Acupuncture for fertility

a man undergoing acupuncture

Acupuncture for Fertility: Does It Really Work?

When trying to conceive, more couples are turning to alternative medicine treatments like acupuncture. Originating in ancient Chinese medicine, acupuncture involves stimulating strategic points on the body through thin needles. This is thought to regulate the flow of qi (energy) and restore optimal function. But what does today’s science say about acupuncture as a fertility booster? Let’s take an objective look at the evidence.

How Might Acupuncture Help Fertility?

Though not completely understood, acupuncture may enhance fertility in these possible ways:

  • Increases blood flow to reproductive organs – This nourishes the uterus and ovaries.
  • Reduces stress – Stress can inhibit fertility, and acupuncture promotes relaxation.
  • Regulates hormones – Acupuncture may help normalize hormones and signals that impact ovulation, menstruation, and fertility.
  • Improves sperm health – In men, acupuncture may enhance sperm count, movement, and shape.
  • Lessens fertility medication side effects – Acupuncture can reduce IVF medication headaches, nausea, bloating.
  • Relieves menstrual cramps and PMS – This creates a better environment for conception.
  • Improves thickness of endometrial lining – A lush, thick uterine lining facilitates embryo implantation.
  • Addresses polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – Acupuncture shows promise for aiding ovulation in PCOS sufferers.
  • Boosts IVF success rates – Some studies show improved implantation and live birth rates when pairing IVF with acupuncture.

What Does the Research Say?

The efficacy of acupuncture for fertility depends on the specific fertility diagnosis:

  • For women doing IVF, studies show acupuncture immediately before and after embryo transfer increases pregnancy success rates by 10-15% on average.
  • For menstrual irregularities, acupuncture demonstrates significant benefits regulating cycles and inducing ovulation.
  • For polycystic ovary syndrome, acupuncture has been shown to initiate ovulation and correct hormone dysfunction.
  • For unexplained infertility, studies are mixed with some showing increased pregnancy rates but other studies inconclusive.
  • For male factor infertility like low sperm count, research shows acupuncture improved sperm quality parameters but doesn’t clearly increase pregnancy rates.

Overall, acupuncture shows promise for boosting fertility in some specific diagnoses, but more high quality clinical trials are still needed. Talk to your doctor about whether acupuncture could benefit your particular fertility issues.

What Areas of the Body are Targeted?

Fertility acupuncture focuses on points that aim to promote reproductive function:

  • Lower back and sacrum
  • Stomach and spleen meridians
  • Liver and kidney meridians
  • Du channel along the spine
  • Uterus, ovaries, and testes
  • Neck and ear points
  • Thigh and lower legs

Points are also personalized based on your Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis from the acupuncturist. Surrounding muscles and connective tissue are stimulated.

How Often Should You Get Acupuncture?

Most fertility acupuncturists recommend 1-2 treatments per week ideally for several consecutive months. Consistency provides accumulating benefits.

Right before and after embryo transfer for IVF is crucial. Some also advise sessions the month before IVF to prepare the body. Talk to your acupuncturist about your particular case.

Does Fertility Acupuncture Hurt?

The feeling of acupuncture needles is subjective, but most don’t find it painful, perhaps just initially surprising. The needles used are very thin and typically don’t go in too deep. You remain fully clothed except for access to treatment points. The needles are removed after about 15-30 minutes.

Many people report feeling very relaxed and refreshed after acupuncture. However, mild temporary bruising, fatigue or emotional release can sometimes follow treatment. Drink plenty of water after to flush out toxins.

The Takeaway

Acupuncture is a safe, non-invasive therapy that shows significant promise for boosting IVF success rates and regulating ovulation/menses in cases like PCOS. However, more research is still needed to confirm benefits for unexplained infertility. Acupuncture is not effective as the sole treatment for severe cases of infertility. But when combined with medical treatments, healthy lifestyle measures, and stress reduction techniques, acupuncture may offer a helpful way to maximize your fertility naturally.

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