Acupuncture uses needles to stimulate points around the body to activate the nervous, endocrine and neuroendocrine systems to produce chemicals, hormones and neurotransmitters. Acupuncture helps the body to get back into homeostasis (or balance) and heal naturally. Acupressure is like acupuncture, but without the needles. You use your thumb or finger to stimulate the points.
Research shows that acupressure and acupuncture can improve fertility in specific ways. Doctors are using acupuncture and acupressure alongside conventional medicine to treat infertility and increase IVF success rates. Here are some of the ways that acupuncture and acupressure can improve fertility.
Improve Egg Quality
Stress constricts blood flow to arteries in the pelvis, which means that blood flow to the ovaries is reduced.
Acupuncture and acupressure switch off fight or flight and improve blood flow to ovarian arteries, which improves follicle development and egg quality. Egg quality is improved becasue the ovaries get more blood, therefore, the follicles get more nutirents. (Stener-Victorin 2006, Lim 2010).
The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that sends messages via the pituitary gland to the ovaries. Feedback loops between the brain and the ovaries ensure that the right amount of hormones are produced at the right time for ovulation, fertilisation and implantation. Stress, toxins and other factors can disrupt hormones and cause infertility.
Acupuncture and acupressure release endorphins in the brain, which activate the hypothalamus to produce gonadotrophin-releasing hormones, the pituitary to secrete follicle-stimulating hormone and the ovaries to produce oestrogen and progesterone (Ng 2008, Huang 2008, Lim 2010, Stener-Victorin 2010).
Increase Womb Lining And Implantation
The womb lining needs to be at least 8mm for implantation and pregnancy. Stress, diet, toxins and hormonal imbalances can create a thin womb lining.
Improve Male Fertility
Male factor infertility can include problems with sperm quality, sperm quantity, testosterone, obstruction or ejaculation.
Research shows that acupuncture and acupressure can help with circulation and increasing blood flow around the testes to improve sperm development. Studies show that acupuncture and acupressure can increase testosterone, improve sex drive and reduce impotence. (Pei 2005 and Dieterle 2009).
Reduce PCOS Symptoms
PCOS is one of the main conditions that stop women from getting pregnant. PCOS symptoms include disputed hormones, cysts on the ovaries, no ovulation and long or irregular cycles.
Acupuncture and acupressure can help PCOS by reducing stress hormones, balancing sex hormones, reducing cysts, stimulating ovulation and regulating the cycle (Stener-Victorin 2000, 2008, 2009, Zhang 2009).
Reduce Endometriosis Symptoms
Endometriosis is where endometrial tissue is found outside of the womb, normally in the pelvis. The endometrial cells outside of the womb are affected by changes in hormones, they bleed, create inflammation and form cysts. This creates a lot of pain, blockages and digestive issues.
Improve IVF Success
The chances of having a successful birth from IVF can range from 2%-30% depending on a woman’s age and situation. In the UK it can cost between £3000-£5000 and in America, it’s around $15,000.
Research shows that having acupuncture and acupressure before and after embryo transfer can increase pregnancy rates by 60% and reduce the number of miscarriages by 50% (Paulus 2002 and Quintero 2004).
In China randomised controlled trials have shown significantly better pregnancy rates for acupuncture than medication, however, more research is needed and higher-quality trials need to be carried out.
Stener-Victorin E, WaldenstrÃ¶m U, TÃ¤gnfors U, Lundeberg T, Lindstedt G, Janson PO. Effects of electro-acupuncture on anovulation in women with polycystic ovary syndromeÂ Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2000 Mar;79(3):180-8.
Stener-Victorin E, Jedel E, Janson PO, Sverrisdottir YB. Low-frequency electroacupuncture and physical exercise decrease high muscle sympathetic nerve activity in polycystic ovary syndrome. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2009 Aug;297(2):R387-95.
Wayne PM et al. Japanese-style acupuncture for endometriosis-related pelvic pain in adolescents and young women: results of a randomized sham-controlled trial.Â J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol2008; 21(5): 247-57.
Paulus WE1, Zhang M, Strehler E, El-Danasouri I, Sterzik K.(2002) Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertil Steril. 2002 Apr;77(4):721-4.