Should you use acupuncture when trying to get pregnant?
Acupuncture comes from Oriental medicine, which is all about achieving and maintaining balance.
When we are in balance or in flow, as Westerners prefer to say, our organs work well and are synchronized with each other, our sleep is restful, we are resilient, recover easily from injury, and our reproductive capacity is at its best.
When balance becomes disturbed, it gives rise to symptoms, including reduced fertility.
Acupuncture should bring the body into balance, which in turn eliminates symptoms caused by the disturbed flow of energy.
Many women (especially those over 35 struggling with poor egg quality) are convinced that acupuncture can help with all stages of trying to get pregnant, from improving egg and embryo quality, maintaining pregnancy, to delivery.
Couples who are trying to get pregnant naturally believe that acupuncture can help regulate the cycle and stimulate ovulation at the optimal time. Along the same line, acupuncture should be able to increase blood flow to the uterus and increase the thickness of the endometrial lining, making it a more hospitable environment for an embryo to implant.
For couples who are in fertility treatments, acupuncture may help regulate hormones and possibly increase the ovarian response, the quality and quantity of eggs produced, reduce the side effects of hormonal stimulations, and strengthen the immune system during the fertility journey.
Is that all true?
Honestly, I don’t know.
I only can say that this is what acupuncture physicians claim is possible. And we believe them, mostly for the reason that we very much want it to be true.
Most women who are struggling with infertility will try to support their TTC journey with acupuncture sooner or later.
I myself received acupuncture during the time I was impatiently waiting to get pregnant. I wanted to relieve stress, strengthen my health in general, and increase my energy on all levels. (At that time, I was working 60–70 hours per weeks; unfortunately, it was not possible to reduce work in the scientific laboratory, so I wanted to make sure I was trying every option.) I also received acupuncture as a part of the preparation for labor.
The strange thing is, inbetween these two occurrences (getting pregnant and delivering my first son), I found out that there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support women going to acupuncture while trying to conceive. At first, I found this hard to believe since acupuncture was a growing business, yet there exists no really solid scientific support to back up this kind of treatment. Later, when I was writing my book (which became a #1 bestseller in its category on Amazon), I researched thoroughly all the published evidence in favor of acupuncture and it did not come up with significantly more information.
In 2014, several smaller studies (a summary can be found here) were published that found acupuncture treatments did not significantly increase the chance of embryo implantation in women who had IVF in the days before the acupuncture treatment.
But, for some reason, I don’t give up on writing and actually recommending acupuncture.
Maybe we have yet to find the methodology to better assess one of the oldest methods of Oriental medicine?
Maybe the clinical trials so far were not designed in a way to spot the mechanism behind the needles?
It would not be the first time that official science has been wrong.