In the quest to become parents, many couples turn to complementary practices like acupuncture for help. What is acupuncture?
According to the Mayo Clinic, acupuncture is a traditional Chinese practice which involves the insertion of very thin needs into the skin at strategic points along the “meridians” of the body. Practitioners believe energy flows through these meridians, and the needles help to rebalance that flow in helpful ways. Western practitioners believe these strategic points are key to stimulating nerves, muscles and connective tissues.
Practitioners believe acupuncture may stimulate blood flow to the uterus and enhance fertility.
But can acupuncture help you get pregnant?
Recent studies suggest it might not help, but it probably won’t hurt, either.
A study of more than 800 women who had either real or “sham” acupuncture while undergoing in vitro fertilization found no statistical difference in live birth rates.
Women who had acupuncture while in IVF treatment gave birth at a rate of 18.7 percent, while those whose acupuncture treatments were placed away from real acupuncture points gave birth at a rate of 17.8 percent.
It’s important to note that the study isn’t definitive, and doesn’t indicate that acupuncture has no benefit, nor does it indicate that acupuncture is counterproductive. Researchers noted that the study didn’t test the placebo effect, and all participants underwent the treatment with some sort of hope that it might be helpful. The belief that the treatment might work may have played some physiological or psychological role in the successful outcomes.
The study is the latest to test the efficacy of acupuncture and acupressure in assisting fertility. Taken as a whole, the results are conflicting. Some studies seem to indicate acupuncture makes a difference, while others do not. On the whole, the research has raised more questions than it has answered.
So where does that leave you? Should you try acupuncture or not? Some considerations:
Talk to your doctor. Your doctor knows you and where you are on your fertility journey, and can help you sort through the risks and benefits of any treatment you consider undertaking. If you are engaging in any sort of additional treatments, be sure to keep your doctor in the loop.
Check your resources. Are complementary therapies like acupuncture, massage or chiropractic covered by your insurance? What are the financial costs? How much time will appointments take? All of these considerations should be balanced with the resources you invest in traditional therapies.
If you decide to give any complementary medicine a try, research practitioners thoroughly. Understand their credentials and check their reputation. Do you find them trustworthy and helpful?
Gut check yourself – how do you feel about it? Are you comfortable pursuing alternative therapy? Do you feel it might be helpful to you in some way? Are you able to wholeheartedly embrace it? Much of the potential helpfulness hinges on how the therapy benefits the person receiving the therapy. If they view it as a hoop to jump through or a box to check, or perhaps even a burden, it’s not likely to be helpful.
If you’d like to discuss acupuncture and how it might benefit you on your fertility journey, please schedule a new consultation with Dr. Hunter.