Acupuncture has been used for centuries to balance the body and mind, improve fertility and promote overall prenatal health. But what exactly is it? And how can it help couples who are trying to conceive? In this article, we’ll explore what acupuncture is, the evidence supporting its efficacy as a fertility treatment, and some common acupuncture points for fertility that people expect in traditional treatment.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice that uses thin needles inserted into specific points in the body to manipulate energy flow, or ‘qi’. It has been used in China for over 2000 years to treat various illnesses and disorders. More recently, it has become popular in the West due to its effectiveness in treating pain, digestive issues, and stress-related conditions. While there is not yet enough scientific evidence to support using acupuncture as a fertility treatment option, some studies have shown positive results when it comes to improving reproductive health.
Acupuncture: Even for fertility?
Acupuncture has been used for centuries to help with a wide range of physical and emotional ailments. Recently, acupuncture has been gaining traction in the fertility field as an effective complementary approach to assist couples who are experiencing difficulty in conceiving.
Acupuncture is believed to increase blood flow to the reproductive organs and reduce stress levels, both of which can improve fertility and reproductive health. Studies have shown that acupuncture can also help regulate hormones, normalise irregular menstrual cycles, and restore balance within the body – all important components for a successful pregnancy.
The process involves placing thin needles into specific parts of the body that will stimulate energy channels or meridians, which travel throughout our bodies. Depending on which areas need stimulation, these needles will be inserted shallowly into the skin. While some minor risks are associated with acupuncture, when practised by a qualified practitioner, these risks are minimal.
For many, acupuncture can be an invaluable addition to traditional infertility treatments such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). Research had demonstrated that couples who utilised both IVF and acupuncture had higher success rates than those who solely relied on traditional medical intervention when it came to achieving pregnancy outcomes.
The success rate of acupuncture is increasing as more studies uncover its potential as a treatment for infertility and other fertility-related issues. Acupuncture is considered safe, non-invasive, and relatively inexpensive compared to other forms of treatment for fertility issues, making it an ideal option for couples looking for alternatives without breaking the bank or requiring major medical interventions.
Evidence Supporting Acupuncture Fertility Treatment
In 2009, a study published by The American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology showed that women undergoing IVF treatments saw improved rates of fertilisation when they also received acupuncture treatments. Another study published in 2014 found that women undergoing IVF who received acupuncture before their transfer procedure were twice as likely to get pregnant than those who didn’t receive any acupuncture at all. Other smaller studies have reported improved hormonal imbalances among women receiving fertility acupuncture treatments. While more research needs to be done in order to fully establish a causal link between acupuncture and improved fertility outcomes, these initial results are promising.
Common Acupuncture Points Used For Fertility Treatments
During an acupuncture treatment, needles are inserted in up to 12 different points in the body, all of which are thought to be linked to different organ systems. Thus, when you are undergoing acupuncture to promote fertility, your acupuncturist will likely insert needles at points linked to the reproductive system.
There are certain points on the body that practitioners believe can be beneficial for improving one’s ability to conceive naturally or through assisted reproductive techniques such as IVF or IUI (intrauterine insemination). The most common areas where acupuncture needles are selected to be inserted include the head, ears, hands, lower legs, feet, and abdomen. These points can help reduce stress levels and boost ovarian function, among other things. Below, we’ll explore some of those points, where they are located, and how they are thought to improve patient fertility outcomes.
- Ren 7: Located on the stomach just above the belly button. This point helps regulate menstruation cycles and helps with blood production, which can improve ovulation rate and egg quality.
- Bladder 23: Located on the lower back at waist level near your spine. This point helps reduce stress levels which can improve hormonal balance and overall reproductive health.
- Kidney 3: Located below each kneecap towards the middle of the lower leg on either side of your shinbone. This point helps strengthen vitality which can improve male sperm count and motility levels, as well as female egg health.
- Ex-CA1: The Zigongxue acupuncture point is located along the centerline, one thumb’s width above the pubic bone. This point is known in English as the “uterus point” because of its usefulness in treating conditions linked to the uterus, including dysmenorrhea (painful periods), infertility, and uterine prolapse.
- CV2: The CV2 acupuncture point, known in English as “Curved Bone,” is located in the centre of the pubic bone. This point is used to treat problems with feminine discharge, dysmenorrhea, irregular cycles, and male infertility.
- CV5: The CV5 acupuncture point, known in English as “Stone Gate,” is located three body inches above the pubic bone. (In acupuncture, a body inch or “cun” is a specific measurement taken from the finger joints of the patient that signifies the distance between acupuncture points.) The CV5 acupuncture point has classically been used to treat male and female infertility, abdominal pain, and gastrointestinal issues.
- ST30: The ST30 acupuncture point, known in English as “Surging Qi” (Qi is the ancient Chinese term for the energy that flows throughout the body), is located on the inner groin. Acupuncturists use this point to treat male infertility and regulate menstrual conditions, including irregular periods, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea (lack of periods), and abnormal uterine bleeding.
- KD13: The KD13 acupuncture point, known in English as “Qi Hole,” is located along the kidney meridian line. Along with other points along this line, KD13 is useful for abdominal and/or gynecological health conditions, including infertility.
Fertility Acupuncture Alternatives
If inserting fine needles into different parts of your body isn’t your thing, there are a number of alternatives that may assist you in your reproductive journey.
Yoga has long been a relaxing technique that people use to lower stress and strengthen the body. But it also shows promise as a lifestyle change that can promote healthy reproduction in both men and women. The benefits of yoga for fertility include strengthening the body, easing stress, depression, and anxiety, and balancing hormones. Even if you are new to the practice, yoga for fertility is a safe activity that you can build upon to support you in your journey to conceive.
Meditation has powerful effects on the mind and body, but experts are now encouraging patients to tap into the mind-body connection for fertility. Managing stress and balancing hormones, both benefits that mediation can provide, can go a long way in improving your chances of conception.
Long proven to support stress management skills, fertility meditations can help you manage the added stress of trying to conceive while optimising your physical and mental health.
You may want to consider simple lifestyle changes that can help you improve your chances of conceiving in addition to acupuncture, yoga, and meditation. The key to fertility includes:
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Moving your body.
- Choosing a diet that supports your health goals (like getting pregnant!).
Other lifestyle changes that support your chances of getting pregnant include managing stress, timing intercourse, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule.
There are a number of ways in which acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help with fertility and improve the success rate of IVF or other fertility treatments. The goal of acupuncture is to support and harmonise the body to encourage optimal health and function.
The approach of Chinese medicine is to treat the whole person, both mind and body, identifying and correcting imbalances that are occurring in that individual. In this way, the patient receives physical and emotional support through an individualised treatment plan during the fertility journey. If you have other concerns or inquiries, do not hesitate to call us, and we will gladly schedule an appointment with our expert practitioners so they can guide you into this traditional holistic approach.