Can acupuncture help me get pregnant?
We are often asked, “can acupuncture help me get pregnant?” We get it: the idea that sticking tiny hair-like needles into your body can alleviate pain let alone help you make a baby is, well, astounding. Fortunately, it’s more than just an idea. Here, at Healing Points, we have helped hundreds of patients on their fertility journey: the before, during, and after. And, while it is always nice to hear anecdotal stories, these days there is also a growing body of research that promisingly shows acupuncture’s effect on the reproductive system.
Acupuncture and Ovulation
Many of our patients have difficulty getting pregnant because they aren’t ovulating at all. Various things come into play then (diet, stress, sleep, and more). But often we find that acupuncture can have a powerful effect on the ovaries. This is especially true of electro-acupuncture (aka e-stim) and women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Repeated electro-acupuncture treatments were shown to induce regular ovulation in more than one-third of women with PCOS. You can read more about that study here.
Get the Blood Flowing
Increased blood flow and moving stuck qi (energy) is a cornerstone of acupuncture. What is being treated is all dependent upon what blockages and stagnations need to be released and redirected. It makes sense then that increasing blood flow to the pelvic region can help improve the blood supply to the reproductive organs. Acupuncture seems to relax the blood vessels in the pelvis, which leads to better blood flow, which also means better-nourished eggs. In addition, one well-known study out of Germany found that acupuncture performed before and after an IVF embryo transfer resulted in a greater likelihood of pregnancy than women who just made lifestyle changes to get pregnant. The study, published here in the US, divided 180 women who were having IVF into two groups of 80 women. One group had IVF with acupuncture and one group had IVF without acupuncture. The group that had acupuncture had a pregnancy rate of 42.5% versus the group that had no acupuncture that had a pregnancy rate of 26.3%. That’s almost a 50% better outcome in the acupuncture group. Additional studies show similar findings.
Stay Calm and Get Pregnant
It is known that stress plays a very crucial role in the inability to conceive. Because of the delicate balance between the hypothalamus, pituitary, and reproductive glands, stress is actually capable of preventing a woman from ovulating entirely. This can contribute to the cause of female infertility. Stress can also create spasms in both the fallopian tubes and the uterus, which can interfere with the movement and implantation of a fertilized egg. In men, too, stress can alter sperm counts and motility. Acupuncture has been shown to counter the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression that can both contribute to fertility problems and also be a side effect for women struggling with fertility. By releasing endorphins in the brain, acupuncture helps combat these offenders.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, when it comes to acupuncture and fertility, consistency and timing are key. Patients are commonly treated several (three) months prior to progressing to insemination, IVF, or donor-egg transfer. In a study by Stener-Victorin et al. from the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology Fertility Centre, Scandinavia, and the University of Gothenburg, women are encouraged to receive acupuncture treatments pre and post embryo transfer. Many women continue with acupuncture treatments throughout their entire pregnancy to help reduce the risk of miscarriage, ease morning sickness and help with any ongoing depression or stress.
What You Eat and More
There is no doubt about the fact that nutrition plays a key role in fertility. However, as usual, there is no one-size-fits-all nutrition plan. We make recommendations based on you individually, as well as where you might be in your cycle. Chinese medicine recommends eating certain foods during different phases of the menstrual cycle to not only balance the phases but your hormones. Generally speaking, blood-nourishing foods are highly regarded to support you during your period and the follicular phase, which is the time post-period that your cervix produces fertile cervical fluid–the biggest indicator of fertility. Blood-nourishing foods include broths, eggs, high-quality organic/pasture-raised meats, beets, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, seaweed, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries (do you see the red/purple theme here supporting blood flow?), lentils, quinoa, black beans, flaxseed, and more. Sometimes something as simple as dehydration can prevent a couple from getting pregnant. Dehydration can lead to lower production of the fertile cervical fluid needed at ovulation and can lower semen volume. We recommend additional, specific foods during the Ovulation phase and the Luteal phase, as well as foods to avoid to prepare for a warm, fertile body.
Chinese herbs can support you through your cycles, as well. We prescribe herbal formulas tailored to your unique constitution and pattern. We also make recommendations on appropriate vitamins and supplements. For further fertility advice, support, and guidance on when you should begin acupuncture treatments, how often, and how we can work in tandem with your fertility specialist, give us a call or schedule your appointment today.