Acupuncture, the insertion of very thin, sterile needles into specific points on the body to manipulate and balance the flow of energy through the body, is part of an ages-old body of physical medicine practices called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). According to TCM, when energy flow in the body is balanced, our body’s systems function properly and we experience optimal health. Lifestyle challenges like stress, poor sleep, inadequate diet, and too much or too little exercise create imbalance. Other complementary alternative medicines such as massage and dietary therapy can also help individuals restore balance.
While acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat various women’s health issues and improve fertility, it came into focus in the infertility community in 2002, when a group of German clinicians found that women who received acupuncture before and after an in vitro fertilization (IVF) embryo transfer had higher pregnancy rates than controls (1). This study brought acupuncture to the forefront of modern fertility medicine, and many researchers and clinics began to try to replicate the study and its outcomes. While the outcomes of subsequent trials have been inconclusive, many physicians who treat fertility have come to embrace acupuncture for their patients and believe that a more customized course of multiple acupuncture treatments may increase the chances of successful fertility treatment by up to 60%. For these physicians, the results they have seen in their patients’ mood, stress levels, and overall health have made this once “foreign” treatment something they now recommend to their patients as a complement to medical treatment.
Here are just a few ways acupuncture may benefit a couples’ fertility treatment:
Stress reduction: Fertility treatment can be stressful, and while stress does not cause infertility, when it’s not managed it can cause other health challenges including poor sleep, sluggish or overactive digestion, emotional distress, and relationship challenges.
Increased blood flow: Studies have shown that acupuncture can impact local blood flow. In the case of infertility, increased blood flow is beneficial.
Ease mood and menstrual symptoms: Cramps, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and other uncomfortable symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle—loosely grouped under the term dysmenorrhea—are an area where acupuncture has been shown to have a beneficial effect.
Improved sense of control: Fertility treatment can be overwhelming. One of the most powerful elements of working with a SGF Wellness Center practitioner is the focus on self-care. Beyond just performing acupuncture, our practitioners provide partnership, advice, and guidance that empower our patients to become active participants in their overall health and wellbeing. Used in conjunction with medical fertility treatment, this increased sense of control and improved overall health may have positive benefits on treatment outcomes. And because medical fertility treatment may take more than one cycle to achieve success, acupuncture can help patients stay in treatment and help alleviate the emotional and physical toll.
- Paulus WE, Zhang M, Strehler E, El-Danasouri I, Sterzik K. Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertility and sterility 2002; 77(4): 721-4.
The Wellness Center at Shady Grove Fertility is focused on treating the whole you—body, mind, and spirit. Specialized acupuncture, massage, and nutrition treatment during your fertility journey is available at our Rockville, MD, K-Street Washington, D.C., and Fair Oaks, VA locations.