The theory behind acupuncture treatment for fertility
A trained acupuncturist spends a number of years learning to analyze a patient’s chi and find the right way to enhance their energy flow and undo blockages.
Using acupuncture needles, particular points of the body are targeted so that chi can again flow freely.
Few scientists have been able to offer explanations about how acupuncture works, although there have been a convincing number of peer-reviewed scientific studies that demonstrate its effectiveness in treating a variety of conditions, including fertility problems.
Some scientists believe that acupuncture needles may trigger the release of particular hormones which change the body’s response to a particular condition or illness. There’s evidence that acupuncture will often result in the stimulation of the body’s natural healing abilities through the release of beta-endorphins which reduce pain.
A number of studies have used MRI to discover that the brains of patients treated by acupuncture light up in zones that relate to the part of the body being treated, rather than the location of the needle, suggesting that there is some supporting evidence to indicate that acupuncture does have some effect, even if Western medicine can’t come up with a convincing explanation for why it works. These include the 2002 study ‘fMRI Neurophysiological Evidence Of Acupuncture Mechanisms’ by Cho and others, which is often quoted as medical evidence.
Acupuncture, fertility and IVF
Many international IVF clinics now offer acupuncture fertility treatment routinely to couples undergoing IVF and other assisted reproductive technology treatments (ART).
Some practitioners combine acupuncture fertility treatment with Chinese herbal medicine fertility treatment.
Acupuncture fertility treatment is thought to improve hormone balance, increase blood circulation in the uterus, and reduce the likelihood of miscarriage.
When used in combination with IVF and other ART treatments, acupuncture fertility treatment can improve the likelihood of a successful embryo transfer.
Acupuncture, fertility and sperm production
Around 30 to 40% of infertility is due to problems with male sperm. Studies suggest that after around five weeks of twice-weekly fertility acupuncture treatment, the total number of normal sperm can be significantly increased and the structural abnormalities in sperm reduced.
One study showed that even men who had very low sperm counts could benefit from acupuncture, with an Israeli study in 2000 detecting a definite increase in sperm count in ten out of fifteen men who had no sperm count at all before treatment.
Fertility acupuncture for males has also been shown to improve sperm production and motility; however it does not treat all sperm abnormalities, with one study showing that immature sperm or sperm death were not improved by acupuncture.
Acupuncture, fertility and endocrine function
A study in 2005 at Lanzhou City Hospital in China on 240 cases of infertility divided study participants randomly into two treatment groups and found that those who received acupuncture had far greater pregnancy success than those who took a clomiphene drug treatment.
Many fertility clinics are willing to combine drug-based treatment with acupuncture. If you are interested in doing this, it’s worth finding medical specialists and trained qualified acupuncturists who will work together.
Acupuncture, fertility and stress
How acupuncture fertility treatment works
A number of different acupuncture treatments are used to treat infertility; these include acupuncture needling, which uses a series of very thin needles on particular external points on the body, including soles of the feet, palms, limbs, even ears; electronic stimulation of acupuncture points; changes in diet; Chinese herbal medicines; and recommendations for changes in general lifestyle.
The acupuncture points selected for fertility treatment will vary between patients. However, commonly known acupuncture points related to female fertility are on the lower back, the lower abdomen, and the legs. There are also common acupuncture points on the head, neck, upper back, and arms which promote relaxation and points on the ear which are thought to influence hormonal disorders.
Why choose acupuncture fertility treatment?
Choosing an acupuncturist
The information of this article has been reviewed by nursing experts of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment. For more advice from AWHONN nurses, visit Healthy Mom&Baby at health4mom.org.