There are conflicting results with studies that have shown increased pregnancy rates, while others have not.
The use of acupuncture has increased considerably over the last ten years with women and couples with infertility who are trying to improve their chances for pregnancy. Some pursue acupuncture to relieve the anxiety, frustration and stress related to infertility, but many questions remain about whether and how acupuncture can improve fertility.
Below you will find answers to frequently asked questions that can help patients who are considering acupuncture to increase their chances of getting pregnant.
Can acupuncture help increase fertility?
There are conflicting results with studies that have shown increased pregnancy rates, while others have not. Despite a lack of consensus, many women have figured out on their own or during fertility treatments while undergoing acupuncture.
When is acupuncture typically started for fertility concerns?
This varies. Acupuncture can be started when a woman begins trying to become pregnant, immediately before the start of fertility treatment or after a number of unsuccessful months/years of trying on their own or with fertility treatments, or during the first weeks of the pregnancy.
If the pregnancy occurs after acupuncture is started, will this treatment continue?
Many will continue acupuncture treatments to support their pregnancy and the overall well-being of the mother. After pregnancy occurs, a combination of acupuncture, nutrition, and lifestyle recommendations can be used for the reduction of stress to a minimum to reduce nausea, and relieve pain in the lower back or pressure that is common in the later stages of pregnancy.
Does acupuncture work for each patient?
In a similar way as any other treatment of the effects of acupuncture vary, and may the improvement for some patients. However, some patients may not perceive a benefit.
What are the possible theories of how acupuncture can enhance fertility?
From historic and modern Eastern and Western medicine acupuncture authorities, it is thought that acupuncture can improve fertility rates by helping to regulate the menstrual cycles and ovulation, regulate hormone levels, increase blood flow to the uterus, and by improving the quality of eggs and sperm.
How does a typical acupuncture session look like?
The first visit lasts 75-90 minutes. This visit usually begins in a private treatment room where the patients will rest with the small needles comfortably placed for 25-30 minutes.
Is acupuncture painful?
Some patients are concerned about the needles. However, the needles used for acupuncture are different than those used for injections or blood draws. They are very small disposable stainless steel needles are gently and painlessly inserted into specific acupuncture points.
Is acupuncture covered by insurance? If not, what is the general cost?
Insurance plans vary in their coverage. Some patients may submit to the invoiced cost of treatment from their insurance company and they may be reimbursed for a portion of the cost. The cost of a first appointment can be $100-150 (75-90 min), and the follow-up appointments can range from $80 to 95 (50-60 min.).
How many sessions are usually recommended for a patient with fertility concerns?
There is no fixed number of sessions, but many acupuncturists recommend beginning 2-3 months prior to trying to become pregnant or the start of fertility treatments.
Aaron K. Styer MD is a board certified reproductive endocrinologist, founding partner, doctor, and co-medical director of CCRM, Boston, Chestnut Hill, MA.
Sharón Bacigalupi, MPH, MAOM, Dipl.OM, L. Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and is the founder of Turning Leaf Acupuncture in Brookline, MA.