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Acupuncture for Fertility: Does It Really Work?

4 weeks ago4 min read
Last updated: Jan 20 2023

Heard about using acupuncture for fertility and wondering if it works? We’ve rounded up the evidence to help you decide if it’s for you.

Acupuncture for Fertility

Acupuncture is a traditional form of Chinese medicine that involves inserting needles into the body.

Acupuncture for fertility is something more people are considering.

But does it work?

Well, the evidence so far is relatively weak — but there are some positive signs.

Let’s find out what we know — and what we don’t.

In this article: 📝

  • Does acupuncture actually work for fertility?
  • How does acupuncture increase the chances of conceiving?
  • Does acupuncture increase egg quality?
  • Can fertility acupuncture cause twins?
  • Where do they put acupuncture needles for fertility?
  • What does fertility acupuncture feel like?
  • When should you get acupuncture for fertility?

Does acupuncture actually work for fertility?

The short answer is the jury is still out.

Some studies have shown promising results, but they tend to be small-scale.

For example, one Macedonian study followed a single couple, both with fertility problems, who successfully conceived after both partners received acupuncture.

Another study in Turkey and an unpublished study in London examined acupuncture for fertility success rates.

These focused on women undergoing IVF.

In both studies, the pregnancy rate amongst those who received acupuncture was significantly higher than for those who didn’t.

But a 2013 systematic review found that acupuncture didn’t have an impact on the success of IVF.

The reason for these different findings?

A 2021 systematic review found most studies into acupuncture and fertility used flawed methodologies or had poor reporting.

So without more robust research, it’s impossible to say for sure how effective this alternative therapy is.

How does acupuncture increase the chances of conceiving?

There are various different theories as to how acupuncture might improve fertility.

Supporters of acupuncture for fertility say that it works in three main ways:

  • It encourages blood flow to the uterus so that an embryo is more likely to implant successfully.
  • It impacts the release of chemicals from the brain that affect your hormones and reproductive organs.
  • It reduces stress.

The first two claims are hard to verify.

But there is evidence that acupuncture can help relieve stress.

Unfortunately, the relationship between stress and infertility isn’t clear either.

Having difficulty conceiving is certainly a very stressful experience.

But what’s not certain is whether the stress is a cause or a result of those difficulties.

Does acupuncture increase egg quality?

Amongst the claims for acupuncture and fertility is that it increases the number of good-quality eggs a woman produces.

Unfortunately, there’s very limited evidence to support this.

One 2019 study compared acupuncture with sham acupuncture for a group of women receiving IVF.

Those who received real acupuncture had more mature eggs than those who didn’t.

But the two groups each contained only twelve women, so it’s hard to know if this would work across the board.

Can fertility acupuncture cause twins?

Claims of increased numbers of higher-quality eggs have led some to worry that fertility acupuncture could cause twins.

But as we’ve seen, the evidence for any impact on egg quality is weak.

And there’s no evidence that acupuncture makes any difference to the chances of twins.

Where do they put acupuncture needles for fertility?

Some of the most common areas for acupuncture points for fertility are the ears, head, hands, feet, lower legs, and abdomen.

But the practitioner will discuss your personal situation in detail before deciding on their approach.

What does fertility acupuncture feel like?

Acupuncture needles are very thin.

So while you may feel them going into your skin, they shouldn’t be painful.

When should you get acupuncture for fertility?

Supporters of acupuncture generally argue for early treatment, even before beginning IVF.

But there’s no recognized acupuncture fertility protocol.

And there’s little robust scientific evidence on when to get acupuncture for fertility.

There’s similarly no clear recommendation on how many sessions you need, or when you might see results.

The evidence for the benefits of acupuncture for fertility is frustratingly unclear.

And acupuncture for fertility costs money — often a lot.

If you decide to proceed, there can be no guarantee of success.

But there is stronger evidence for acupuncture having a positive impact on stress.

And the process of TTC can be a very stressful experience.

That alone may be a good enough reason for considering acupuncture.

And if stress is affecting your chance of conceiving, it’s just possible it may help.

(Psst. If you need some support right now, your Peanut community is there for you.)

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