Proponents of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) will argue that such practices can help to cure infertility. But critics suggest it’s all blowing smoke. So how can you know which is true? This article examines scientific studies and other professional evidence that acupuncture actually could help you conceive under certain circumstances.
What is TCM & Acupuncture?
Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to a group of medicine practices that were developed in China based on cultural tradition of thousands of years. TCM includes such practices as acupuncture, massage, exercise, herbal formulations, and dietary protocols. TCM has grown in popularity in the United States, particularly among infertility patients. Many IVF clinics even use acupuncture leading up to egg collection to improve success rates, and some even have on-staff acupuncturists.
Acupuncture specifically is a procedure that uses the insertion of tiny, thin needles just under the surface of the skin on specific points that are associated with energy that flows through the body. The points used during a session will vary depending on a person’s specific needs. Acupuncture has been successfully used to address infertility as well as treatment of nausea for chemotherapy patients, stress relief, and physical pain from conditions like fibromyalgia or arthritis, among other things.
TCM specifically works with herbs that are often used in conjunction with acupuncture to help encourage proper hormonal balance and ovarian function. These are often obtained from the acupuncturist, and many times are even customized according to the patient’s unique needs.
Acupuncture & Infertility
So what evidence is there that acupuncture can actually benefit infertility? Many studies have been conducted to examine the potential for increased success rates. While some still remain inconclusive, and more research is always called for, there are enough studies demonstrating significant improved success rates and benefits that it’s hardly a waste of time to consider TCM and acupuncture, especially if all other options have run dry.
Numerous infertility patients engage in some sort of alternative therapy during the course of trying to conceive. It has even been shown to be effective in cases of recurrent pregnancy loss, increasing the chances of live birth. Acupuncture can promote regular ovulation in women with PCOS and offers less side effects than other fertility treatments that attempt to do the same thing. TCM and acupuncture can even increase pregnancy rates in women who have experienced two or more failed IVF cycles. It can even improve FSH levels, improving overall fertility. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to studies showing benefits of acupuncture.
Should You Try Acupuncture?
The first thing that most people ask is: “Will it hurt?” The concept of needles isn’t often a fond one, and the idea of lying still while someone sticks needles in you sounds like the opposite of relaxing. But as someone who personally went through months of acupuncture treatment, and who is deathly afraid of needles, I can assure you that you do not even feel them inserted. Occasionally there will be a tingling sensation, but it is not one that the brain associates with needles or injections. I often fell asleep during my acupuncture sessions, I found them that relaxing.
The most important thing to consider when you’re thinking about acupuncture is to find a qualified practitioner. They should have the credentials L.Ac. attached to their name. If you’re seeking acupuncture treatment for fertility issues, be sure to find an acupuncturist who specializes or is familiar with infertility.
For many it can come down to a matter of affordability, since most insurance does not cover alternative treatments. Treatment sessions can range from weekly to monthly, or even just a few times leading up to IVF treatment or trying to get pregnant. Regardless of your monetary restrictions, there are options that are customizable for you, and plenty of reasons to give it a shot.