Does Acupuncture Improve Fertility?

For many patients, integrating Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), including acupuncture, with Western Reproductive Medicine may help improve their fertility or increase their chances of success with in vitro fertilization (IVF).

WHAT IS TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE?

acupuncture.jpgTCM is a set of practices that is more than 2,000 years old to treat illness and strengthen the body’s defenses to maintain health. TCM practitioners utilize herbal medicines (which can be hazardous) and such mind-body practices as acupuncture, yoga and meditation. 

WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?

Acupuncture involves inserting fine needles into specific “points” to stimulate invisible lines of “life energy” (called Qi) that run under the surface of the skin and flow throughout the body. It is used to alleviate pain or treat various health conditions. When practiced by an experienced practitioner, acupuncture is considered safe.

HOW CAN ACUPUNCTURE HELP MY FERTILITY?

Acupuncture may improve blood flow to the pelvic region. Acupuncture is an accepted supplement to assisted reproductive technology and is thought to stimulate blood flow to the ovaries, which could help with ovulation, and the endometrial lining, which could help with embryo implantation.

There is no definitive body of traditional Western peer-reviewed research that supports a significant benefit to integrating acupuncture with IVF; however, a 2002 German study of 160 women published in Fertility and Sterility concluded that acupuncture was a useful adjunct for improving pregnancy rates with IVF. Another, more recent, review of studies conducted since 2002 found that while acupuncture in conjunction with IVF did not appear to increase pregnancy rates overall, it did improve pregnancy rates at fertility clinics with lower IVF success rates.

Acupuncture can help with stress relief. When couples are trying to conceive, they are often plagued by significant emotional and financial stress. Acupuncture may help relieve some of this stress by releasing beta-endorphins from the brain, which can induce a calming effect. Many of my patients tell me that acupuncture helps them to be more relaxed during fertility treatment.

I recommend that patients use any form of stress reduction — acupuncture, yoga, meditation, etc. — while they are undergoing fertility treatment. Managing stress helps women to persist in their fertility treatments, thus improving their chances for a successful outcome.

SHOULD I TRY ACUPUNCTURE IF I AM UNDERGOING IVF OR TRYING TO GET PREGNANT?

Acupuncture may be a good choice for many patients. Acupuncture is not expensive, it may help, it can’t hurt, and you will feel better. There are three important things to remember:

  • There are potential hazards associated with some herbal supplements used with Traditional Chinese Medicine that could have harmful effects on reproduction. I do not recommend using Chinese herbs during active fertility treatments, and if you have a question about an herbal therapy, please ask.
     
  • You want a well-trained acupuncturist who is experienced with infertility. Pulling Down the Moon, which specializes in yoga, acupuncture, nutrition and meditation is one company I often recommend.
     
  • It has been observed by me and many other fertility experts that patients who are in optimal health and able to manage the stresses of life and infertility are often the most successful with IVF. Complementary treatments such as acupuncture may help them succeed in their journey.

If you have questions about integrating acupuncture into your fertility treatment, please contact me at laurence.jacobs@integramed.com or call (888) 900-4649.