Although having pins stuck into you might not sound too appealing, some research has suggested that acupuncture can help boost fertility and increase the chances of conception.
Not only this, but many women have reported that acupuncture has helped them relieve stress and help them relax throughout pregnancy and beyond – but does it really work?
In this article:
According to the NHS, acupuncture is a treatment derived from traditional Chinese medicine where fine needles are inserted at certain points of the body for therapeutic or preventive purposes.
This encourages the body to produce natural substances, such as pain-relieving endorphins and it's likely that these substances are responsible for the beneficial effects experienced by some with acupuncture.
How can acupuncture help boost fertility?
So, does acupuncture help boost your fertility naturally when trying to conceive? According to a 2008 study by Edward Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine, it was suggested that the acupuncture might help women to relax which would, in turn, improve pregnancy rates. It’s also important to note that this study was carried out on women undergoing IVF.
These theories suggest that acupuncture works by helping to release chemicals that send messages from the brain - called neurotransmitters - that affect reproductive hormones and organs; by stimulating blood flow to the uterus, thereby making embryo implantation more likely. But these theories have been questioned for their credibility.
Kate Davies, Fertility Nurse Consultant at Dr Fertility says, “Many women decide to look for complementary therapies to assist their fertility journey, acupuncture being one of them. However, to date, the beneficial effect of acupuncture in improving fertility remains unproven and debatable. This is in part due to the lack of robust research studies into the benefits of acupuncture for optimising fertility and in particular randomised controlled trials. That said, patients frequently report the therapeutic benefits of acupuncture when it comes to emotional support, and this benefit must not be under-estimated, but to date, there is no high-quality evidence that it improves fertility outcomes with or without IVF.”
Risks that come with acupuncture
Acupuncture is a fairly risk-free treatment, but it is very important to ensure your acupuncturist is a certified and licensed professional with experience in fertility. You can search for licenced acupuncturists local to you here.
As an extra precaution, before your treatment, you can also check that all the needles being used are individually packaged, single-use needles. Your acupuncturist should also use an antiseptic or alcohol wipe or swab on the skin, each time before inserting a needle.
The NHS say that experiencing side effects from acupuncture is very rare, however, some people experience the below symptoms:
Pain where the needles puncture the skin
Bleeding or bruising where the needles puncture the skin
Feeling dizzy or faint
Worsening of pre-existing symptoms
Benefits of acupuncture
Other than potentially helping you to conceive, acupuncture can also have a positive effect around other health problems, including:
Chronic neck pain
Many also believe that acupuncture can help combat anxiety as it helps the body to relax and relieve stress. However, many scientists have questioned the reliability of these studies.
What will happen at my appointment?
Your first acupuncture session will probably be a consultation appointment with your practitioner. They will ask you plenty of questions to work out what kind of acupuncture would work best for you.
They'll then find the pressure points that will benefit you most and insert needles accordingly. Needles will be left in for around 20 minutes while you relax in the room.
Did acupuncture work for these mums?
We asked our Facebook group #MumTribe how acupuncture as a fertility treatment worked for them:
Mum Rosy Rebekkah McWilliams tried acupuncture during her IVF treatment: 'I tried acupuncture during my second and third round of IVF. We finally had a baby via the third round, but I'm not sure it's as simple as whether acupuncture worked or not. It was relaxing though, and made me feel like I was doing something to help.'
Mum Alice Olivia says that her acupuncture session helped bring on her labour: 'I had no signs of labour, then had it done Monday evening and waters had broken by 11:30 that night. Baby was born at 7:50 Tuesday morning. I didn’t believe it would work, it was my second session and she went really intense as she knew I didn’t want to be induced. Might be a coincidence but I do know three people that have gone into labour not long after a session.'
Is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?
Yes, just be sure to tell your practitioner that you are expecting and they will alter your treatment accordingly.