When proceeding with fertility treatments, many patients and couples undergo therapies that can involve medications by mouth and/or injectable medications with several ultrasounds and blood tests. Before their first treatment, most patients or couples will ask a common question: “What can I (or we) do to give us the best chances for pregnancy?” Besides maintaining a well-balanced diet, sleep schedule, and aerobic exercise program, many patients and couples often inquire about additional treatment options outside of their traditional fertility treatment program. An excellent option for optimizing the likelihood of success and to ease your ability to navigate infertility stressors is acupuncture. Many patients have heard of acupuncture, but still have many questions related to the why, how, and when of this treatment option.
Over the past 3,000 years, acupuncture, the original Chinese practice of inserting fine needles through the skin at specific points, has been used to treat pain and a variety of common medical conditions such as anxiety, depression, symptoms related to stress, and respiratory and digestive disorders. Recently, there has been a focus on the benefits of acupuncture in reproductive disorders of women, including irregular menstrual cycles, hormonal imbalances, and menopausal symptoms. Within reproductive medicine, the use of acupuncture has significantly increased over the past decade and has been effectively used in women and couples with infertility who are trying to improve their chances for pregnancy.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Before focusing on fertility specifically, an acupuncturist will pay close attention to establishing good overall wellness and well-being during their initial evaluation and treatments. This is most important because a woman who has the ideal balance of wellness and nutrition, may have the best chances for pregnancy success during treatment and the highest likelihood for a healthy pregnancy if conception happens. During treatment small disposable stainless steel needles (single use only) are gently and painlessly inserted into specific acupuncture points along the body, most often the arms, legs, or abdomen. Eastern and Western acupuncture medicine authorities feel that this treatment may optimize fertility in several ways, including regulation of the menstrual cycles and ovulation (release of a woman’s egg), regulating hormone levels, increasing blood flow to the uterus, and by improving the quality of eggs and sperm.
When Should Acupuncture Be Started?
Traditionally, many patients seek acupuncture at specific treatment milestones: after an unsuccessful in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle, immediately before and during stimulation of the ovaries to make additional eggs, and immediately before and after embryo transfer in the case of IVF. In reality, it is best to begin acupuncture before fertility treatment begins and to continue throughout the course of your treatment until pregnancy happens. However, the start and duration of acupuncture can vary among individual patients. Some acupuncturists will continue treatments during pregnancy as well.
Acupuncture While Receiving Fertility Treatment at CCRM
As part of CCRM’s personalized and custom-tailored treatment our physicians and medical team will evaluate each patient’s history and individual circumstances to formulate a unique treatment plan. The CCRM team stands behind and highly recommends the use of acupuncture to optimize your well-being, to reduce stress, and to provide you with the very best chances for pregnancy during your treatment. Our physicians and nurses work very closely with local, knowledgeable acupuncturists to meet your medical and holistic fertility needs ensuring the fastest path to the healthiest baby.
Aaron K. Styer, M.D., is a board certified reproductive endocrinologist, confounding physician partner, and co-medical director at CCRM Boston. He is an Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School.