Acupuncture for Infertility

Benefits · Modern Studies · Protocol

If you have been trying to conceive for at least 1 year without success, most doctors would diagnose you with infertility. You are not alone; infertility currently affects about 1 in 6 couples in the U.S.

Many couples turn to the latest medical technologies, such as ovulation-promoting drugs, intra-uterine insemination, and in vitro fertilization (IVF), to assist them in bearing children. These are collectively known as Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) and millions of dollars are spent per year in the U.S alone on ART. In vitro fertilization is an incredible technology that has led to many successful pregnancies. However, it is not an easy path to take: It is a very complex procedure, it is quite expensive (cost up to $20,000 per procedure), and most find it emotionally difficult. Furthermore, the success rate is still relatively low (generally from 10% to 35%). If you decide to invest your time and money into these therapies, you would want to give yourself every advantage possible. Adding acupuncture to your ART treatment can significantly increase your chance of success.

If ART is not for you due to financial, medical, or other reasons, or if you wish to try something less invasive/expensive first, acupuncture is equally (or more) valuable for both female and male factor infertility. It is safe, natural, and drug free. Comparing to many ART medical procedures, the total cost is just a drop in a bucket.

Benefits

In short, acupuncture treatments increase blood circulation and bring more nutrients to the reproductive organs. Acupuncture treatments can

  • Regulate menstrual cycles
  • Normalize the hormone communication cycle in women. It also reduces stress and increases endorphin levels, both of which positively affect hormone levels.
  • Increase ovulation rates
  • improving the quality of eggs, endometrial lining, cervical fluid, and sperms
  • Increase the chances of implantation: Acupuncture helps to relax the uterus, so that implantation becomes more likely. Often in IVF, the embryo transfer process stimulates uterine contractions, which can make implantation difficult. This may be why studies found that acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer increases the success rates significantly by relaxing the uterus muscle.
  • Increase the chance of a healthy, full-term pregnancy: Continued acupuncture treatment for at least the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is highly recommended to decrease the chance of miscarriage. It’s also useful for morning sickness, fatigue, and mood swings.

Modern Studies

Acupuncture for Infertility, with ART

A growing number of research studies in medical journals are demonstrating impressive results when acupuncture is combined with ART. A landmark study published in April 2002 in the Fertility & Sterility Journal caught the attention of many reproductive specialists: Women undergoing IVF embryo transfer who also received acupuncture had an average of 42.5% success rate, comparing with the average of 26.3% success rate of those who did not get acupuncture. A study published in May 2006 (Fertility & Sterility) found that acupuncture more than doubled the pregnancy rates of the IVF procedures. Because of this and other research, many infertility doctors now routinely refer their patients for acupuncture.

Acupuncture for infertility, without ART

Only recently has Western science begun to conduct studies on acupuncture by itself for infertility: One study compared women with endocrine dysfunctional infertility. In the study, one group was put on the drug Clomid and the other was treated with acupuncture. The result showed 45% pregnancy in the Clomid group, and 65% in the acupuncture group. Other studies showed that acupuncture can stimulate ovulation, reduce the impedance of the blood flow to the uterus, and normalize the hormone communication cycle in women. It also reduces stress hormones and increases endorphin levels; both are conducive to pregnancy. And there are numerous studies citing the benefits of acupuncture for male factor infertility. Acupuncture increases the number and ratio of normal-form sperms; significantly decreases the number of anti-sperm antibodies (in male immune infertility), and improves sperm motility.

Recommended Protocol

The fertility program is designed to help you achieve the reproductive balance necessary to conceive, carry, and deliver a healthy baby. We highly recommend couples be evaluated and involved in the treatment together to ensure a high success rate of pregnancy. The fees remain the same when both couples are treated. The treatments are tailored to meet each individual’s needs.

In general, I recommend acupuncture treatments:

  • With Chinese herbs: 1x/week for 4-6 weeks, followed by 2x/month, and then monthly, until pregnancy.
  • For those patients whose MDs have requested that they not take herbs during their ART: 2x /week, and one treatment on the same day prior to the ART procedure.

These protocols are the same for both men and women. For best chance of success with ART, acupuncture treatment should begin three months prior to any major procedure. If this schedule is not possible for you, please try to get acupuncture treatments for as many weeks as possible before the ART procedure begins.

It takes a minimum of three menstrual cycles to regulate a woman's menses and 70-90 days for men to regenerate healthy sperms. Therefore, we recommend you plan on three to eight months of continuous treatments for infertility.