Fertility Answers - Helping Build Families

Acupuncture for Fertility: Does It Work?

For some women, acupuncture has shown some promise for benefitting conception

acupuncture for fertilityAcupuncture 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 Allison Davis, L.Ac., a licensed acupuncture specialist at Fertility Answers with a master’s degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, to give us more information about how acupuncture for fertility works.

According to Allison, 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, specifically the ovaries where eggs mature. Enhanced blood flow may help in improving the quantity and quality of eggs. Acupuncture may also help regulate the menstrual cycle by balancing hormones produced in the hypothalamus, pituitary and ovaries.

Acupuncture may also benefit men on their quest to a family. By increasing blood flow to the testes where sperm are produced, the goal is to improve sperm count, motility and morphology.

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, both men and women, may benefit most by starting acupuncture at the beginning of, or even before, their journey.

Allison suggests 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, she can assess your bodily response throughout a few menstrual cycles. “I will 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,” she explains.

Your specific plan will depend on your unique needs, but Allison typically recommends twice weekly acupuncture sessions in the lead up to fertility treatments to allow the eggs to develop. During an IVF cycle, acupuncture can be used during the stimulation phase to promote healthy blood flow before your egg retrieval. After the retrieval, acupuncture treatment can help relax the uterus and increase blood circulation to the uterine lining, helping it thicken and to relieve any cramping or other side effects of the retrieval.

Acupuncture can also be used immediately before and after your embryo transfer with the goal of stimulating blood flow to the uterus to help in implantation. Follow-up acupuncture in the week after your transfer can help reduce stress and anxiety while you are waiting for your results.

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 time in your life.

Learn more about acupuncture for fertility by listening to The Fertility Answers Podcast: Episode 20 Acupuncture and Fertility – What are the Benefits? In this episode, we speak with Dr. Jan Morello, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician who is also a licensed acupuncture specialist, to give us more information about how acupuncture for fertility works.




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