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Acupuncture and Fertility - Can it Really Help?

Acupuncture, a centuries-old procedure involving the placing of extremely thin, sterilized needles into determined acupuncture points located on the body, is well-known for its many benefits.  The body has many channels, both internal and external, which regulate and control body functions.  Insertion of needles into appropriate points allows the practitioner to modify or remedy many conditions, including infertility.
Infertility itself often has an underlying cause which acupuncture can treat. 

For instance, acupuncture can address issues such as thyroid problems, whether under- or over-functioning.  While acupuncture will not eliminate tubal adhesions (often the result of endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease), a woman may still experience benefits from acupuncture’s ability to improve follicular and ovarian function.  Moreover, acupuncture can cause the amount of blood which reaches the endometrium to increase, which helps the body to produce a rich lining for a fertilized egg to implant upon.

Nearly any fertility disorder can be alleviated or improved with acupuncture, often in combination with herbal medication.  At the Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness, it has been observed that better results occur when acupuncture is used in tandem with herbal medicine and traditional medical practices.  Spasmed tubes can be successfully treated with acupuncture (though blocked tubes will not be responsive to this kind of treatment).  Combined with herbal remedies, conditions such as repeated miscarriage, luteal phase defect, and elevated follicle-stimulated hormone (FSH) can be treated with acupuncture. 

Other conditions which may benefit from acupuncture-herbal therapy are hyperprolactinemia (if not due to a prolactinoma), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and even male factor, such as men suffering from sperm-DNA-fragmentation.  Idiopathic (unexplained) infertility is also often reduced.

Individuals interested in utilizing acupuncture as a way to increase fertility should undergo treatment over a period of three to four months prior to fertilization or implant.  A study carried out by Stener-Victorin, et al, suggests that acupuncture treatments should also continue after the embryo transfer.  Since most miscarriages take place during the first trimester, many patients continue their acupuncture through week 12.  However, there are several contraindicated points that should not be needled if the patient is or might be pregnant, including all those on the lower abdomen, as well as Bladder 60 and 67, Spleen 6, Gallbladder 21, Large Intestine 4 and Stomach 12. 

It is crucial to ensure treatment is carried out by an acupuncturist with specialization in fertility disorders, as there exists some risk of miscarriage if certain acupuncture points are needled.  In general, though, acupuncture is not a therapy which is contraindicated for any individual, irrespective of their medical history, current conditions, or medications.

You can find a licensed acupuncturist at www.nccaom.org.  Keep in mind that even if an acupuncturist is licensed and board-certified, that does not necessarily guarantee expertise with reproductive issues.  Be sure your practitioner is experienced.

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