How does acupuncture help improve fertility?
Acupuncture helps improve fertility by using Chinese medicine to ‘get your body in the right frame of mind’ to make babies. This can be in a number of different ways: by improving blood flow to the uterus, regulating menstruation, helping the hormone profile, helping ovulation and improving sperm count, shape and motility. It is also remarkable in reducing stress, which of course can inhibit blood flow to the uterus, inhibit hormone production. As the fertility journey is incredibly stressful, this can be a vicious cycle to break, but it can be done! Mostly, it is there to support both parents in their journey.
What are the success rates?
Unfortunately, much like western medicine, there are no guarantees with acupuncture. But when practiced safely, there are no adverse side effects, so it’s definitely worth trying it!
What’s the evidence base?
Clinical trials have found acupuncture to be particularly effective alongside IVF when compared to couples just having IVF treatment. As with most acupuncture trials, results are limited because there is not enough money to fund huge trials. There are plenty of uncontrolled trials but fewer controlled trials. This might be because it’s a difficult one to control – it’s impossible to know if the people who got pregnant in the control would have gotten pregnant quicker with acupuncture, or people in the control who didn’t get pregnant would have gotten pregnant with acupuncture, and vice versa in the test group. There are too many variables. There are, however, conflicting results – everyone reacts differently to acupuncture and it’s important to always bear this in mind and manage your expectations.
Is acupuncture alone enough to get me pregnant? Should I be doing anything else?
Acupuncture can aid natural conception, but is also a great addition to IVF. There is significant evidence to support acupuncture improving the chances of a IVF being a success. Of course, I always recommend that you follow your GP or specialist’s advice and treatment alongside your acupuncture treatment (for anything, not just fertility treatment!) But there are other things you can do to improve your chances: implement a regular sleep cycle, reduce processed foods, regular exercise, reduce your stress by identifying stress in your life or doing yoga or meditation, reduce alcohol and coffee. Then there are things you wouldn’t expect that can also make a difference, like keeping warm and avoiding tight trousers for men!
How many sessions do I need/how much does it cost/when should I be doing it in the process?
I fully recommend acupuncture throughout your whole journey, from conception to birth (and beyond!) Weekly sessions are most effective, but that doesn’t mean it is a waste of time if you can only come once a fortnight. Treatment price varies between acupuncturists, but vary from £15-£150 (community or student acupuncture clinics to specialist prices).
What is your experience of treating fertility patients?
I have helped patients conceive with and without IVF. I have treated women with amenorrhoea (no periods) and men with erectile dysfunction. I have also treated many women for other menstrual issues; such as dysmenorrhoea (painful periods) and menorrhagia (very heavy periods). I have treated numerous pregnant women for nausea, back pain, stress, headaches and other common pregnancy symptoms!
Do I need to see a fertility specialist?
This is entirely up to you. The most important piece of advice I can give you is that you find an acupuncturist that you feel you can trust; not just to treat you but to listen to you and understand you. The relationship between patient and acupuncturist is absolutely important in determining whether the treatment will be effective. So, that being said, if the knowledge that an acupuncturist has a special qualification in fertility treatment makes you feel more comfortable then absolutely go for it.
Is it helpful for both men and women/is it just for women/just for men?
Acupuncture can be helpful for either partner, or both!
Our doctor can’t figure out why we can’t get pregnant. Can acupuncture help me?
Acupuncture isn’t magic, but it can help improve your chances. Unexplained infertility is common, and I have experience of successfully helping a couple who did not know why they couldn’t get pregnant to conceive.
What are the treatments like/what does acupuncture feel like/what should I expect?
Your acupuncturist will take a full history from you and ask you questions about your body. Expect questions about your sleep, digestion and more! This helps the acupuncturist diagnose you in Chinese medicine terms and allows them to choose the correct acupuncture points. Acupuncture treatments should feel relaxing, and not painful. Most people describe a dull or tingling sensation when the needle is inserted, and many feel drowsy or euphoric afterwards. There’s a reason so many people come in just for relaxation!
What should I look for when choosing an acupuncturist?
Somebody you can trust to look after you and listen to you. It is perfectly fine to speak with many different acupuncturists until you find the one that feels right for you. You feeling relaxed and comfortable WILL affect the outcome of the treatment, so take your time choosing, and good luck!