How Does Acupuncture Helps with Infertility?

Can Acupuncture be used to treat Infertility?

Acupuncture, frequently combined with herbal medicine, has been used for centuries to treat some but not all causes of infertility. In combination with western medicine, individuals may benefit from acupuncture and herbs because of the potential effect of improved ovarian and follicular function. Additionally, acupuncture can increase blood flow to the endometrium, helping to facilitate a thick, rich lining, thereby reducing the chances of infertility.

Acupuncture improves menstruation and Polycystic ovary syndrome.

The researchers in this study looked at one group of women with polycystic ovary syndrome who received a specific type of acupuncture called “electro-acupuncture” for four months to heal infertility.  A second group of women were provided with heart rate monitors and instructed to exercise at least three times a week.  A third group received no intervention. The study showed that activity in the sympathetic nervous system was lower in the women who received acupuncture and in those who took regular exercise than it was in the control group. The acupuncture treatment brought further benefits. Those who received acupuncture found that their menstruation became more “normal”, showing an improvement in their prior infertility.  In addition, those that received acupuncture had their levels of testosterone reduced significantly. This is important because elevated testosterone levels are closely connected with the increased activity in the sympathetic nervous system of women. The researchers concluded that acupuncture and exercise can bring relief to women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and reduce infertility.*
*Elisabet Stener-Victorin, Elizabeth Jedel, Per Olof Janson, and Yrsa Bergmann Sverrisdottir1, Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 297: R387-R395, 2009.

Acupuncture benefit of Combine IVF and western infertility medicine.

Studies have shown that use acupuncture and herbs prior to IVF greatly increases the efficacy of IVF. Modern medical wisdom seems to suggest that we combine what is useful from each source to treat infertility. Because Chinese medicine addresses the underlying cause of infertility rather than just the symptoms, it is often helpful to treat conditions generally unresponsive to western drug-oriented treatment.  Very frequently Western Medicine and Chinese Medicine (including acupuncture) may be combined improve infertility to a greater benefit.

A study aimed to evaluate whether acupuncture improves the rates of pregnancy and live birth when used as an adjuvant treatment to embryo transfer in women undergoing invitro fertilization. Eligible studies where randomized controlled trials that compared needle acupuncture administered within one day of embryo transfer with sham acupuncture or no adjuvant treatment, with reported outcomes of at least one of clinical pregnancy, ongoing pregnancy, or live birth were compared. Seven trials with 1366 women undergoing invitro fertilization were included in the meta-analyses. Complementing the embryo transfer process with acupuncture was associated with significant and clinically relevant improvements in clinical pregnancy.  Current preliminary evidence suggests that acupuncture given with embryo transfer improves rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilization.*

(Manheimer E, Zhang G, Udoff L, Haramati A, Langenberg P, Berman BM, Bouter LM., Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: systematic review and meta-analysis., BMJ. 2008 Mar 8;336(7643):545-9. Epub 2008 Feb 7.)

A researchers in Germany looked at the traditional methods of acupuncture to determine its efficacy with the use of traditional points based on Traditional Chinese Medicine combined with assisted reproductive techniques with embryo transfer (invitro fertilization or IVF) to reduce infertility.* The acupoints chosen were used to relax the uterus. The main purpose of the study was to evaluate whether acupuncture accompanying embryo transfer increases clinical pregnancy rates. A total of 160 patients participated in the study, 80 patients receiving acupuncture and assisted reproductive techniques and 80 patients undergoing assisted reproductive techniques without acupuncture. Treatment consisted of an acupuncture treatment before and after IVF. The results showed that the pregnancy rate for the acupuncture group was considerably higher than the control . Acupuncture is a useful tool for improving the pregnancy rate after ART, and reducing infertility overall.*

(Paulus, WE., Zhang, M., Strehler, E., El-Danasouri, I and Sterzik, K. (2002) Influence of acupuncture on pregnancy rates in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fert Steril., 77:721-4)

One study was to provide an overview of the use of acupuncture as an adjunct therapy for invitro fertilization (IVF), including an evidence-based evaluation of its efficacy and safety and an examination of possible mechanisms of action in reducing infertility.  Evidence from clinical trials and case series suggests that acupuncture may improve the success rate of IVF and the quality of life of patients undergoing IVF and that it is a safe adjunct therapy. The reviewed literature suggests 4 possible mechanisms by which acupuncture could improve the outcome of IVF: modulating neuroendocrinological factors; increasing blood flow to the uterus and ovaries; modulating cytokines; and reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.*

(Anderson BJ, Haimovici F, Ginsburg ES, Schust DJ, Wayne PM, In vitro fertilization and acupuncture: clinical efficacy and mechanistic basis. Altern Ther Health Med. 2007 May-Jun;13(3):38-48)


Acupuncture Reduces Pain After IVF

In this study, 286 women were randomly assigned to receive either electroacupuncture plus para-cervical block or alfentanil (a powerful analgesic) plus paracervical block during oocyte aspiration (egg retrieval). Both interventions induced adequate analgesia, however the electro-acupuncture group reported significantly less abdominal pain, other pain, nausea and stress than the medication group, and required significantly less additional analgesic medication.*

(Hum Reprod 2003; 18: 1454-60)

Acupuncture for promoting ovulation on endocrine dysfunctional infertility

This study aimed to compare the therapeutic effects of acupuncture and Western medicine for promoting ovulation on endocrine dysfunctional infertility. Two hundred and forty cases of infertility were randomly divided into an acupuncture group (n = 160) and a Western medicine group (n = 80). They were treated with acupuncture and clomiphene respectively and their therapeutic effects were compared. The pregnancy rate was 65.0% in the acupuncture group and 45.0% in the Western medicine group with a significant difference between the two groups (P < 0.05).*

(Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. Controlled study on acupuncture for treatment of endocrine dysfunctional infertility, 2005 May;25(5):299-300.)

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