Can acupuncture help you conceive? If you have been struggling to conceive, and looking for ways to improve your chances of conceiving, it is quite likely that you came across the suggestion to try acupuncture improve your chances of pregnancy. But on what grounds are they suggesting this? Is there really any merit to this claim? We dig:
There is ongoing research being carried out looking at the effects of acupuncture on fertility and the results do appear promising.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an alternative treatment originating from ancient Chinese medicine practices. It has been widely used as a complementary treatment to improve fertility.
During acupuncture treatment, thin needles are inserted into the skin at specific points. Chinese medicine states that there are energy pathways (meridians) which flow from these points and that stimulating them can help to treat a range of medical conditions.
Acupuncture has some great general health benefits which will help you on your journey to pregnancy. These include:
Reducing anxiety and stress
Struggling to conceive and undergoing fertility treatment can definitely trigger problems with stress and anxiety. You may find yourself feeling overwhelmed with everything at certain stages of your treatment.
Hormones that are released when the body is stressed and anxious have been shown to reduce fertility in women trying to conceive.
Research has also pointed that in women undergoing IVF, those who had acupuncture reported lower stress levels before and after their embryos were transferred. They also achieved a higher pregnancy rate than those who did not receive acupuncture.
This indicates that the reduction of stress using acupuncture can help to improve your chances of pregnancy. This may or may not be a placebo effect; however the outcome remains the same.
When we are asleep, our bodies are doing amazing things to repair and replenish themselves. This includes regulating our hormones and in particular our fertility hormones.
Therefore, if you manage to improve the quantity and quality of sleep that you are getting, using acupuncture, this can help to improve your chances of pregnancy as well.
Effect of acupuncture on women’s fertility
The different ways that acupuncture may specifically help to improve your fertility and chances of conception include:
- Regulating your fertility hormones and correcting any hormonal imbalances
- Restoring absent or regulating erratic menstrual cycles
- By stabilizing hormone levels, acupuncture can bring improvement in PCOS associated infertility
- Improving the blood flow to your reproductive organs
Effect of acupuncture on men’s fertility
Acupuncture not only has proven fertility benefits for women, it may also help with men’s fertility issues. It is believed that even before sperm was discovered by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek in 1677, Chinese herbal medicine was proving useful for male infertility.
Some of the ways in which acupuncture is said to boost male fertility include:
- Increasing sperm number
- Increasing sperm motility
- Improving sperm morphology
Acupuncture is known to improve blood flow to the testicular artery and lower the temperature in your scrotum, which are both favorable for healthier sperm.
Effect of acupuncture on IVF and IUI success
Besides improving your natural fertility, acupuncture can also be used alongside assisted reproductive technology, such as IVF and IUI to improve your chances of success.
You may be wondering if it is worthwhile trying acupuncture alongside the many treatments that you already have to undergo. Well, research shows that pregnancy rates are significantly higher in IVF/ICSI patients who have had acupuncture during their treatment cycle.
Likewise, women who underwent traditional Chinese medicine (both acupuncture and medicinal herbs) alongside their IUI procedure were shown to have significantly higher rates of pregnancy and birth.
Some fertility doctors themselves may actually recommend that you try acupuncture to reduce your stress levels, which will help your treatment to go more smoothly and therefore have more chance of working.
When should I have acupuncture treatment?
When having acupuncture, it is important to get the treatment regularly in order to make the most of its effects. Although how often you can get treatment may depends upon your unique situation and your finances. Treatment can be costly.
When having acupuncture for infertility problems you may want to get treatment once or twice a week during the cycles you are trying to conceive.
If you plan to undergo acupuncture alongside your IVF cycle, it is recommended that you consult with a credible therapist, who has good experience with patients in your situation.
It is generally recommended as:
- During follicle stimulation – have acupuncture twice a week for optimal effects.
- Have acupuncture before and after your embryo transfer.
- After that you can have acupuncture sessions regularly until your pregnancy test.
Acupuncture can be carried on throughout your pregnancy and may help to prevent miscarriage and control symptoms, such as morning sickness.
It is imperative that it is carried out by a registered acupuncturist, familiar with pregnancy treatment to avoid any risks.
Are there any risks?
As long as your acupuncture is carried out by a registered practitioner the risks should be minimal.
As mentioned above, the procedure needs to be adapted during pregnancy as using the wrong acupuncture points may harm the baby. So it is very important to ensure your acupuncturist is aware of your pregnancy.
Whilst acupuncture does not guarantee success following IVF or IUI treatment, it can definitely boost your chances of a successful pregnancy. Whether you, your partner or both of you decide to have acupuncture, it can be a great way to relieve some of the stress and anxiety associated with your treatment.
About the author:
This article is written by Rachael Bailey, PhD. Below she shares her personal experience with acupuncture and infertility:
My name is Rachael Bailey and I suffered from infertility before the birth of my son in 2016. At the time I started trying to conceive, I was only 27 and so infertility came as a shock to me.
I did not regain my regular periods back after being on contraceptives for many years, and this led to complications conceiving.
After 3 years of trying, I was offered Clomid treatment to help me to conceive. The doctors prescribed me three cycles of treatment, after which, if no success, I would be referred on for IVF treatment.
My first two cycles of Clomid treatment were unsuccessful. At this point I was very disheartened and willing to try alternative therapies in my desperation to conceive. This led me to trying complementary acupuncture treatment alongside my final cycle of Clomid.
To my absolute surprise, having twice weekly acupuncture sessions alongside this cycle led me to success! I carried on with my sessions after finding out I was pregnant, and they also helped me out greatly with my extreme morning sickness.
As a scientist I was never convinced by alternative therapies, however I have been well and truly converted now!