Considering Fertility Acupuncture?



Considering Fertility Acupuncture?

Have you considered Fertility Acupuncture? If you’ve been experiencing infertility, you’ve likely come across the idea of acupuncture for increasing your chances of getting pregnant. Perhaps the thought of needles make you turn the other way? Or maybe you’re interested but just don’t know if there’s really any truth to what you might have heard or read.

Fertility Acupuncture treatments are becoming a popular natural alternative to conventional fertility treatments and a great adjunct to assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Intra-uterine Insemination (IUI). Fertility Acupuncture is a very gentle yet effective option for those who would like a more natural approach, or who want to increase their chances of IVF success.

Not sure where to start?

Book a free introductory session and discover how natural fertility treatments can help you conceive.

How Fertility Acupuncture Can Increase Natural Fertility

Acupuncture works by balancing the flow of energy, or “Qi”, traveling through pathways in the body called “meridians”. When the flow of Qi is disrupted or out of balance, that’s when symptoms or pathologies in the body arise. The goal of acupuncture is to restore the balance and re-direct the flow of Qi, by placing very thin sterile needles at specific points on the body. The needles affect the flow of blood, nerve conduction and thousands of biochemical pathways, which can ultimately affect our hormones and general health. While acupuncture is an ancient practice, there are growing amounts of research showing that acupuncture can treat many ailments and restore the body to optimal health.

Fertility Acupuncture treatments can improve fertility by:

  • Reducing stress, a common reason many women have trouble conceiving
  • Regulating the menstrual cycle
  • Stimulating ovulation
  • Reducing uterine spasms, especially important pre and post IVF transfer
  • Correcting menstrual imbalances such as luteal phase defect
  • Improving the quality, quantity, and mobility of sperm
  • Increasing blood flow to the uterus, making a better lining and improving the chance of implantation and reducing the chance of miscarriage
  • Increasing blood flow to the ovaries to improve egg quality
  • Correcting hormone imbalances (including balancing the thyroid gland)
  • Eliminating inflammation that may reduce fertility

Several research studies have found that fertility acupuncture is indeed helpful for couples who have difficulty conceiving, and can improve the chances for conception to occur naturally. Fertility Acupuncture has proven to be particularly effective in improving the success rates of Assisted Reproductive Technologies such as IVF and IUI. Even the world’s leading fertility clinics routinely support the use of fertility acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment to improve outcomes of assisted fertility treatments.

Here are some highlights of the research available on fertility acupuncture for improving IVF success:

A systematic review published in 2012 looking at 23 trials for fertility, showed that “acupuncture, especially around the time of the controlled ovarian hyperstimulation, improved pregnancy outcomes in women undergoing IVF.” The authors concluded that “more positive effects from acupuncture in IVF can be expected if more individualized acupuncture programs are used.” (Zheng et at, 2012)

The most classic research study that is frequently cited for the benefit of fertility acupuncture in IVF is a study conducted by Paulus et al. (2002) looking at the effect of acupuncture vs. control in women who received assisted reproduction therapy (ART). There was a 42.5% pregnancy rate in those who received acupuncture vs. 26.3% in control which was a significant increase.

Since the many researchers and practitioners of acupuncture have termed this the “Paulus Protocol” and these specific points have been used in further studies and by acupuncturists all around the world to help with improving IVF success rates (See a note on this below).

An ART treatment study looking at the pregnancy outcome in patients receiving fertility acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer and two days after the transfer both resulted in higher pregnancy rates than the control. The pregnancy rate is especially higher in the group that received fertility acupuncture on the day of transfer (Westergaard et al., 2006).

Another research review looking at clinical outcomes of fertility acupuncture as an adjunct therapy for women receiving IVF treatment shows improved rates of pregnancy with minimal side effects. The review does recommend practitioners who provide acupuncture as an adjunct therapy for IVF to stay updated with IVF protocol changes (Rosenthal and Anderson, 2007).

