Acupuncture and FertilityYoung female cancer patient; young male cancer patient

Acupuncture and Fertility at a Glance

  • Acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, which can help in follicle development and promote a healthy uterine lining.
  • Acupuncture has been reported to inhibit uterine motility and contractions that may negatively affect pregnancy rate.
  • Acupuncture can reduce the type of stress and emotional feelings that often accompany infertility treatments.
  • Acupuncture can help eliminate and mitigate the side effects of fertility medications.
  • Research has proven some of the benefits of acupuncture, but more studies are needed to understand how and why acupuncture works and its effects on infertility.

Acupuncture Can Reduce Stress

Acupuncture is an element of traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting thin needles into the skin at specific locations. These insertion points have been shown to have greater electrical conductance and a higher metabolic rate, and thus affect bodily functions.

The primary reason infertility patients choose acupuncture therapy is to reduce stress and anxiety. Many women are emotionally invested in having a baby and often experience anxiety about this. Cost of treatments, personal commitment involved and the uncertain nature of the outcome can contribute additional stress.

Research has shown that acupuncture may change the concentrations of endorphins in the brain, which in turn can help relieve stress and anxiety. This can result in a patient resting and sleeping better, as well as attaining a better frame of mind. Thus, acupuncture may provide an excellent alternative for stress reduction in women undergoing infertility treatment, as feelings of relaxation have been reported by many patients following acupuncture.

Many women undergoing infertility treatments may take a variety of medications, which can cause such side effects as hot flashes, insomnia, headaches, constipation and anxiety. These can add further stress to an already stressful situation. An individualized acupuncture approach can help relieve these side effects.

Acupuncture Improves Uterine Blood Flow

Acupuncture treatments have been shown on ultrasound to increase blood flow to the ovaries and uterus. This better blood flow to the uterus may improve the endometrial environment for embryo implantation. Research is ongoing to explore this positive effect to aid in achieving pregnancy and enhancing birth rates from assisted reproductive technology.

During in vitro fertilization (IVF), Advanced Reproductive Medicine has a protocol involving acupuncture prior to and following the embryo transfer to relieve the patient’s stress and improve uterine blood flow. In small research studies, this has shown to be effective in increasing pregnancy rates.

Acupuncture for Fertility Services

Women or couples under care at Advanced Reproductive Medicine for infertility and other gynecologic problems have easy access to The Center for Integrative Medicine (TCFIM). TCFIM is located on the 5th floor of the medical center on the Anschutz campus. The practitioners, physicians, acupuncturists and others meet with the patient to determine the most effective approach and work closely with ARM physicians.

Geina Horton, a licensed Colorado acupuncturist and board certified by the National Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, provides acupuncture services for many ARM patients and for TCFIM. Her website, www.insightacupuncture.com, offers more information on acupuncture and fertility, as well as links to academic articles on the subject.