Can acupuncture help with fertility?
Acupuncture has been recommended by fertility clinics for years - although their experience can only be considered anecdotal, acupuncture is often an important part of their programmes and they are convinced about the benefits of acupuncture for fertility.
With a growing number of couples trying to conceive later in life and with an estimated 1 in 7 couples having difficulty conceiving (HFEA, 2006) more people than ever are turning to acupuncture for help. Although experts cannot agree on the benefits of acupuncture, there are many clinical trials which demonstrate positive results. For example, randomised trials in China have shown significantly increased pregnancy rates compared to using medication and most clincial trials to date suggest that acupuncture helps with IVF, increasing pregnancy and live birth rates.
CAUSES of Infertility
Infertility can be a result of different factors, such as ovulatory failure and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), tubal damage, endometriosis and fibroids, problems with cervical mucus, low sperm count or quality, sexually transmitted disease and other factors. However, in up to 30% of cases no medical reason can be found.
ACUPUNCTURE FERTILITY NETWORK
I am a member of the Acupuncture Fertility Network, a group for acupuncturists qualified and dedicated to treating gynaecological and fertility problems.
A western view on how acupuncture helps
There are several plausible ways from a Western medicine perspective in which acupuncture may help with fertility issues:
- increasing blood flow to the ovaries and the uterus
- regulating fertility hormones by producing beta-endorphin in the brain
- countering PCOS by reducing the number of ovarian cysts
- increasing egg production
- enhancing luteal function
- regulating follicle stimulation
- normalising cortisol and prolactin levels on IVF medication days
- promoting embryo implantation
- reducing stress