Acupuncture treatment for fertility

Trying to conceive can be an arduous and emotional journey for many couples and whilst stress and other factors can cause hormonal imbalances, which affect fertility, the process itself can add to the stress thus self propagating the problem.  Acupuncture helps us to cope with the stress and other influences which can creates imbalances in our hormones.

Couples who are supported with acupuncture for fertility are significantly more likely to become pregnant naturally.  Also those receiving IVF are more likely to conceive following an IVF cycle if they are undergoing acupuncture treatment.

A primary benefit of acupuncture is the fine tuning of the body’s systems to maximise functions for both fertility and health as a whole.

So how does acupuncture help?

Acupuncture offers a positive and beneficial treatment enhancing the chances of natural conception or to supporting the process of assisted conception. Acupuncture benefits fertility outcomes by:

  • Lowering stress hormones and regulating FSH
  • Improving blood flow to the pelvic area, ovaries and uterus
  • Optimising the environment where the follicles develop
  • Reducing contractions of the uterus
  • Regulating the immune system
  • Improving the quality of the endometrial lining thus increasing the chances of embryo implantation

The Research

While the West has tended not to engage with as many clinical trials on acupuncture for natural fertility, there is positive evidence to establish plausible explanations as to how acupuncture may benefit fertility (Gerhard 1992 and Stener-Victorin 2000, 2008, 2010).

Firstly, it has been shown that acupuncture regulates fertility hormones. Stress and other factors can disrupt the function of the Hypothalamic Pituitary-Ovarian Axis (HPOA), causing hormonal imbalances that can negatively impact fertility. Acupuncture has been shown to affect hormone levels by promoting the release of beta-endorphin in the brain, which affects the flow of the gonadotrophin-releasing hormone by the hypothalamus, the follicle stimulating hormone from the pituitary gland, and the oestrogen and progesterone levels from the ovary (Ng 2008, Huang 2008, Lim 2010, Stener-Victorin 2010).

Secondly, acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow to the reproductive organs. While stress has the negative effect of constricting the ovarian arteries, acupuncture inhibits this sympathetic activity, improving blood flow to the ovaries (Stener-Victorin 2006, Lim 2010), enhancing the environment in which ovarian follicles develop. Furthermore, acupuncture also increases blood flow to the uterus (Stener-Victorin 1996, Huang 2008), improving the thickness of the endometrial lining and increasing the chances of embryo implantation.

Thirdly, evidence illustrates that acupuncture counteracts one of the most common causes of female infertility, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). By reducing sympathetic nerve activity and balancing hormone levels, acupuncture has been shown to reduce the number of ovarian cysts, stimulate ovulation, enhance blastocyst implantation and regulate the menstrual cycle in women with PCOS (Stener-Victorin 2000, 2008, 2009, Zhang 2009). It may also help to control secondary effects such as obesity and anorexia (Lim 2010).

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