Infertility can be very distressing for couples, especially in the case of unexplained infertility. Most cases of infertility can be traced back to a medical cause, which can then be treated. However, around one in five cases of infertility has no known cause.
Couples suffering from unexplained infertility may opt for assistive reproductive technologies such as medication, IUI and IVF, but these treatments are often stressful, expensive, and offer no guarantee of success, especially as the root cause of infertility is unknown.
Another possibility open to these couples is to make lifestyle changes to optimise fertility and to monitor the woman’s menstrual cycle closely to maximise the chances of successful pregnancy.
Alternative complementary therapies such as acupuncture can also be used alongside basic lifestyle changes and medical interventions such as IVF to boost fertility and improve the effectiveness of other fertility treatments.
How Does Acupuncture Increase Fertility?
Acupuncture may be beneficial for couples trying to conceive or for those suffering from infertility and undergoing medical or lifestyle changes to improve fertility.
Increased Blood Flow
Acupuncture can be helpful when used in conjunction with other fertility treatments as it increases blood flow to the ovaries and endometrium (womb lining). This increased blood supply helps the ovaries to work more efficiently and may help to create a thicker and better quality womb lining, which gives a fertilised egg a better chance of implanting successfully.
If you’re planning to use acupuncture alongside IVF, it may help by regulating hormones. This can be particularly useful if you have an irregular cycle or one that is particularly long or short. It’s important to discuss the possibility of acupuncture with your fertility specialist before undergoing treatment to ensure it is approved by your medical team and performed at the optimal time.
Studies have shown that acupuncture can significantly improve the rate of successful embryo transfer and implantation in IVF, resulting in a higher birth rate for women undergoing acupuncture treatments at the same time as IVF.
Increases Sperm Production
Up to 40% of fertility problems are thought to be caused by low sperm count or poor quality sperm. Personalised acupuncture treatment plans can both increase sperm density and sperm quality, thereby increasing the chance of a successful pregnancy.
Stress is another big factor in fertility and it can be very difficult keeping stress levels down while undergoing invasive medical treatments and battling infertility. Acupuncture promotes relaxation and a sense of calm. It can reduce stress levels at whatever stage you are at when trying to conceive.
Improving General Health and Wellness
As a holistic therapy, acupuncture treats the whole body. This means it can be helpful in promoting optimal health for both men and women. As both male and female fertility can be affected by various aspects of general health, it makes sense to make every effort to ensure you’re both in the best possible health before trying to conceive a baby.
Are There Any Risks to Using Acupuncture with Fertility Treatments?
Acupuncture is generally a very safe and non-invasive procedure with few potential side effects. When performed by a trained practitioner, it’s safe for most people, including pregnant women.
However, there are a few things you should keep in mind before undergoing acupuncture treatment, particularly if you are using it alongside medical fertility treatments.
Certain acupuncture points should not be stimulated after insemination or egg transfer, as they run a small risk of increasing the chance of miscarriage. For this reason, it’s important to keep both your medical fertility specialists and your acupuncturist informed at all stages of your treatment. When everyone is on the same page, you know the appropriate treatment is always used at the right time.
For the same reason, it’s vital to choose a qualified acupuncture therapist, preferably one who has had experience in treating infertility.
Another small risk is the possibility of infection where the needle enters the body. The risk of infection after acupuncture treatment is very low however you should ensure that your acupuncturist uses single-use sterile needles and cleans each incision site thoroughly.
Light-headedness and dizziness are some of the potential side effects of acupuncture so this is something to be aware of, particularly when undergoing hormonal treatments. To minimise the risk, be sure to eat a light meal around an hour before your session and take it easy for the rest of the day after treatment.