One of the most rewarding areas of my acupuncture practice is treating women with fertility issues., many of whom have tried to get pregnant for years without success. Whether going through IVF, suffering from multiple miscarriages, or simply trying to get pregnant on their own, I have found that acupuncture can be an effective strategy in enhancing fertility and positive birth outcomes.
There is research to back this up. The overall success rate of IVF is 24% (for four or more embryos transferred). However, in one study, by combining IVF with acupuncture, the success rate is significantly higher, at 42.5%, indicating that acupuncture is both a safe and cost effective way to help women undergoing fertility treatments.
The question for many women considering acupuncture to enhance their chances of becoming pregnant is why does it work? Certainly, as an acupuncturist, I can talk about balancing Yin and Yang, moving stagnation, or building up your Qi. Most people, however, want an explanation that is a little more concrete and physiological, so here are a few ways, according to the research, that acupuncture works to promote fertility:
-Acupuncture affects brain chemistry by stimulating beta endorphins and related neurotransmitters. This stimulation of neurotransmitters increases the secretion of GnRH (Gonadatropin-Releasing Hormone), which helps regulate the menstrual cycle and ovulation.
-Acupuncture affects your sympathetic nervous system, which is activated when you’re stressed and go into the fight or flight mode. When you’re under stress, your sympathetic nervous system shuts down those functions that are not necessary for your immediate survival and moves blood to those areas that are needed to fight or run away. Along this line, researchers are finding that acupuncture inhibits excess sympathetic nerve activity, and by doing so also increases the micro-circulation of blood (the circulation in the capillaries and other small vessels) in the uterus. This is a good thing if you’re trying to get pregnant.
-The psychological strain of infertility is huge for most couples, but research has shown that acupuncture can help here, too. In a group of women undergoing infertility treatments, those who had acupuncture reported decreased anxiety compared to those women who didn’t have acupuncture.
There are a number of studies reporting on the positive effects of acupuncture for infertility, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), sperm motility in men, and live birth rates for IVF and embryo transplantation. For more, go here.