Acupuncture has grown increasingly popular in the United States in recent years, with more than 10 million acupuncture treatments administered every year. While it is most often used to treat pain, it can help with many other conditions including reproductive health issues.
If you’re considering acupuncture for fertility and pregnancy, here is some information that may help you decide if the practice is right for you.
Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine understand acupuncture as a method of balancing the flow of energy, or qi (pronounced “chee”), throughout the body. Using hair-thin needles, the practice targets certain points on your body to remove energy blocks and promote healthy blood circulation.
Evidence shows that it is effective at soothing body aches and pains. It may also be used to promote overall wellness — by stimulating nerve endings below the skin, acupuncture triggers the release of endorphins, which can reduce stress and combat feelings of depression and anxiety.
“Acupuncture protects the health and well-being of the [pregnant person] and developing fetus by supporting the immune functions and reducing stress levels,” shares Dr. Karen You, L.Ac., DAOM, of Johnson’s Acupuncture in San Francisco. “Additional traditional Chinese medicine modalities, such as moxibustion and cupping, are often used together with acupuncture treatments to improve circulation, support joint health, and relax muscle tension.”
While acupuncture is safe during pregnancy, it is important to find a licensed acupuncturist and consult with your OBGYN or primary care provider before starting treatments.
For some individuals, acupuncture may lead to fatigue, dizziness, discomfort, and/or bleeding by the targeted area of the body. These side effects are consistent among both pregnant and non-pregnant acupuncture patients.
Research on this particular area of integrative medicine is still evolving. Some studies have found that acupuncture is effective at treating a variety of fertility-related health conditions including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), hypothyroidism, and endometriosis.
And there is much anecdotal evidence that acupuncture eases the side effects of fertility medications and lowers stress, which may play a role in fertility issues.
Acupuncture can potentially:
Acupuncture is often recommended for individuals who have had one or more unsuccessful cycles of in vitro fertilization (IVF). It’s common for acupuncture patients to be treated three to four months before undergoing fertility treatment.
While acupuncture should not be seen as a supplement for IVF or intrauterine insemination (IUI), it can be a support tool in your treatment. One research study found that having acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer could lead to higher rates of pregnancy and live birth.
Each individual’s experience of acupuncture — and its use during fertility treatment or pregnancy in particular — is different. Give yourself time to decide whether it’s right for you and be sure to consult with your doctor as you explore your options.
If you’re interested in giving acupuncture a try, you can search for a licensed acupuncturist through the American Society of Acupuncturists or the National Certification Commission For Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
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