Many couples trying to conceive a child may turn to modern Western medicines such as hormone, in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other treatments and procedures if they realize they have fertility struggles.
And some couples are looking to the East and exploring options like acupuncture and other treatments Asia have relied on for years to increase their fertility. Acupuncture involves placing very thin needles at specific points on the body.
Several studies have linked increased fertility to acupuncture. A 2002 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that women who did acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer had double the success rates of those who did not have acupuncture. That German study led by the famous Dr. Wolfgang Paulus was subsequently followed up and repeated with the same results by Dr. LarsWestergaard. A study by Dr. Stener Victorin demonstrated increased blood flow in uterine arteries with the use of electronic acupuncture. And for men, an earlier study showed increased fertilization rates when male partners did 10 sessions of acupuncture in preparation for IVF.
The Paulus study showed a success rate of 43% in the acupuncture group vs 26% in the non acupuncture group. The Westergaard study and other follow up studies turned up the same results.
What generally happens for couples who have failed to conceive naturally is that they could attempt 3-6 months of acupuncture and lifestyle adjustments usually to speed up conception rates, said Dr. John Zhang of New York’s New Hope Fertility Center.
“The acupuncture treatments would be about once per week and the protocol would be adjusted according to the phase of the woman’s cycle,” Dr. Zhang told Bellyitch. “It is recommended for men to do once to twice weekly during this period to improve the odds.”
That number increases to twice a week for couples going through IVF or other fertility treatments with medication.
Moreover, acupuncture can also be helpful in maintaining the pregnancy and relieving many types of discomfort associated to pregnancy (i.e. nausea, fatigue, headaches, insomnia etc.), while reducing the stress associated to IVF, Zhang wrote in a recent post in wellroundedny.com
For those considering trying acupuncture, Dr. Zhang and Christina Burns from Geneseed Acupuncture share some of his tips for finding the right acupuncturist:
- An acupuncturist should have a minimum of 3 years training but it would be better if he or she had gone through a 4-5 year program. Ask them how much experience they have relation to the treatment of fertility and see how informed their answer is.
- An acupuncturist should know that the treatment (acupoints) should change according to the phase of the cycle (menses, follicular phase, ovulation, luteal phase).
- One might ask if they have an additional training in herbs and/or nutritional counselling as they are often a helpful complement to the acupuncture.
- It may also be good to know their “needling style” (i.e. are they aggressive? do they do a lot of manipulation?) because some acupuncturist are gentle and others not so much. Both approaches work. It just depends on what is favourable to you (i.e. are you a “no pain no gain” person or a little timid of needles).