26. January 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Acupuncture, Fertility, Infertility

A pilot pragmatic trial carried out in Australia suggests that acupuncture can halve the time taken for sub-fertile women to conceive. Fifty-six sub/infertile women were offered either acupuncture plus lifestyle modification, or lifestyle modification only. Acupuncture was administered weekly over a three-month period using a manualised TCM treatment protocol, and was tailored to each patient’s TCM diagnosis, menstrual cycle phase, emotional state, biomedical condition and presenting signs and symptoms. Results indicated a statistically significant increase in fertility awareness in the acupuncture group compared to lifestyle only participants. There was no statistical difference in the pregnancy rate, with seven women achieving pregnancy during the course of the study intervention, however those receiving acupuncture conceived within an average of 5.5 weeks, compared to 10.67 weeks for the lifestyle only group.
Prior to Conception: The Role of an Acupuncture Protocol in Improving Women’s Reproductive Functioning Assessed by a Pilot Pragmatic Randomised Controlled Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:3587569.

A review article by Australian authors has summarised the research evidence relating to the use of acupuncture for treating women’s reproductive disorders. The narrative literature covers both clinical research (assessing 204 documents) and experimental research (114 documents) on acupuncture’s mechanisms of action in relation to women’s health. The authors conclude that there is preliminary data indicating acupuncture may improve women’s menstrual health, as well as their ability to cope with delays in falling pregnant. They report that experimental data also indicate that acupuncture can influence female reproductive functioning, although the actual mechanisms involved have not yet been clarified. (Acupuncture and women’s health: an overview of the role of acupuncture and its clinical management in women’s reproductive health. Int J Womens Health. 2014 Mar 17;6:313-325). http: / / www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov / pubmed /24669195


Acupuncture can reduce anxiety symptoms in women undergoing IVF, according to a team of Brazilian researchers.  Forty-three women undergoing IVF were randomly allocated to two groups: a test group who received verum acupuncture (at Shenmen HE-7, Neiguan P-6, Shanzhong REN-17, Baihui DU-20 and Yintang M-HN-3), and a control group who had needles inserted in areas near, but not corresponding to, acupuncture points. Treatment consisted of four weekly sessions. The mean anxiety score after the four-week experimental period was significantly lower in the test group compared with the control group (19.4 vs 24.4). (Effect of acupuncture on symptoms of anxiety in women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: a prospective randomised controlled study. Acupunct Med. 2012 Apr 12. [Epub ahead of print]).

A study by US and UK investigators suggests that high levels of stress le- ay reduce the chances of a woman conceiving during the fertile days of her monthly cycle. The team looked at 274 healthy women aged between 18 and 40 who were trying to become pregnant. During the study, the women provided saliva samples to test for levels of the stress hormone cortisol and alpha-amylase (an indicator of adrenalin levels). They found that those women with high levels of alpha amylase (but not cortisol) across their fertile window were less likely to succeed in conceiving. The results showed that the chances of getting pregnant for women with the highest levels of alpha-amylase were roughly 12% lower than the quarter of women with the lowest levels of alpha-amylase. The authors comment that their findings support the use of relaxation techniques, counselling and approaches such as yoga and meditation to increase the chances of conception. (Stress reduces conception probabilities across the fertile window: evidence in support of relaxation. Fertil Steril. 2010 Aug 5. [Epub ahead of print]).

A Brazilian team has found that the ability of acupuncture to benefit fertility treatment may depend on the cause of the woman’s infertility. Four hundred and sixteen patients undergoing intracytoplasmic sperm injection cycles were randomised to either a control group or acupuncture treatment (performed immediately before and after embryo transfer). When the results were analysed as a whole, no influence of acupuncture treatment on clinical outcomes was seen. However, when the causes of infertility were exclusively tubal-uterine or idiopathic, a positive effect of acupuncture on pregnancy rates was seen. Women in this subgroup who had acupuncture were five times more likely to become pregnant than those who did not. Trends toward an increase in implantation rates were also seen in this subgroup when acupuncture was performed. The authors conclude that for the subgroup of ICSI patients in which the embryo is not affected by an ovarian or seminal influence, acupuncture is beneficial. (Effect of acupuncture on assisted reproduction treatment outcomes. Acupunct Med. 2010 Dec;28(4):180-4).

Following a ‘fertility diet’ may favourably influence fertility in otherwise healthy women. A cohort of 17,544 American women, without a history of infertility, were followed for eight years as they tried to become pregnant. Researchers calculated a dietary score of one to five points for each woman, based on factors previously associated with reduced ovulatory infertility (higher consumption of monounsaturated versus trans fats, vegetable rather than animal protein sources, low glycogenic carbohydrates, high  fat dairy, multivitamins and iron in plants and supplements). The results showed that the higher the score indicating increasing adherence the ‘fertility diet’, the lower the risk infertility associated with ovulatory disorders. A combination of five or more low-risk lifestyle factors, including diet, ‘weight control, and physical activity was associated with a 69% lower risk of ovulatory disorder infertility. (Diet and lifestyle in the prevention of ovulatory disorder infertility. Obstet Gynecol. 2007 Nov;110(5):1050-8).