Can acupuncture increase fertility?
Infertility is a complex problem that may be caused by hormonal imbalance, structural defects, poor sperm/egg quality, or other factors. Yet, the simple answer is that yes, acupuncture can increase fertility. There are several studies showing efficacy of acupuncture in treating infertility. In one large study of 160 women, published April 2002 in the reproductive journal Fertility and Sterility, a group of German researchers found that the rate of pregnancy was more than 50% higher in the acupuncture group compared to the group who received IVF alone. Most of my own fertility patients had failed IVF before they came to me, and in each case they were able to get pregnant after receiving both acupuncture and IVF. Beyond improving the odds of IVF, acupuncture can also stimulate egg production in women who cannot, or do not want to, use fertility medications.
How does it work?
Acupuncture helps your body to function more efficiently, which in turn allows other, more modern reproductive treatments such as IVF, to also become more effective. In studies published in the journal Fertility and Sterility in 2002, Raymond Chang, MD, the medical director of Meridian Medical, along with noted Cornell University reproductive endocrinologist Zev Rosenwaks, MD, found a clear link between acupuncture treatment and the brain hormones involved in conception. Their research noted that acupuncture increases production of endorphins that play a role in regulating the menstrual cycle. Acupuncture also appears to have a neuroendocrine effect, involved with hormone production (the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands) and the ovaries. Many traditional medical doctors use acupuncture in their practice. Sandra Emmons, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health Sciences University reports that acupuncture may directly impact the number of egg follicles available for fertilization in women undergoing IVF. It may further increase blood flow to the uterus, allowing the lining to better absorb the nutrients and hormones necessary to strengthen the uterus to hold onto an implanted embryo.
Can acupuncture help you?
Clearly, acupuncture can increase fertility in most cases. However, when a structural defect exists, such as a blocked fallopian tube or a fibroid tumor, acupuncture cannot help you get pregnant until these issues have been resolved. Likewise, past a certain age, no amount of boosting your Qi can increase the necessary hormones that have gone out of production. For these reasons, many doctors recommend that you have at least a basic fertility workup before attempting acupuncture treatment, particularly if you are approaching, or you are above, the age of 40. I highly recommend fertility workup for both the women and their partners. One third of all infertility problems are linked to sperm quality or quantity. At the same time I always recommend younger women with fertility problems, especially those still in their early to mid-30s, to consider acupuncture before IVF since a few months of acupuncture alone is sometimes sufficient to conceive naturally.