For centuries, acupuncture has benefited men and women interested in enhancing their fertility. Today, acupuncture is growing in popularity as an independent fertility treatment as well as a supplement to traditional Western infertility therapies. Clinical observations suggest that fertility treatments combining acupuncture, herbal medicine, and traditional medical interventions are most effective. However, conception can occur with acupuncture and herbal medicines as solely.

Whether you’re considering acupuncture for the first time (for detailed specifics on how acupuncture works to balance qi – read this archived blog entry: “The History of Acupuncture” or if you’re a long time patient of Classical Chinese Medicine, I hope this entry will shed light on how acupuncture can form an integrative modality for conception.

How does acupuncture support fertility?
An acupuncturist will seek to stimulate your autonomic nervous system, induce your relaxation response, stabilize your hormone levels, and increase blood flow to your reproductive organs. For women this results in an increase in ovarian function, regulates the menstrual cycle, and facilitates a thick, rich uterine lining. In men, acupuncture can invigorate sperm and increase sperm levels.

Acupuncture as a Treatment for Dysfunction vs. Acupuncture for Structural Problems

Acupuncture is often implemented to treat functional problems including but not limited to those listed here:

  • spasmed tubes
  • elevated follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
  • repeated miscarriage
  • luteal phase defect
  • hyperprolactinemia (when not caused by a prolactinoma)
  • polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) with annovulatory cycles
  • men affected by sperm-DNA-fragmentation.

Acupuncture will not repair structural problems like blocked sperm ducts, endometriosis, and tubal adhesions.

What to Expect When Receiving Acupuncture as a Fertility Treatment
The first 20-30 minutes of your first visit to an acupuncturist will be spent documenting and discussing your medical history and talking about what you want to achieve with your sessions. The treatment itself will take 45-60 minutes each visit.

Before inserting each thin, sterile, one-use needle your acupuncturist should describe exactly where each need is going and what the intention is for each placement. Typical areas for insertion during fertility treatment include the forehead, arms, hands, belly, legs, and feet.

Once the needles are in place, the acupuncturist may put on some relaxing music and leave you to focus on your qi for about 20 minutes. The acupuncturist will return to shift the needles, “stirring” the qi, and leave you alone once more to focus and relax. After the needles are removed, your acupuncturist will want to know how you are feeling. Rise slowly, as you may still be deeply relaxed from the experience.

How Can Acupuncture Be Incorporated with Other Fertility Treatment?
Treatments typically begin 3 or 4 months before IVF (in vitro fertilization) or donor-egg transfer. This tones mind and body by relieving stress and creating a fertile environment for implantation. Acupuncture may continue through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to help prevent miscarriage. Certain points including Gallbladder 21, Stomach 12, Large Intestine 4, Spleen 6, Bladder 60, Bladder 67 and any points on the lower abdomen will be avoided during pregnancy.

How Effective is Acupuncture for Infertility?

Women
A 2002 study conducted by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine found that acupuncture is a useful tool for improving pregnancy rate after ART (assisted reproductive therapy). The studied compared results of two groups of women. One group received acupuncture treatment before embryo transfer, while the control group received no acupuncture. 34 of 80 patients who received acupuncture were documented as clinically pregnant 6 weeks after treatment, compared to 21 out of 80 who did not receive acupuncture.

A more recent study involving 114 women showed that women who received acupuncture had lower rates of ectopic pregnancies and the following results.

Men
Another study published in Fertility and Sterility in 2005 showed significant result for men who received acupuncture twice a week over a period of 5 weeks. The follow results compare a set of semen samples taken after a 3-day period of sexual abstinence. The first set shows samples from the day before treatment began. The second set reflects results recorded one day following the group’s final acupuncture treatment.

Our office is open to all queries regarding acupuncture for facilitating pregnancy. Click here to contact IMS about fertility treatment.

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