Can Acupuncture Increase your chances of conceiving?
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of complementary and alternative medicine. It is a traditional Chinese medicine that balances the flow of energy, or life force, known as chi. This flow occurs along pathways known as meridians. By inserting very thin disposable needles through the skin at strategic points in these meridians, acupuncturists believe that your energy flow will re-balance. Four to ten needles are usually inserted for fifteen to thirty minutes duration. Sessions are usually weekly, but targeted visits are another option. Women typically have acupuncture during ovulation, after intrauterine insemination (IUI), before or after egg retrieval or embryo transfer for in vitro fertilization (IVF). The clinician should be certified to perform acupuncture treatment.
What do the studies show?
Data is inconsistent and inconclusive as to whether or not acupuncture improves pregnancy and live birth rates. Part of the reason for such discrepancy in results is that the frequency and duration of treatment is variable. Some patients have targeted treatments while others have regular, weekly sessions. The type of acupuncture may also be different. There is manual, electrical and auricular techniques.
Acupuncture has been shown in a recent meta-analysis to increase the clinical pregnancy rate in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) who have previously undergone IVF without conceiving. Women receiving more than one acupuncture treatment also had a higher pregnancy rate. However, this did not translate to a higher live birth rate.
Acupuncture may improve pregnancy rates by improving egg quality and uterine receptivity. It can affect the hypothalamic pituitary axis by changing the concentration of central opioids. Acupuncture may improve blood flow to the uterus and ovaries by inhibiting sympathetic nerve activity. Acupuncture may reduce stress, anxiety and depression, common in women struggling to conceive.
What other benefits do acupuncture have?
Acupuncture is useful to treat other gynecologic conditions as well, including:
- Stimulating ovulation by adjusting endocrine function in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Controlling hyperemesis gravidarum (morning sickness)
- Providing pain relief (e.g., after IVF egg retrieval)
- Relieving hot flashes
- Improving semen parameters (sperm count & motility)
Many fertility doctors recommend acupuncture because it’s inexpensive and has minimal side effects. These include soreness, minor bleeding or bruising at the needle insertion site and, very rarely, infection. Unfortunately, it is not completely clear if acupuncture improves the chances of conceiving more quickly and easily. So, try it and see what you think.