Can Acupuncture Actually Make a Difference in Your Fertility? We Asked Experts

There are more ways than ever to build a family now or begin building your future family. And with that, there’s so much advice out there about supplements and treatments that might improve your fertility, whether it’s to conceive, well, the old fashioned way, or to prepare your body to undergo fertility treatments like egg freezing or in vitro fertilization (IVF), that it can get confusing what you should actually try to improve your chances of getting pregnant (or should you just try all of them?).

One such treatment that is often said to boost fertility and the number of eggs your body can produce is acupuncture. But scientifically, is that accurate, should you try acupuncture for fertility? Is it one of the main missing links between experiencing infertility and becoming a parent? We asked a few experts in acupuncture and reproductive health to give us the lowdown.

But first, a quick recap on what acupuncture entails: It’s not just about sticking needles into the skin. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that targets certain certain pressure points in an effort to balance energy throughout the body, per the Mayo Clinic. And when it comes to fertility, “the main benefit of acupuncture for conception has to do with hormonal balance,” explains Dr. Barbara Siminovich-Blok, ND, LAc, Clinical Director and licensed acupuncturist at ORA in New York City. “Lowering stress levels and increasing quality of sleep is very beneficial as well, which acupuncture is known to help with.”

It can at times be difficult to prove what was the exact success factor in someone getting pregnant, but here’s how acupuncture may be able to benefit your fertility journey throughout various stages.

Natural conception

If you’re just starting to try to get pregnant, you’re likely learning to track your cycle religiously and pay attention to all your body’s cues that might mean you’re fertile. Acupuncture is another way to help with that, according to a 2016 study. The study reported that 86% of participants who received acupuncture left with more awareness of their own fertility and better well-being compared to 40% of participants who only focused on lifestyle changes that might increase fertility. Also, those who received the acupuncture, because of that fertility awareness, were able to get pregnant 5 weeks sooner than the control group, on average.

This may be partially because the possibility of infertility and not knowing their cycle well enough invokes anxiety for many people, and acupuncture might help patients get closer to a regular menstrual cycle and become more aware of their ovulation days, explains Dr. Mark Denker, board-certified OB/GYN and fertility specialist at West Boca Medical Center in Boca Raton, Florida. Plus, acupuncture can be key for relaxation and dilating blood vessels that can increase blood flow to the pelvic region, which is an important factor in sexual arousal and therefore in making natural conception happen, he adds.


There’s also research suggesting that acupuncture can help the success of an IVF cycle. A 2020 study of people undergoing IVF as a fertility treatment found that almost double the people in a group that received acupuncture had traces of pregnancy hormones, HCG, just 12 days after the embryo transfer, compared to the group that did not receive acupuncture before the embryo transfer. There were more recorded live births in the acupuncture group, too.

Why might acupuncture increase the success of the embryo transfer? “Part of that increase might be because of the increase in circulation to the uterus; however, there is also evidence that acupuncture can inhibit uterine motility,” explains Siminovich-Blok. “Lowering uterine motility will decrease the cramping that occurs after an embryo transfer, increasing embryo retention and possible implantation.”

Egg freezing

For both IVF and egg freezing, the success depends on how many eggs can be harvested to increase your odds of becoming pregnant, either via an embryo transfer in the near future, or some time down the line when you decide to unfreeze your eggs and try for pregnancy. The good news is that acupuncture can help with a few aspects of that process.

“The most important are that acupuncture is very effective at hormonal balancing and increasing blood flow to the uterine and ovarian areas,” Siminovich-Blok says. “IVF treatments increase the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone at different stages of the process to increase the number of follicles (eggs) that can be harvested.” By improving the circulation to both of these areas, acupuncture may be helpful in increasing the amount and quality of eggs the ovaries produce and strengthening the quality of the uterine lining to receive a fertilized egg, therefore upping your chances at a healthy pregnancy. (If you’re freezing your eggs now, it may be worth it to try acupuncture before the egg harvesting and then again before you’re trying to actually get pregnant.)

A pregnant person preps for an acupuncture treatment at ORA in New York City.

Pregnancy and postpartum

For safety purposes, you should certainly let an acupuncture practitioner know beforehand if you are pregnant or think that you are pregnant so that they don’t access any points that could induce early labor, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, it is safe to continue with acupuncture treatment after you see those two lines on the pregnancy test. For one, it may help with morning sickness and other GI issues during pregnancy, including bloating and constipation, says Siminovich-Blok. And if you have pregnancy insomnia or just general discomfort at night due to physical changes like pelvic and back pain, acupuncture may improve your sleep quality and pain management, she adds.

Of course, acupuncture during pregnancy is common after week 38 to help get the labor process going naturally, Siminovich-Blok says. “Acupuncture to avoid medical inductions is used widely in hospitals and outpatient settings as well.”

Though it is difficult to prioritize your own self-care with a new baby, acupuncture can be beneficial during the postpartum period too, according to Siminovich-Blok. It may support lactation (again, thanks to improvement of circulation), stress management, and sleep, which is precious during those first few months.

How long before trying to conceive should you start acupuncture?

Here’s how long you should plan to try to conceive before seeking out additional fertility expertise: “If you’re under 35, try for about a year; between 36 and 39, try for 6 months; and if you’re 39 and over, see a fertility specialist right away,” Denker says. Some people do also make an appointment with a fertility specialist out of curiosity to see if they might experience infertility, he explains. In that case, you can get a checkup of your egg quality, a partner’s semen quantity and quality, hormones, an ultrasound of the uterus, and a test that can identify whether or not the fallopian tubes are open to release eggs.

And from there, once you determine when you plan to start trying or starting fertility treatments, you can backtrack a couple of months in order to include time for acupuncture. Denker and Siminovich-Blok recommend between two and three months of acupuncture before egg freezing, trying to conceive naturally, intracervical insemination (ICI), intrauterine insemination (IUI), or IVF. “It is most recommended before IUI or IVF as it will balance hormones and prepare the body for the procedures to come,” says Siminovich-Blok. Before and after egg retrieval and before and after an embryo transfer are also key weeks to ramp up treatments, she adds.

There are so many avenues you can take to becoming a parent (hey, you may even need some stress relief after going through the adoption process!), and acupuncture can be a useful part of the journey.

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