If you've been struggling to get pregnant, you know how frustrating and stressful it can be. In fact, ironically, the very stress of trying to get pregnant can make it more difficult to conceive. That's why some doctors and infertility experts are recommending acupuncture for their patients. So before you opt for more complicated procedures, such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF) or egg donation, or throw in the towel and go with surrogacy or adoption, you might want to look into acupuncture as a possible solution.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture is an ancient form of traditional Chinese medicine. It's grounded in the concept that life energy, known as chi or qi, flows throughout the body over pathways known as meridians. Practitioners believe that through insertion of extremely thin needles into the skin at specific points along these meridians, they can remove any energy blockages, rebalance the flow of qi and return the body to a healthy state. Over the past few decades, acupuncture has been increasingly accepted in the Western world as a valid medical treatment. But how does poking needles into your skin improve your chances of becoming pregnant?
How Does Acupuncture Help With Infertility?
Although acupuncture has been used for thousands of years in China to treat infertility, it has only recently started to be accepted by Western infertility experts as a possible aid to conception. Although the exact reasons for why acupuncture can help with infertility are unknown, Chinese acupuncturists believe the therapy restores the balance of energy in the body and rejuvenates the reproductive system. Acupuncture also relieves stress, which is a common hindrance to conception.
Western practitioners believe that although acupuncture is an ineffective treatment for some causes of infertility, such as tubal blockages or uterine abnormalities, it has legitimate uses for the treatment of fertility problems. Acupuncture can improve blood flow to the reproductive organs, which can improve their functioning. The increased blood flow can also help thicken the uterine lining, increasing the chances of pregnancy.
The acupuncture needles can stimulate the release of endorphins, which relieves stress and regulates the menstrual cycle. Acupuncture can also cause the brain to release hormones that will stimulate the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and ovaries, which play roles in ovulation and egg production. And acupuncture in males can increase the production and motility of sperm, leading to a greater chance of fertilization.
Can Acupuncture Help IVF Success?
IVF has a very low success rate, but often it's the only chance for a couple to conceive. Therefore, anything that can help improve that success rate is welcome news, and acupuncture has shown promise for doing that.
An article in PubMed describes how acupuncture treatments shortly before and after an IVF procedure appear to improve the chances of success. Of the 160 women involved in one study, 80 received acupuncture 25 minutes prior to and after the procedure, while the others did not. Of those women who received the treatment, 42% became pregnant, compared with 26.3% of the non-acupuncture group.
Why acupuncture seems to help is unknown, but many experts believe that when a woman is relaxed, her chances of a successful IVF treatment improve. The increased IVF success rates and the fact that acupuncture is very low risk are causing more and more infertility experts to recommend this ancient therapy for their patients.