Acupuncture for fertility is commonly recommended, but does it work and should you consider trying it?
Many people now use a more holistic approach when they are trying to conceive and are considering massage, nutrition and acupuncture as part of their preparation.
How does acupuncture for fertility work?
Many people nowadays are becoming increasingly aware of acupuncture as a therapy option and it is becoming more widely acceptable.
Most of us are aware of the benefits of acupuncture with regards to relieving stress and reducing pain but are maybe less familiar with it in the context of fertility support
Described in terms of Western medicine, there are several ways that acupuncture has been shown to aid natural conception and to boost the effectiveness of fertility treatment::
Stress relief/emotional and physical well being
One of the ways that acupuncture for fertility works is by reducing stress, which is often a key factor in the fertility of both men and women.
When people are under stress, the hormone cortisol is released in the brain. Cortisol is one of our stress hormones and it serves a useful purpose.
But when cortisol hangs around for long periods it can alter the brains’ neurochemical balance, thus changing hormone levels and disrupting the pituitary balance which is key to the reproductive cycle.
Acupuncture seems to be an effective way of prompting the body to release beneficial endorphins.
Endorphins are naturally occurring chemicals in the body and can counteract the effect of cortisol.
They are neurotransmitters which signal the brain to fight pain, activate the brain’s reward system, and induce a sense of satisfaction or even euphoria.
Improved blood flow, particularly to the reproductive system and uterus
Acupuncture can increase the blood supply to the uterus, which is a very good way to help prepare the body for pregnancy.
Improved blood flow to the uterus can help thicken the uterine lining, also known as the endometrial lining. This lining is where the fertilized egg implants, which is a crucial moment in an establishing pregnancy.
A healthy and receptive endometrial lining is extremely important and could explain why acupuncture is associated with improved pregnancy rates.
Similarly, acupuncture applied to traditional points for male infertility may play a role in sperm production by improving blood flow and reducing inflammation in the pelvic cavity and testicles.
Acupuncture may also stimulate the brain in ways that help it to regulate problems with the bodys’ hormone system, correcting the flow of hormones which stimulate the adrenal glands, ovaries, and other organs and systems involved in reproduction.
This explains how acupuncture can help with regulating the menstrual cycle, which can obviously help when trying to conceive naturally.
Acupuncture can also relieve the symptoms of other very common cause of female infertility such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome.
It can also help to improve sperm count and quality for some men.
Is there scientific evidence that acupuncture can help fertility?
To be honest, you will find some evidence that supports the case for acupuncture and some against.
However, a British Acupuncture Council review in 2019 made the following key points about acupuncture when used for Fertility Support:
- A 2018 review found acupuncture improves the birth rates of women undergoing IVF or ICSI.
- A summary of previous reviews from 2009 to 2017 found acupuncture had a beneficial treatment effect on clinical pregnancy rate.
- Acupuncture may be a suitable treatment option to help reduce stress and anxiety levels for women suffering with fertility issues.
- The effectiveness of acupuncture relies upon a sufficient number of acupuncture treatments being given over a sufficient period of time.
How often will I need treatment to improve my fertility outcomes?
It is generally acknowledged that it may take 3 months for your body to fully reap the benefits of acupuncture treatment.
An important note to consider is that it takes three months to build an egg or sperm cell.
This means that patients should plan to schedule a minimum of three months of acupuncture treatments for optimum results.
Acupuncture should be considered as a treatment in combination with proper nutrition. I would always take a good look at your diet and offer nutritional advice in conjunction with acupuncture treatment.
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