertility problems. 

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide variety of conditions. More recently, acupuncture has become a mainstream treatment and has been successfully used to treat pain, stress and anxiety. In fact, many US doctors already use acupuncture as part of their practice, so much so that additional training and qualifications are required. 

However, is there any evidence that acupuncture can successfully treat infertility?

Using acupuncture for fertility problems

There has long been a belief that Traditional Chinese Medicine can boost fertility and prevent miscarriage. In 2012, a landmark study in Tel Aviv tested this claim by combining intrauterine insemination (IUI), acupuncture and Chinese herbs, demonstrating a significant increase in fertility with this combination of treatments. In fact, 65.5% of the group treated with this treatment mix conceived, compared to only 39.4% of the control group. This study clearly demonstrates that when combined with other treatments, acupuncture can be successfully used to treat fertility problems. 

Some of the ways that acupuncture can help reduce infertility is by reducing stress, increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs and by balancing your hormones. Stress can be a problem in both men and women, reducing their fertility. This is because when you are under stress, your brain releases cortisol that alters the neurochemical balance in your brain. In turn, this changes the levels of your hormones. One of the organs that’s affected by this imbalance is the pituitary gland, and pituitary hormones heavily influence a woman’s reproductive cycle.

So you can see how easily stress can negatively affect your fertility. This is one reason why many women choose to use acupuncture for their fertility problems. Thyroid imbalances can also cause infertility and once again, acupuncture can be used to bring balance back to the thyroid. It’s not a ‘cure-all’ however, because whilst acupuncture can improve the functioning of the ovaries and uterus, it cannot be used to heal tubal adhesions (a cause of infertility).

Acupuncture can also help reduce morning sickness, low back pain, and anxiety, stress and insomnia, all of which can occur during pregnancy. Since there are no known side-effects to acupuncture, using it along with other fertility treatment options, can significantly increase your chances of conceiving. 

When should you start using acupuncture for fertility issues?

Couples often start using acupuncture for three to four months prior to IVF or embryo transfer. A 2006 study even found that acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer can significantly increase the positive outcomes for infertile women. Since acupuncture can also help to prevent miscarriage, many women continue using acupuncture throughout the first 12 weeks of their pregnancy. 

If you are considering using acupuncture for fertility problems yourself, always discuss it with your doctor first. There are specific areas of the body where acupuncture must be avoided once you are pregnant, so it’s important that a professional acupuncturist performs these treatments.