Used for thousands of years for its therapeutic benefits, acupuncture is the cornerstone of Chinese medicine. Sterile, hair-thin needles are inserted into the skin at specific points (commonly referred to as acupuncture points). When these points are stimulated it has a regulating effect on the endocrine and nervous system.
U.S. doctors are increasingly recommending acupuncture to help ease pain and treat a variety of conditions. The World Health Organization has identified 28 conditions that acupuncture can treat, and evidence suggests that there are therapeutic effects for over 60 more conditions.
Acupuncture and Infertility
Acupuncture has been used in China for centuries to improve reproductive health. Modern research is now confirming that acupuncture does increase fertility. A meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal reviewing seven research studies of acupuncture used in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF) found acupuncture increased the chance of pregnancy by 65 percent. This study identified acupuncture impacts fertility in the following ways:
- Helps with the release of neurotransmitters, which may stimulate secretion of gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH). This hormone is key to a woman’s menstrual cycle/ovulation.
- Stimulates blood flow to the uterus by inhibiting uterine central sympathetic nerve activity.
- Stress reduction. When people are under high stress, the hormone cortisol is released in the brain. This alters the brain’s neurochemical balance changing hormone levels and disrupting the balance that is key to the reproductive cycle. Some studies have also shown that stress can create spasms in both the fallopian tubes and the uterus, which can interfere with movement and implantation of a fertilized egg.
In addition, various other research studies have found that acupuncture can impact fertility in the following ways:
- Increased pregnancy rates in IVF
- Improved blood flow to the ovaries
- Improved thickness in the endometrial lining
- Regulation of the menstrual cycle and female hormones
- Reduced risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome in IVF
- Improvements in sperm quality
If you are having difficulty getting pregnant, you might want to consider acupuncture. It’s worth exploring both Western and Eastern medicine treatment options for the best chance of success. Acupuncture is safe, relatively pain-free and is beneficial to both men and women.
Dr. Sunny Jun is the Co-Founder and Co-Medical Director of CCRM San Francisco