Acupuncture is part of the ancient practice of Traditional Chinese medicine, in which medicine practitioners believe that the human body has more than 2,000 acupuncture points connected by pathways or meridians. Those pathways create an energy flow (Qi, pronounced “chee”) through the body that is responsible for overall health. Disruption of that energy flow can cause disease. By applying acupuncture to certain points, it is thought to improve the flow of Qi, thereby improving health.
By penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles which are then activated through gentle and specific movements of the practitioner’s hands or with electrical stimulation.
Instead of needles, other forms of stimulation are sometimes used over the acupuncture points, including:
In general, if you are under 35 years old and have been trying to conceive for over a year with no result, or over 35 years old and trying for 6 months, it is best for you to consult with a fertility specialist. While the stress of conceiving can be unbearable and prolonged during the years, many couples have found support to acupuncture. Although results of this method are not 100% scientifically proven, many couples swear of its efficacy and rely their efforts there.
There are several studies that show how acupuncture reduces anxiety and stress symptoms in infertility patients, by pointing out that acupuncture reduces cortisol levels, one of the body’s major stress hormones.
A recent meta-analysis concluded that acupuncture significantly reduces anxiety in patients undergoing fertility treatments (Ye et al., 2021).
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), recommends that infertility patients should try acupuncture to manage stress and other infertility related issues.
Research has shown that acupuncture is more successful in increasing the IVF pregnancy rate if it is administered at all stages of IVF, not just around the time of embryo transfer (Qian et al., 2017).
In many cases, it may need to be started at least two to three months before commencing any medical infertility treatment and even earlier in some complex cases.
This is because ovarian follicles and the eggs within them take over a year to develop, and sperm takes around three months to be produced.
Acupuncture treatment may also need to be continued throughout all stages of IVF and in early pregnancy.
Acupuncture and IVF success rates
In a published research study, 1231 IVF patient records were reviewed to assess the effect of adjuvant acupuncture treatment on IVF outcomes. The women who added more acupuncture sessions were twice as likely to have a baby compared to women who did IVF alone, and 60% more likely when compared with women who just had two acupuncture treatments on the day of embryo transfer. Acupuncture helped their IVF outcomes. The key difference was that patients received more treatment.
But no one can guarantee successful fertility treatment after acupuncture, nor restoring complex infertility issues. What is mainly guaranteed is the stress relief, and the extra comfort it provides in people struggling with infertility.
In any case, you must firstly consult with a fertility specialist to acknowledge the reasons why you find it difficult to conceive, and together with the specialist you can also consult a professional acupuncturist to help you throughout your fertility journey.
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