Does acupuncture help with fertility treatments?

Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine technique that uses thin needles to stimulate specific points on the body to release blocked energy and jumpstart a healing process. In the context of fertility, acupuncture may help improve blood flow to the uterus and reduce stress and anxiety. It may also play a role in regulating certain hormones that play a role in fertility, including beta endorphins and insulin. However, data from randomized experiments are very limited, and scientific results on the effectiveness of acupuncture for fertility treatments are inconclusive.

When studies have compared IVF pregnancy and live birth rates with or without acupuncture or against a placebo control, some research shows an improvement in outcomes for patients who underwent acupuncture compared to those who did not; other research shows no such effect. Interestingly, a number of studies comparing acupuncture with a placebo treatment detected no difference in outcomes between the placebo and the acupuncture groups. This suggests that placebo treatment and acupuncture may have similar beneficial effects. It is possible that both treatments reduce stress and anxiety and provide patients with a sense of agency in improving their outcomes.

More controlled experiments are necessary to draw clearer conclusions on the effectiveness of acupuncture and its mechanisms for improvement. The limited number of studies to date often use few acupuncture sessions at different times during treatment, as well as differing placebo treatments. They also typically measure pregnancy rates, which are less relevant for those undergoing egg or embryo freezing and trying to decide whether acupuncture would be helpful for them.

We recommend you ask your doctor about their latest (unpublished) research and observations on acupuncture for your particular fertility treatment. If acupuncture is something that has been effective for you in the past, or if you’d like to try something new that might help improve treatment outcomes, there seem to be no drawbacks besides cost and time investment. If you opt in to doing acupuncture, undergoing more than a few treatments prior to your embryo transfer seems to be more effective.

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