Acupuncture is a traditional form of Chinese medicine that involves inserting needles into the body.
And 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 work for fertility?
- How does acupuncture work for fertility
- Does acupuncture help egg quality?
- Where do they put needles for fertility acupuncture
- What does acupuncture feel like?
- When to do acupuncture for fertility?
Does acupuncture 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.
Another study in Turkey and an unpublished study in London examined acupuncture for fertility success rates.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 work for fertility
There’s various different theories as to how acupuncture might improve fertility, including improving sperm quality and ovarian function.
Let’s talk through what’s tipped to be the most promising benefits of acupuncture for fertility one by one:
Acupuncture for implantation
Successful implantation depends on a number of factors, not least of all a receptive endometrium.
By encouraging blood flow to the uterus, acupuncture could help the embryo to implant successfully.
This is because increased blood flow can help thicken the uterine lining—setting up the ideal environment for implantation.
Acupuncture and PCOS
One of the primary ways acupuncture works for PCOS is by impacting the release of chemicals from the brain that affect your hormones and reproductive organs.
Other potential benefits of acupuncture for PCOS, include improvement in ovulation rate, pregnancy rate, sexual hormone disturbance, and lipid metabolism dysfunction.
Acupuncture and stress
There’s evidence that acupuncture can help relieve stress, largely by reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
And data also suggests acupuncture can stimulate endorphin release (promoting pain relief).
Still, the relationship between stress and infertility isn’t quite clear.
Does acupuncture help 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 in favor of acupuncture for egg quality.
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.
Where do they put needles for fertility acupuncture
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 acupuncture feel like?
Acupuncture needles are very thin.
So while you may feel them going into your skin, they shouldn’t be painful.
When to do 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.
(Psst. If you need some support right now, your Peanut community is there for you.)