Acupuncture is the most commonly used complementary therapy for couples seeking treatment at fertility clinics in the United States. You can use acupuncture alone or in combination with other reproductive treatments to support your journey.
The journey to fertility can be a challenging one. If you’re on this journey, you’re not alone. 1 in 8 couples in the US are affected by infertility.
Why You Should Consider Acupuncture for Fertility
The great interest in acupuncture for fertility is due to the growing clinical evidence of its impact. In a Tel Aviv University study, acupuncture in conjunction with Western fertility treatments increased conception rates.
“When combining intrauterine insemination with Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments, 65.5 percent of the test group were able to conceive, compared with 39.4 percent of the control group, who received no herbal or acupuncture therapy.”
Benefits of acupuncture for fertility include:
- Increase blood flow to the uterus and ovaries
- Balance and regulate the endocrine system, including hormones
- Improve body’s response to assisted reproductive technology (ART) while reducing side effects
- Relieve stress
Acupuncture Increases Blood Flow to Reproductive Organs
A key benefit of acupuncture is increasing blood flow by relaxing blood vessels. This creates a thicker endometrial lining and better nourished eggs. Increased blood flow also:
- Improves blood supply to the ovaries and uterus
- Improves quality of the uterine lining
- Nourishes the developing follicle
Acupuncture Balances and Regulates Hormones
Studies show that acupuncture can aid female reproductive health, though the exact mechanisms are still being explored. One way acupuncture helps is by balancing hormones like gonadotropin, which affects ovulation. It also steadies menstrual cycles. Other research shows that acupuncture helps regulate the hypothalamus or thyroid and their hormone production, which directly impacts reproduction. Finally, acupuncture generally alleviates inflammation. When it comes to fertility, inflammation is thought to affect follicle development in the ovary. Inflammation can also upset the balance between progesterone and estrogen, causing swelling in the uterine lining that makes it harder for an embryo to implant.
Acupuncture Relieves Stress
Stress is often a key factor in female and male fertility. Stress releases the hormone cortisol in the brain. Cortisol alters the brain’s neurochemical balance, changing hormone levels and disrupting the pituitary balance that is key to the reproductive cycle. One study found that women with high levels of a stress enzyme had a 29% lower rate of pregnancy.
Many studies have shown that acupuncture recipients report feeling more relaxed and less stressed.
What is the treatment like?
During an acupuncture session, our licensed practitioners gently insert very thin, disposable, sterile needles at points near the body’s surface. Over 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body connect with 14 major pathways, called meridians. These meridians conduct qi, or energy, between the surface of the body and internal organs. Qi regulates spiritual, emotional, mental and physical balance. Acupuncture helps to keep the normal flow of this energy unblocked and addressing the source of issues affecting fertility. Read more in our resources about acupuncture.
When should you start acupuncture treatments?
You can start acupuncture at any time during fertility treatment. We suggest ideally starting weekly treatment 2 to 3 months before embryo transfer . Acupuncture helps prep your body before you start your medication regimen. It can also help manage side effects like nausea, moodiness or fatigue during fertility treatment cycles.
Three months of preparation is also a good benchmark for those not incorporating other fertility treatments. It takes 90-150 days for an egg to grow from a follicle to a full blown egg. We want to provide a strong foundation to create healthy, quality follicles, balance hormones and get the body in the best condition for conception.
Many studies also show the positive impact of acupuncture immediately pre or post embryo transfer. One example showed that acupuncture on the day of transfer increased conception rates (39% for those with acupuncture versus 26% for those without).
We will help you create the best treatment plan for your individual needs.
How long should you continue acupuncture sessions?
This depends on your individual situation. Our goal is to help you get pregnant, stay pregnant and have a healthy baby. Many patients choose to to continue acupuncture through week 12, which is associated with higher miscarriage risk. Others choose to focus treatments on preparing for birth, often around week 36 onward. Still others use acupuncture to address specific issues during pregnancy, including depression.
For those supplementing reproductive technology treatments, we recommend:
* 1 session per week until the stimulation cycle
* 2 sessions per week during the stimulation cycle
What are the risks of acupuncture for fertility?
There are minimal risks of using acupuncture for fertility. The most common adverse reactions include soreness at the needle site, local bruising, weakness, fatigue, sweating, and nausea.
Acupuncture is most effective for addressing functional problems, like irregular ovulation, versus a structural problem, like blocked tubes or sperm ducts.
Can acupuncture address male fertility issues?
Yes. For infertility cases with a diagnosed case, about half are caused by fertility problems in men. Studies have shown that acupuncture can increase sperm count and quality.
At Juvenate Healing in Tempe, we have licensed practitioners who specialize in fertility consultations. We understand it can be challenging to understand all the issues involved with fertility. We are here to help and support you along your journey. Contact us to learn more.