Dealing with infertility can be incredibly stressful and upsetting and most couples will pursue every avenue that could help them to improve their chances of conceiving. You may have heard about acupuncture being a complementary treatment that is used alongside conventional fertility treatments to help improve outcomes, but you may not be sure if it's effective or if it's right for you.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture comes from traditional Chinese medicine and has been used for thousands of years. Tiny fine needles are inserted at specific pressure points throughout the body in order to promote healing and improve well-being.
Within traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture's effects are thought to be due to the needles removing blockages and improving the flow of the body's energy around the body. Within modern Western medicine, its benefits are thought to be due to the physiological response it creates within the body, including the release of chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin.
Can acupuncture help with infertility?
The first thing to remember is to always follow the advice from your doctor when it comes to infertility and treatments for it. With that being said, many doctors do recommend acupuncture alongside other treatments, for a variety of reasons.
The evidence for whether or not acupuncture can help to treat infertility is mixed, with some studies showing positive results and other studies showing no effect at all. The theory behind how it could work is that it affects fertility in three different ways:
triggering the release of chemicals that can affect the reproductive system
stimulating blood flow to the uterus, improving the chance of implantation
triggering the release of chemicals that reduce the stress response
Some findings have been encouraging, including a study that looked at women who received acupuncture while they were going through IVF treatment. It found that those who had received acupuncture had a 46% success rate, compared to 21% for the women who didn't receive acupuncture. But there have been other studies that show acupuncture as not affecting treatment outcomes at all.
With that being said, the main benefit that you may receive from receiving acupuncture if you are dealing with infertility is how much it reduces your stress. Dealing with infertility and, especially, the process of fertility treatments can be one of the most stressful experiences that a couple can face, so having a complementary treatment like acupuncture that can help you to navigate the process with less stress and anxiety can be extremely important.
Acupuncture has few, if any, side effects and is generally safe to use alongside fertility treatments, as well as during pregnancy. So there are really no downsides to adding acupuncture to your treatment plan, and it could really help.
There is mixed evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture as a complementary treatment for infertility, with some evidence showing that it can improve IVF treatment outcomes and other evidence showing that it has no effect. It is a very effective method of helping with reducing the stress and anxiety associated with infertility, so can be a useful addition to a treatment plan for many couples who are dealing with infertility.