According to a study, “Acupuncture can increase the chances of getting pregnant for women undergoing fertility treatment by 65%” Some 10-15% of couples have difficulty conceiving at some point in their reproductive lives and seek specialist fertility treatment. A commonly used option is in vitro
fertilisation, which involves retrieving a woman’s egg, fertilising the egg in the laboratory, and then transferring the embryo back into the woman’s uterus through the cervix. This entire process is typically referred to as an in vitro fertilisation “cycle” because it involves several procedures.
Acupuncture has been used in China for centuries to regulate the female reproductive system. Three potential mechanisms for its effects on fertility have been postulated.
Firstly, acupuncture may mediate the release of neurotransmitters, which may in turn stimulate secretion of gonadotrophin releasing hormone, thereby influencing the menstrual cycle, ovulation, and fertility.
Secondly, acupuncture may stimulate blood flow to the uterus by inhibiting uterine central sympathetic nerve activity.
Thirdly, acupuncture may stimulate the production of endogenous opioids, which may inhibit the central nervous system outflow and the biological stress response.
The seven studies that the researchers included in their analysis were all randomised controlled trials. In six of the studies, an acupuncture session was given just before the fertilised embryo was implanted back into the mother and another straight after. One trial involved acupuncture only after implantation. Two studies gave a third session during different phases of the process.
The authors reported that IVF with acupuncture increased the odds of pregnancy by 65% (according to early evidence on ultrasound), increased the odds of ongoing pregnancy by 87% (according to ultrasound evidence of pregnancy at 12 weeks) and increased the odds of a live birth by 91% compared with IVF on its own.