For some women, acupuncture has shown some promise for benefitting conception
Acupuncture works by stimulating nerve endings deep below the surface of the skin. While acupuncture has been practiced for over 3,000 years, acupuncture for fertility has recently been getting some attention by patients, practitioners and online chat rooms alike.
In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is thought to help balance qi (pronounced “chi”), an energy force that’s believed to flow through pathways in the body called meridians. During an acupuncture session, an acupuncturist inserts fine, sterile steel needles into your skin at multiple “acupoints” to prompt your body’s healing response. In the case of acupuncture used for fertility, these acupoints are often in your abdomen, targeting your reproductive organs.
Acupuncture can complement traditional fertility treatment
Does it really work? To learn more, we spoke with Dr. Jan Morello, a Baton Rouge-based physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, to give us more information about how acupuncture for fertility works.
According to Dr. Morello, reproductive endocrinologists can use acupuncture as a complementary treatment for infertility. For some women acupuncture is not only a way to lower stress and reduce depression when they’re trying to get pregnant, it has also shown some promise for increasing fertility. Proponents say it can help by boosting blood flow to reproductive organs, regulating menstrual cycles and balancing hormones.
Additionally, there may be benefits to treating the “whole person” by blending Eastern acupuncture into Western medicine practice. “Eastern and Western medicine are very different, but yet both are still going for the same goal, in this case pregnancy,” says Dr. Morello. “As such, they can be very complementary for anyone with an open mind.”
When should you incorporate acupuncture in your fertility journey?
Patients can seek acupuncture at all stages of attempting to conceive, wherever they are in their fertility journey. However, patients may benefit most by starting acupuncture at the beginning of, or even before, their journey.
Many acupuncturists suggest coming in a few months before you hope to conceive, whether naturally or through fertility treatments, such as intrauterine insemination or IVF. In this way, they can assess your bodily response throughout a few menstrual cycles. “Your acupuncturist should do a thorough review of your health and reproductive history, even looking at your past lab work, to create a plan that best supports you,” Dr. Morello explains. Your specific plan will depend on your unique needs, but most acupuncturists recommend weekly acupuncture sessions when managing infertility.
What does the science say?
Several scientific trials have been done on acupuncture for fertility over the last several decades. A meta-analysis of these studies show that some have found benefit in acupuncture for fertility while others show no benefit. Overall, though, no study has shown any harm by including acupuncture into traditional fertility treatment.
The scientific jury is still out on whether acupuncture actually does help with fertility. However, specific research has noted it can increase the production of endorphins. These are the body’s natural “feel good” brain chemicals that also play a role in regulating hormones.
Anecdotally, many people swear by the benefits of acupuncture when they’re trying to conceive. And while they may not be able to pinpoint the actual physical benefit of acupuncture on their fertility, it can help reduce stress during a particularly stressful fertility journey.
Learn more about acupuncture for fertility by listening to The Fertility Answers Podcast: Episode 20 Acupuncture and Fertility – What are the Benefits?