Acupuncture has been used in traditional Chinese medicine, for a whole range of illnesses and conditions. The theory behind this treatment is that the acupuncturist stimulates specific points on the body, which reside on channels or meridians, in order to balance the vital energy (Qi) flow through the body. This is done by the use of very small, thin needles placed in specific points that then stimulates the blood flow in that area of the body.
Studies investigating the benefits of acupuncture in men and women having IVF have, so far, been controversial. Small studies have been very promising, but more studies are needed to prove if acupuncture can really make a difference in people trying to conceive and if these processes actually impact IVF success rates. There is currently no conclusive evidence to suggest that acupuncture does or does not improve fertility.
In women who are trying to conceive, the theory is that acupuncture aids implantation by increasing blood flow to the uterus, the reproductive organs and relaxing the muscle tissue. Acupuncture is also used to aid the thyroid function, and also to reduce stress levels. Anything that reduces stress is very appealing as it is believed that women undergoing infertility treatment have reported equivalent levels of anxiety and depression as women who are diagnosed with cancer.
There have also been studies performed on how acupuncture helps male infertility. Acupuncture does not seem to significantly reduce some sperm abnormalities. However, the treatment could be used to improve overall sperm quality, leading to the possibility of increased fertility.
A systematic review from 2015 stated that acupuncture is reported to be equally effective as traditional Chinese medicine and perhaps more effective than Western medicine and when used in combination with these two the effectiveness is the best. However, the overall quality of the included studies is low and therefore as previously stated, new studies need to be performed to correctly evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture. In the meantime, it is a relatively safe technique and it does not harm anyone wanting to try something different.
If you do decide to try acupuncture, look for a certified acupuncturist in your own home country as even with this method we can have risks if the processes are not performed properly.
Newlife IVF Greece works closely with two certified acupuncturists that are also qualified Anesthesiologists. Patients visiting Greece for their whole treatment can have numerous sessions booked privately at their offices or alternatively what we suggest and offer on site and upon request are pre and post embryo transfer sessions that could alleviate unwanted stress and improve the blood flow to the uterus. Feel free to contact us in case you are interested.
Chrysa Karakosta, BSc, MSc
Chrysa is the Lab co-Director at Newlife IVF Greece, in Thessaloniki Greece, from the beginning of 2010 and now heads the International Patient Department.