Can acupuncture be used to treat infertility?

Acupuncture, frequently combined with herbal medicine, has been used for centuries to treat some causes of infertility. For example, acupuncture and herbs will not work to address tubal adhesions which can occur as a result of pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis. However, in this situation, an individual could still benefit from acupuncture and herbs because of the potential effect of improved ovarian and follicular function. Additionally, it is shown that acupuncture can increase blood flow to the endometrium, helping to facilitate a thick, rich lining.

When should acupuncture treatment begin?

Acupuncture is similar to physical therapy in that it is a process oriented method of medical intervention. It is better to do more than less. Patients are commonly treated for three to four months before an insemination, in vitro fertilization (IVF), or donor-egg transfer. This period of treatment seems to have a therapeutic effect.

In a study by Stener-Victorin et al from the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology Fertility Centre, Scandinavia and University of Gothenburg, women are encouraged to receive acupuncture treatments pre and post embryo transfer. Clinical observations from the Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness suggest that the most effective fertility treatments involve a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine, and traditional medical interventions. However, conception does sometimes occur when acupuncture and herbal medicines are used without traditional medical interventions.

A German study done in 2002 showed that of the 80 women who underwent IVF and received acupuncture, 34 women got pregnant, a success rate of 42.5%. Of the 80 women involved in the study who received IVF without any acupuncture treatments, only 21 women (26.3%) became pregnant. More recently, an American study involving 114 women showed that 51% of the women who had acupuncture and IVF treatments became pregnant versus only 36% of the women who had IVF alone. Deeper analysis of this study revealed that, while 8% of the women in the acupuncture group miscarried, the rate of miscarriage in the IVF-only group was 20%. Furthermore, women who received acupuncture also had lower rates of ectopic pregnancies

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