Electroacupuncture as an adjunctive therapy can also reduce the occurrence of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome in IVF. (Zhongguo et al, 2014)

Some research on how fertility acupuncture can benefit overall fertility:

In explaining how acupuncture affects fertility, The Journal of Chinese Medicine emphasizes that acupuncture benefits fertility in improving the quality of the eggs by acting on the ovaries and the reproductive hormonal system. This enhancement of fertilization environment increases rates of conception (Maughan and Zhai, 2017).

Based on a study done in 2010 on women with PCOS, one of the most common causes of infertility, fertility acupuncture is effective in the treatment of PCOS, with little to no adverse effects. Fertility Acupuncture treats PCOS by increasing blood flow to the ovaries, reducing of ovarian volume and the number of ovarian cysts, controlling hyperglycemia through increasing insulin sensitivity and decreasing blood glucose and insulin levels, reducing cortisol levels and assisting in weight loss (Lim and Wong, 2010).

These findings are also supported by a review of major research studies on acupuncture, concluding that acupuncture is beneficial in PCOS patients experiencing infertility. Beneficial effects are also seen in male idiopathic infertility, involving little side effect (Franconi et al., 2011).

In a study of women with diminished ovarian reserve, electroacupuncture over a period of 12 weeks appears to favorably modulate reproductive hormone levels (e.g. lowering FSH levels), and improve the ovarian reserve of patients with no significant side effects (Wang et al, 2016)

What about the studies showing no benefit of fertility acupuncture for IVF pregnancy rates?

We’re not ignoring the fact that there are several studies and systematic reviews published that found no significant benefit, or insufficient evidence to support the use of acupuncture for fertility and IVF. We often find that non-supporters of acupuncture and the media have sensationalized these studies making bold statements that acupuncture has no benefit, while completely ignoring the positive evidence that clearly shows there’s something to it.

A study published in the International Journal of Women’s Health explains how the Western medical research measurement system might be flawed in the evaluation of acupuncture. Because acupuncture is based on a Chinese medical understanding (differentiation of patterns of symptoms, individualization of treatments, assessment of energy circulation, and other personalized factors) rather than based on the Western standardized measurement system, standardization reduces the effect of acupuncture in individual patients. But the evidence does show that fertility acupuncture improves menstrual health and reproductive functioning (Cochrane, 2014).

Acupuncture is a complex system to study. Traditional acupuncture involves an individualized selection of points based on a patient’s specific constitution, rather than a generic protocol. It is an intricate diagnostic system, which results in individualized an treatment protocol involving a combination of points and variations in treatment frequency and duration.

Many studies have tried to replicate the results of the Paulus studies by using the same points (referred to as the Paulus Protocol), without achieving the same level of success. This is likely because using the same protocol on a different population or even a different individual is not expected to yield the same benefit. The Paulus Protocol has also been criticized over time by many world-renowned acupuncturists due to the points being outdated based on newer IVF protocols. Yet we still see many practitioners and research groups using it on patients and to further study its effectiveness on IVF.

Another point of concern affecting the conclusions of review studies is that much of the research only did fertility acupuncture pre- and post- embryo transfer in IVF treatments, whereas traditional acupuncture involves regular consistent weekly treatments for at least 3 months to regulate hormones and achieve the benefits it has to offer. The treatment process of acupuncture is critical in its effectiveness.

By increasing blood flow, balancing the thyroid and reproductive hormone system, and relieving stress, acupuncture directly but non-invasively restores and balances the body’s different organ systems.

Our Recommended Fertility Acupuncture Treatments

For optimal success rates, you should start fertility acupuncture treatments at least 3-4 months prior to undergoing IVF or IUI, in order to improve hormone balance, regulate menstrual cycles and improve overall health prior to the fertility treatments. Ideally, two treatments per week have shown the most successful outcome. At a minimum, once weekly treatments are required and the acupuncture points will vary based on your menstrual cycle.

In addition to regular fertility acupuncture for 3 months before IVF or IUI, acupuncture will also be timed specifically when you are doing your IVF/IUI cycle.

