Acupuncture for fertility is a natural medicine treatment where ultra-thin, sterilized needles are inserted into specific points in the body which lie on energy channels or meridians. Energy channels or meridians are pathways found in the interior and exterior of the human body. When the acupuncture points are needled, certain body functions may be regulated. Acupuncture may help treat a wide range of conditions including infertility.
Acupuncture has been used to treat fertility disorders. The combination of acupuncture and herbal remedies may treat abnormal levels of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), repeated miscarriage, idiopathic infertility, hyperprolactinemia that is not prolactinoma related, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), male factor infertility such as DNA-fragmentation in the sperm and also luteal phase defect.
Acupuncture for fertility may improve follicular and ovarian function. It may also improve blood circulation to the endometrium facilitating the formation of thick, rich uterine lining.
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), channels in the body where "chi" (energy) flows are called "meridians". These channels can be blocked. Obstructed channels may result in chi flowing heavily in some areas and chi not flowing at all in other areas. Acupuncturists say the pain you feel in specific areas is actually a warning that chi channels in the said areas are blocked
The acupuncture points needled to treat infertility are found in the conception vessel or as acupuncturists call it, the "ren mai" meridian. There are 24 points in the "ren mai" channel. They are called points RN1 through RN24. Some practitioners also call these points CN1 through CN24. The points in the "ren mai" meridian form a line from the anus (RN1 or CN1) up to the torso then to the chin (RN24 or CN24). Sometimes, acupuncturists may target points in other portions of the body, such as in the hand or feet, due to complex interconnections in the body.
As soon as you discover you are pregnant or after an insemination or embryo transfer, you should stop having acupuncture. The uterus, when stimulated during pregnancy, may bring on contractions, premature labor and even miscarriage. The acupuncturist should especially avoid placing needles in the abdomino-pelvic area. The 6 acupuncture points to be avoided include Bladder 60, Bladder 67, Gallbladder 21, Large Intestine 4, Stomach 12, Spleen 6 and all other points found on the lower abdomen.
Research by Stener-Victorin et al from the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology Fertility Center, Scandinavia and the University of Gothenburg showed it is good for women to have acupuncture therapy before and after an embryo transfer although post embryo transfer acupuncture therapy should avoid certain points in the woman's body. Clinical studies by the Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness show combining acupuncture, herbal remedies and traditional medical methods is the best way to improve your fertility. Studies have shown women can sometimes conceive while using only acupuncture therapy and herbal medicines, without medical intervention (American Pregnancy Association, 2011).
In 2002, a German study suggested that acupuncture may help treat infertility. Of the 160 women who had In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), 50% also had acupuncture therapy while the other 50% only had IVF. Pregnancy rates were higher among women who had both IVF and acupuncture therapy (Shetty, 2011).
Acupuncture for fertility may cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on the fertility center and duration of the treatment. You may have to pay for this on your own because acupuncture is not usually covered by insurance. There are insurance companies which offer complimentary medicine cover. So it is best to check with your insurance company if they do and if not it may pay to shop around for another company which does.
What are your thoughts on Acupuncture? Are you squeamish about the needles? I would love to hear about your experience with acupuncture.
* American Pregnancy Association.2011.03 March 2011
* Shetty, Raksha. "Can Acupuncture Help You Conceive?". CBS News 03 March 2011