If you are one of about eight couples in the United States who has experienced infertility, you may want to add acupuncture to your treatment plan. This form of Traditional Chinese Medicine has been used for centuries, since about 3 AD, to help infertile couples conceive. Researchers exploring the link between acupuncture and fertility are finding evidence that it can help.
It’s about balance
For many women and men, infertility may be a result of an imbalance, whether caused by hormones or stress. Acupuncture is about restoring balance and overall health and wellbeing. It involves the insertion of very thin, sterile needles into strategic points in your body, called acupuncture points. Stimulating these points, or pathways, is believed to correct any imbalance in energy, or chi. Studies have shown that acupuncture can help:
- Regulate the menstrual cycle
- Balance hormones
- Improve blood flow to the reproductive organs
- Improve sperm count and motility
- Decrease risk of miscarriage
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Improve the chance of pregnancy in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF)
There’s also evidence that acupuncture can help with some medical conditions that affect fertility, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis and fibroids. But the biggest benefit may be its effect on stress and anxiety.
Acupuncture and stress reduction
In cases where the cause of the infertility is unknown, the factor preventing pregnancy may be stress. Stress can interfere with physical health and cause irregular periods, prevent ovulation and cause hormone imbalances. It can reduce sperm count in men. All of these can make it more difficult to get pregnant. This creates a vicious cycle: the more stress, the less likely to be fertile, the more difficulty getting pregnant, the more stress.
Acupuncture has been shown to induce relaxation and to reduce stress and anxiety by causing the body to release endorphins. These hormones reduce pain and stress. When acupuncture is combined with herbs, hormone balance is achieved.
Help with IVF
Some studies have shown that women who undergo acupuncture prior to IVF have higher success rates. This may be due to the effect acupuncture has on stress levels, which are often very high among these women. Many IVF centers recommend that women who have failed to get pregnant after a cycle of IVG receive acupuncture before starting another cycle.
Talk to your provider
If you are seeing a specialist for infertility, talk to your doctor about adding acupuncture to your treatment plan. Be sure to see an acupuncturist specializing in reproductive health.