Fertility Acupuncture for IVF

During ovarian stimulation: 2-4 sessions during this phase of treatment can help to increase the quality and quantity of eggs and reduce the chances of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

Egg Retrieval: 1 treatment the day before and 1 treatment the day of the egg retrieval.

Embryo Transfer: on the day of embryo transfer, and again 2-4 days following embryo transfer (the timing will vary based on whether you had a day 3 or day 5 embryo transfer). These treatments are aimed at increasing blood flow to the uterus, reducing uterine spasms, supporting implantation and reducing stress.

Fertility Acupuncture for IUI

During ovarian stimulation: 2-4 sessions during this phase of treatment can help to increase the quality and quantity of eggs and reduce the chances of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

Ovulation: 1 treatment the day before and 1 treatment on the day of ovulation.

Insemination: on the day of insemination, and again 2-4 days following insemination. These treatments are aimed at increasing blood flow to the uterus, reducing uterine spasms, supporting implantation and reducing stress.

Best outcomes result from a combined approach of fertility acupuncture with supplements, herbs and improving one’s overall health (improving nutrition, reducing stress, correcting imbalances and deficiencies, attaining ideal body weight, etc). Our Natural Fertility Program uses an integrative approach using acupuncture as a complement to other natural methods of improving fertility.

By improving the body’s overall health with this ancient technique, women who have had trouble conceiving may find that they are able to conceive without the need for additional reproductive treatments. If conception doesn’t occur after regular fertility acupuncture treatments, there’s a higher chance that IVF and IUI will be more successful for women who have used fertility acupuncture, than those who have not. This makes fertility acupuncture an excellent choice if you are looking to improve fertility either naturally, or to improve their success rate with assisted fertility treatments.
The source of fertility is balance in the body. When we shift our focus towards healing from within, our procreative energies follow. Life within us becomes possible.
-Dr. Priya Prakash, ND

Why choose us?

We are the only integrative medicine clinic in Ottawa that has a primary focus on fertility. Our practitioners each have a particular passion for helping women and couples struggling with infertility and have specific expertise in the treatment of fertility related issues.

Our treatments are evidence-based. We stay current with the latest fertility research so you can be sure that we are up to date with the safest and most effective therapies available.

We are well-versed in the process of treatments from the Ottawa Fertility Centre (or other fertility clinics) so our therapies are designed to safely complement your treatments there, without interfering.

Supplements are never recommended unless they are needed. You can trust that our treatment and evaluation recommendations are based on your best interest.

We encourage you to play an active role in the decision-making process of your treatment plan. Our recommendations are not made to be blindly followed – we want you to participate, ask questions, and take control. We try to be as transparent as possible and provide as much information as we can regarding your plan. You always have a chance to discuss the options, ask your questions and voice your concerns.

We offer a range of natural fertility solutions to suit your needs, conveniently all in one location:

  • Naturopathic Medicine
  • Counselling/Therapy
  • Holistic Nutrition Counselling
  • Acupuncture
  • Pelvic Health Physiotherapy
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Vitamins & Supplements
  • Lab Testing
  • Maya Abdominal Therapy

Read more about our Fertility Program here:

We offer more than just a selection of natural therapies. Delving a lot deeper than conventional medical visits, we uncover some possible hidden causes of infertility, get the root cause of why you might not be successfully getting pregnant (or staying pregnant). Based on our findings, we carefully select a course of treatment that we feel will give you the best results. We take you through our step by step Fertility Program which involves a whole system approach to balancing your body. Our approach is very personalized and comprehensive, and will not only increase your fertility success but will leave you with better health, more energy and a sense of restored balance.

While the ultimate goal is to get you pregnant, we also want to get you healthy. Fertility is a just a natural part of being healthy and balanced.

We can help you transform your struggle into strength. The key to your fertility lies within you. Let’s Awaken it!

Book a free introductory session and discover how natural fertility treatments can help you conceive.