Proponents of the technique use acupuncture to treat many different causes of infertility, including spasmed tubes and repeated pregnancy losses. Acupuncture also is believed by some experts to treat the thyroid problems that can cause infertility. Acupuncture frequently combined with herbal medicine, has been used for centuries to treat some but not all 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, acupuncture can increase blood flow to the endometrium, helping to facilitate a thick, rich lining.
There’s no conclusive evidence to support the use of acupuncture for the treatment of infertility. Some studies show little to no benefit. Other studies report significant, positive results.
In a systematic review, researchers analyzed data from multiple, randomized controlled trials. They found some evidence that acupuncture improves menstruation and ovulation in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome when used alone. Researchers also found slight improvements to hormone levels when acupuncture was used in addition to medications. However, a meta-analysis and systematic review found no evidence that acupuncture improves outcomes for women using in vitro fertilization (IVF).
A very small analysis of two men with varicocele, a common type of male factor infertility, looked at the use of acupuncture for the treatment of male infertility. The study results indicated that acupuncture may help reduce scrotal temperature when used with herbal medicine and other forms of traditional Korean medicine. This study was extremely small. More research is needed to understand the relationship between acupuncture and male fertility.
In 2002, researchers studied the effects of acupuncture on pregnancy rates. Women having fertility treatments were assigned to either a control group or an acupuncture group. Scientists transferred embryos into each woman. Half of the women received acupuncture treatment, while the other half (control group) did not. Six weeks later, 26 percent of the women in the control group were pregnant. In the acupuncture group, 42 percent were pregnant.
Norian says this study, in addition to other research, shows acupuncture may improve fertility.
Acupuncture can increase fertility by reducing stress, increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs and balancing the endocrine system, according to several studies and medical research.
One of the ways acupuncture infertility treatment increases fertility is by reducing stress, which is often a key factor in the fertility of both men and women. When people are under stress, the hormone cortizol is released in the brain. This alters the brain’s neurochemical balance, thus changing hormone levels and disrupting the pituitary balance that is key to the reproductive cycle.
Unfortunately, acupuncture will not help everyone. Good candidates have functional rather than structural reasons for infertility. Where there is a structural problem – such as a blocked fallopian tube or a fibroid tumour – acupuncture is not likely to help. And, past a certain age, acupuncture has little chance of being effective.