With our modern luxuries and lifestyle, you might think that society would be really good at helping women get pregnant if they wanted to have a child. Honestly though, we’re not. Statistics for women trying to get pregnant during their fertile years are quite good (in the 85% range over a year’s time), but for women who try for pregnancy with IVF or other assisted reproduction methods the odds are actually quite dismal (around 22% per attempt). If you’re one of those women who is trying to get pregnant and desperation is starting to set in, odds are you’re looking around for or using every trick in the book to help boost your chance to conceive. Acupuncture is often mentioned during these times. So is there anything acupuncture can do to help?
The answer is yes and no. Most research examines whether acupuncture increases the odds of IVF succeeding, and while some studies have come out in support, the most recent and stringent research shows benefits for acupuncture only when used in IVF centers that are especially bad at helping people conceive (the reason for this isn’t known yet, but we do have some theories – read on).
A smaller amount of research looks at just what acupuncture is doing for women trying to conceive. Most of the theories are that acupuncture helps a woman’s body develop a better uterine lining by promoting blood flow around the uterus. Another line of thought is that acupuncture helps regulate the complex shifting of hormones that produce a healthy fertile egg. And yet another line is that acupuncture helps you relax, so that instead of focusing on the anxiety and stress of trying to conceive, you can enjoy your time with your partner instead.
Our experience in the clinic matches with this second idea – that acupuncture is best for helping women prepare for pregnancy by regulating menstrual cycles, promoting ovulation of healthy eggs, balancing hormonal shifts, and easing stress. It’s well known that the more any of those factors are off, the harder it is to conceive, and if there are additional problems complicating fertility (eg. endometriosis) then acupuncture may be needed for those reasons first, and fertility second.
What this means is that acupuncture is helpful for promoting a healthy lifestyle (which enhances fertility), and it is a good idea to see an acupuncturist if you’re trying to conceive and wondering if something in your health may be impacting your chances. If this is you, schedule your consultation today!
(As for why acupuncture is only seen to have an effect in bad IVF clinics: While this could be due to limitations in acupuncture, we should also question whether the patient population of these clinics are more prone to environmental factors affecting pregnancy, such as access to good nutrition, healthy home environments, and the like. Some IVF clinics may serve especially challenging populations.)