Acupuncture for Infertility

How Acupuncture Can Increase Your Chances of Getting Pregnant

Self-explanatory, really.
Self-explanatory, really.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine have been used for hundreds of years to treat infertility. Current research suggests that acupuncture can increase rates of successful pregnancy, and is associated with improved ovarian and follicular function, increased blood flow to the endometrium, and decreased stress and anxiety.

Regular acupuncture treatments are often started anywhere from 3  to 6 moths prior to insemination, in vitro fertilization (IVF), or donor- egg transfer. When going through the process of IVF, it is recommended that women are treated before and after an embryo transfer. If a successful implantation takes place, many women continue with regular treatments in order to lower the risk of miscarriage.

Patients have often asked me what “types” of fertility patients can be treated with acupuncture. I came across a succinct answer on the website americanpregnancy.org and thought I’d share:

Acupuncture can be used to treat any type of fertility disorder including spasmed tubes. Spasmed tubes are often de-spasmed with acupuncture, though blocked tubes will not respond to acupuncture. Acupuncture is often combined with herbal remedies to treat elevated follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), repeated pregnancy loss, unexplained (idiopathic) infertility, luteal phase defect, hyperprolactinemia (when not caused by a prolactinoma), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) with annovulatory cycles, and male factor including men affected with sperm-DNA-fragmentation.

This is all very exciting news in the world of acupuncture and fertility; however, a couple of things should be made clear. Even if you’ve had problems conceiving in the past, conception can still occur when acupuncture and herbal medicine are used without any traditional medical intervention, like IVF. Some women and men decide to start with acupuncture and lifestyle modification before moving on to more invasive and costly options, and sometimes this proves to be the only extra help they need.

It is also important to acknowledge some of the more difficult facts regarding conception and pregnancy. First, pregnancy rates are not the same as live birth rates; some women who become pregnant do not carry to term. Also, some women do not get pregnant, regardless of the intervention tried; nothing can guarantee conception, pregnancy, or live birth. This may be a painful reality for many women (and men) out there, and there are likely to be many emotions (and assumptions) that surface around this subject. Whether you’ve experienced this yourself, or know someone who has experienced this, remember some simple things –  be compassionate and encourage honest communication. In other words, don’t stuff down emotions. Talk about it. Ask for help if you feel you need it. You might be surprised to find out how many other people have had similar experiences, and may be able to help guide you through some of the rougher waters.

Acupuncture and IVF

Some women, after finding it difficult to conceive, choose to try in vitro fertilization (also known as IVF).

IVF is the process of fertilization by combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory. If this procedure is successful, the next step is an embryo transfer, which involves physically placing the embryo in the uterus of the woman who has decided to carry.  The process of IVF can be demanding on the woman; hormonal manipulation can come with some uncomfortable side effects. Many women find that acupuncture helps alleviate the discomfort associated with fertility medications, as well as the potential anxiety that often accompanies this process.

In the April 2002 edition of Fertility and Sterility, in an article titled “Influence of Acupuncture on the Pregnancy Rate in Patients Who Undergo Assisted Reproduction Therapy”, German researchers announced that with acupuncture, the success rate in women undergoing in vitro fertilization was nearly 50 percent (you can see the abstract here).

In 2008, the results of a system review and meta-analysis were published in the British Medical Journal. The results suggested that acupuncture given with embryo transfer could improve rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilization (see research here).

Unfamiliar with the terms systemic review and meta-analysis?  A systemic review aims to provide an exhaustive summary of literature relevant to a research question; in other words, relevant research is gathered from  journals, databases, and citation indexes, then examined and processed using statistical techniques (meta-analysis). Still confused by this jargon? Let me put it this way – the article in the BMJ summarized a bunch of different studies done on the subject of acupuncture and IVF, and that summary showed a positive correlation between pregnancy and acupuncture.

Acupuncture for Infertility at Wildwood Medicine

The acupuncturists at Wildwood Medicine are experienced at treating women and men to increase fertility. We’ve seen all sorts of patients who are looking for extra help in this area, including women going through the process of IVF, patients looking to increase fertility through acupuncture, herbs, and nutrition, and pregnant women looking to lower their risk of miscarriage. Lots of patients have come through Wildwood for such treatments, and often with success! If you are interested or have questions, please call the clinic.