Acupuncture is a treatment that is used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is an ancient treatment method that relies on painless and strategic placement of tiny needles onto the body. It is used to stimulate specific points that is believed to help regulate physical, mental, emotional and spiritual balance. In simpler terms, it regulates the way the body functions. There are over 2,000 points in the body, connected by 14 major pathways, called meridians. Chinese medicine practitioners believe that these points are energy points and if disrupted, can cause pain and disease. Acupuncture is used to keep the flow unblocked, thereby increasing the chances of conceiving.
It has been reported that when used in combination with modern medicine, it increased conception rates by 26%. Acupuncture can increase fertility rates by addressing underlying problems that may affect fertility. This includes thyroid problems (hypothyroid – low functioning or hyperthyroid – over functioning). It can also help by reducing stress, increasing blood flow to the reproductive system and balancing hormones. By increasing blood flow to the reproductive system (ovaries and uterus), it is believed that it helps create a better chance for the ova (egg) to be nourished and carried to term. This treatment method not only aims to help conceive, but also maintain the pregnancy and having a healthy baby.
Although acupuncture has been proven to help fertility, there are some causes of infertility that cannot be treated with acupuncture. This includes tubal adhesions that blocks the tube and can be due to pelvic inflammatory disease. Structural defects such as a blocked fallopian tube due to a fibroid (a benign tumor) is also another condition that cannot be treated by acupuncture. However, individuals with these conditions may still benefit from acupuncture as it improves ovarian and follicular function.
Studies have also found that acupuncture helps to stimulate egg production in women who opt to not use fertility medication to help them conceive. It is also reported to be comparable to modern medication that helps with egg producing such as Clomid. Although comparable to Clomid, acupuncture cannot be sued to substitute fertility drugs used in In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) as it generally stimulates the growth and release of one egg while fertility drugs in IVF is used to produce multiple eggs.
Acupuncture treatments are recommended as two sessions, 30 minutes per session every week. Treatment can take several months before the effects can be seen. Compared to fertility drugs that have side effects such as abdominal tenderness, bloating, water retention, weight gain and nausea, acupuncture infertility treatment was found to have no side effects but having the same function fertility drugs do.
There are some minor risks in using acupuncture for fertility treatment. If incorrect acupuncture points are used during pregnancy, it may increase the risk of a miscarriage. Patients should choose to be treated only by an acupuncturist who specializes in treating fertility disorders. It is generally safe regardless of the patient’s past medical history.
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- How does acupuncture for fertility work? Pacific college of oriental medicine. http://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2015/04/17/how-does-acupuncture-fertility-work-increase-chance-conception-without-side. Accessed 2/1/2017.
- Infertility and acupuncture. American Pregnancy Association. http://americanpregnancy.org/infertility/acupuncture/. Accessed 2/1/2017.