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Can Acupuncture Help Female Infertility

Evidence that Acupuncture can help

IVF:

Dutch and American Researchers analysed results from seven clinical trials including data on 1366 women all carried out since 2002 in four different western countries in which Acupuncture was used to support embryo transfer during IVF.  This analysis concluded that combining real acupuncture with embryo transfer was associated with significant improvements in pregnancy rates.  Women who underwent acupuncture were 65% more likely to have a successful embryo transfer procedure and 91% more likely to have a live birth.

Natural Fertility:

There is some positive evidence that Acupuncture has a positive effect on natural fertility

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome:

This is the most common female endocrine disorder and is strongly associated with hormonal imbalance, ovulatory dysfunction and obesity.  Current Pharmacological approaches are effective but have adverse side effects.  Experimental observations and clinical studies in women with PCOS suggest Acupuncture has long lasting beneficial effects on the endocrine and metabolic systems and on ovulation and can be a suitable alternative or complement to Pharmacological induction of ovulation in women who have PCOS and can relieve the symptoms of PCOS without adverse side effects.

Mechanisms to explain how Acupuncture can benefit fertility:

Regulating Female Hormones

Stress among other factors can disrupt the function of the hypothalamic pituatry Ovarian Axis causing the hormonal imbalances that can negatively impact on fertility.
Acupuncture has been shown to promote the release of beta endorphin in the brain that in turn promotes the release of follicle stimulating hormone from the pituatry gland and oestrogen and progesterone from the ovary.

Increasing Blood Flow to the reproductive organs

Stress stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which constricts the ovarian arteries.  Acupuncture inhibits this sympathetic activity improving blood flow to the ovaries enhancing  the environment for ovarian follicles to develop.  It also increases blood flow to the uterus improving the thickness of the endometrial lining and improving the chances of embryo implantation.

Reference: Effects of Acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilisation:systematic review and meta-analysis, BMJ, 2008 Mar 8;336(7643):545-9

This post was written by Caroline Knox (MISCP MSc HDip Acup), one our Chartered Physiotherapists who works in our Baggot Street Clinic in Dublin.Caroline specialises in musculoskeletal injuriessports injuriessports and deep tissue massage, and has a particular interest in acupuncture.

If you would like to find our more information about Caroline click here.