Infertility is a common but challenging medical condition. It can have a physical, emotional, and financial impact on women and their partners.
When a couple is experiencing infertility, they may try every available option.
For some, that includes acupuncture. This alternative treatment may be used to treat various gynecological conditions and certain types of infertility. Acupuncture may also be helpful for women undergoing IVF.
Acupuncture may be used to treat gynecological conditions and to stimulate the endocrine system as well.
What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine treatment that has been practiced for thousands of years. The treatment involves stimulating specific points on the body with small, thin needles.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, this stimulation has a direct affect on the body’s qi (pronounced “chee”). Qi is a life force or flow of energy that is believed to pass through the body’s pathways.
Acupuncturists believe that the insertion of needles in certain spots can balance the body’s energy. This can affect everything from pain management to infertility.
Western medicine recognizes acupuncture’s ability to stimulate nerves, tissues, and muscles. This stimulation can impact the body’s hormones and blood flow.
Acupuncture can be effective for treating many conditions, including:
- chronic pain in the back, neck, knee, or pelvic area
- PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
- menstrual irregularities
- depression and anxiety
- painful intercourse
- tension and/or migraine headaches
The research linking acupuncture to improved fertility is controversial, but there are many individual success stories.
Traditional Fertility Treatments
In the West, common treatments for infertility include:
- medications for hormone stimulation
- surgery for anatomical defects and artificial insemination
- in vitro fertilization (IVF)
- zygote or gamete intrafallopian transfer
- intracytoplasmic sperm injection
These methods can be successful, but they are more complex and expensive. Many couples try noninvasive and cost-effective therapies like acupuncture before exploring these options.
Acupuncture for Infertility
Some research shows that acupuncture can be used to treat gynecological conditions and certain types of infertility, but more must be done. Researchers still don’t know if it’s acupuncture itself, or the patients’ belief in the treatment, that is leading to successful pregnancies. But if it works, it doesn’t matter.
The jury is still out on the specifics, but acupuncture has been shown to reduce stress. For many men and women experiencing infertility issues, stress and anxiety are an issue.
Acupuncture may improve blood flow to the uterus and relax the muscles. This gives embryos a good chance of successfully implanting.
If you do decide to consult an acupuncturist, start by taking the following three steps.
1. Research and Plan
If you decide to work with an acupuncturist, start by checking their credentials. Many states require certification, registration, or a license to practice. But training and education standards differ across the country.
Look for a practitioner with ties to an academic medical center. Ask for credentials and patient testimonials, and go online to investigate their clinic.
Acupuncture may work differently for everyone. But your success may depend on the acupuncturist’s experience and background with infertility.
2. Understand the Process
Discuss with your acupuncturist how many sessions you will need and what each one will cost before you begin any treatments. Your insurance company may cover all or part of the cost of your treatment.
3. Coordinate Your Care
If you’re going through IVF with a doctor, let them know you’re considering acupuncture for infertility. Ideally, your caregivers should work together to build a treatment plan for you.
If you’re seeing an acupuncturist only, check with your doctor first.
Acupuncture is inexpensive and safe when performed by a licensed, experienced practitioner. While the results for improved fertility aren’t conclusive, it may still be worth a try.