Acupuncture can be used to increase your chances of conceiving, whether you are hoping for a natural conception or planning to have in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment. It can improve your general health as well as help with problems to do with your menstrual cycle, or maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

In this video, Sarah, a yoga teacher talks about how acupuncture helped her after she experienced a miscarriage.

In this video, Clare Nasir, TV weather presenter, describes her experiences using acupuncture to complement IVF

There has been a lot of interest in the role of acupuncture in increasing the effectiveness of IVF, and a lot of research trials have been published.

This excerpt from an article on the British Acupuncture Council website explains just how acupuncture can help:

Fertility focused acupuncture treatment can help to increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, balance hormone levels, regulate the menstrual cycle and help improve the lining of the uterus and quality of eggs released. Additionally, conditions such as polycystic ovaries and endometriosis have also been shown to improve with acupuncture

Men today also face fertility problems. Benefits to male fertility have been helped by acupuncture with positive effects on sperm count, morphology and mobility.

Some of the positive effects of acupuncture in fertility treatment are thought to include:

  • regulate the menstrual cycle and promote regular ovulation
  • regulate the hormones to produce a larger number of follicles
  • improve the functions of ovaries to produce better quality eggs
  • enhance the vitality of sperm
  • relieve the side effects of drugs used in IVF
  • increase the thickness of the uterine lining so to encourage successful implantation
  • reduce the chance of miscarriage

It is known that stress has an adverse effect on the fertility hormones. Acupuncture can be used to strengthen the constitution, thus enabling couples to cope with any stress and anxieties they may experience during the process of trying to start a family. The acupuncture treatment can help promote a calm, positive, relaxed frame of mind which can bring a more successful outcome for conception.

In 2008, a study published in the British Medical Journal, was widely reported in the media. This systematic review combined the results of “high quality” studies on acupuncture, rates of pregnancy and live birth in women undergoing IVF. The Guardian reported that:

[blockQuote position=”center”]“Acupuncture can increase the chances of getting pregnant for women undergoing fertility treatment by 65%”[/blockQuote]

Only studies in which pregnancy had been confirmed through ultrasound, or by a live birth, were included. The researchers also only included studies in which acupuncture needles were inserted into traditional meridian points (groups of points thought to have an effect upon a particular body part).

The researchers used meta-analysis (a statistical technique) to pool the studies. They were particularly interested in the difference in rates of pregnancy between women who received acupuncture and those who did not.

The authors reported that IVF with acupuncture increased the odds of pregnancy by 65% (according to early evidence on ultrasound), increased the odds of ongoing pregnancy by 87% (according to ultrasound evidence of pregnancy at 12 weeks) and increased the odds of a live birth by 91% compared with IVF on its own.

The Times, The Daily Telegraph and BBC News covered the story and quoted Edward Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine, who cautioned that the effect might be due to a placebo effect caused by the women expecting acupuncture to work. He said that the expectation might cause them to relax which would improve pregnancy rates. Eric Manheimer, the who carried out the research, argued that a placebo response was unlikely, explaining that acupuncture may stimulate the body to produce neurotransmitters which influence the menstrual cycle, ovulation and fertility.

Even if relaxation was a factor in the success rates of these trials, going through IVF can be a very stressful time for couples, and the relaxing and calming effect of acupuncture is helpful to the regulation of fertility hormones.

In 2013, another trial involved 84 women who had at least 2 unsuccessful attempts of IVF. ‘The clinical pregnancy rate was 35.7% in the acupuncture group, significantly higher than that in the control group (7.1%) and the sham group (10.7%).’

They concluded that:

In this study, acupuncture and moxibustion increased pregnancy rates when used as an adjuvant treatment in women undergoing IVF, when embryo implantation had failed.

The evidence base for acupuncture to enhance fertility from many clinical trials is very compelling. If you’re trying for a baby and want to increase your chances of conception, please contact me and make an appointment.

To find out what happens at your first appointment, or hear how other people have found receiving acupuncture, just click here.