With many people now turning to alternative therapies to boost their health and well-being, acupuncture is becoming more popular than ever, particularly with regards to treating infertility. Many fertility clinics are now recognising the positive effects it can have with many offering acupuncture sessions as part of their treatment plans. But what actually is involved and can it really help you to get pregnant?
Acupuncture is a system of healing which draws on over two thousand years of experience from China and the Far East. It works by rebalancing the body’s flow of energy, known as ‘Qi’, and the overall aim is the restore the body’s equilibrium. Illness can occur when the flow of energy around the body is blocked or is uneven, and this causes symptoms. By inserting tiny needles at specific points all over the body which are relevant to the particular needs of the individual patient, the acupuncturist can stimulate the body’s own healing response to restore a healthy balance. Patients often have a sense of well-being after treatment, in addition to a reduction in their symptoms. This is because acupuncture treats the physical discomfort as well as the emotional state as a whole.
The British Acupuncture Council believes acupuncture may boost female fertility by doing the following key things:
- Regulating hormone function
- Increasing blood flow to the ovaries and uterus and helping to relax your muscles which can improve the chance of an embryo implanting
- Tackling the causes of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – a common cause of infertility
- Generally helping to relieve stress and make you feel more relaxed
What happens during a session?
The acupuncturist will ask questions about your symptoms, your medical history, and general questions about your diet and lifestyle in order to build a complete picture of your health. Then appropriate acupuncture points for your individual treatment can be selected. The treatment is adaptable depending on how each patient reacts to the process.
If you are having acupuncture to support your IVF treatment, a plan will be tailored to suit your protocol, whether that be long or short, and will aim to align with the drugs you are taking at various points in the process.
Where are the acupuncture points?
There are acupuncture points all over the body in a network going up and down the arms and legs, and over the head. The most common points are in the lower arms and legs, and on the abdomen.
Does it hurt?
The needles are so fine that often a patient can’t feel the needle once it is in. Everyone responds differently to the treatment, experiencing different sensations that may vary slightly in intensity. There can be a dull ache or heavy feeling around the point but it should not be painful. Your acupuncturist will constantly check how you are feeling and can adapt the treatment based on how you respond.
What do I need to bring?
You may like to have information about your menstrual cycle, for example dates and any symptoms you often experience, and if you have treatment information relating to your IVF protocol this will be useful for your therapist. Make sure you wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing.
How often do I need to have treatments?
This will depend on your individual circumstances, but it is generally recommended to have one session a week. If you are having acupuncture for IVF, this will be dependent on your protocol and the various stages of treatment. In these cases, we offer very flexible appointments which can be arranged at short notice, for example to align with embryo transfer.
It is also recommended that you begin your acupuncture treatment around three months prior to starting IVF if possible, to prepare the mind and body.
What results can I expect?
Treating fertility issues can sometimes take a while, and patients want to know if acupuncture is helping. If you are responding to acupuncture you will notice the benefits. For example, your cycle may become more regular, periods are less painful, with less pre-menstrual tension (PMT) and more obvious signs of ovulation. You may also notice you have more energy, are sleeping better and are less irritable. All these changes indicate that acupuncture is helping to balance the flow of your energy around your body.
Can it be beneficial for men to have acupuncture for fertility issues?
Absolutely! Studies have shown that regular acupuncture can improve sperm count, morphology and motility, whilst supporting good energy levels and strong libido. It can also reduce scrotal temperature.
(The British Acupuncture Council provides further details on these studies if you would like to find out more.)
Here at The Natural Fertility Clinic, we aim to provide expert acupuncture treatment as well as care and support during your fertility journey, whether that be to aid a natural conception, or as part of your IVF, ICSI or IUI treatments. Each member of our team of acupuncturists are trained in the traditional Chinese practice, completing a three-year degree in this area and are therefore highly skilled to determine the best course of treatment for your individual fertility needs. We provide treatment from our clinic in Wokingham, as well as partnering with both Oxford and Thames Valley Fertility Clinics to offer complementary, holistic therapies for patients trying to conceive.
If you have any further questions, please do contact our team and we will be happy to provide further information. We look forward to welcoming you to our clinics and supporting you on your journey.