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Alternative methods of cultivating fertility: Acupuncture

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Starting a family can be a long and delicate process with multiple affecting factors. And many who have already tried assisted reproductive treatments such as IVF, will be familiar with the emotional and physical toll it can have – especially if it’s not yielding the results you’re after.

Thankfully, there are some alternative fertility treatments that may help further support IVF rounds. One particularly popular treatment is fertility acupuncture. As you may have guessed, this is a specialised form of acupuncture derived from the principles of traditional Chinese medicine. Although acupuncture isn’t necessarily a reproductive treatment in itself, it is a practice that can be used to assist natural conception, or in tandem with other assistive methods. 

Here you’ll find a breakdown of the history and explanation of acupuncture and how it relates to fertility. Using this information, you can decide whether acupuncture may be something worth considering on your own ongoing journey of starting a family.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient holistic medicinal practice originating in China which dates back 3,000 years, with Western scholarly interest in its methods growing over the last four decades. The treatment basically involves placing a number of thin steel needles under the skin or lightly into muscles at specific points in the body to stimulate different responses. Acupuncturists will tailor the positioning and location of the needles on the body to the individual depending on their condition and prior consultations.

Traditional Chinese medicine places a higher emphasis on the overall health of the body rather than exclusively targeting a specific condition. It is a holistic practice that differs from the standards of Western scientific medicine, and therefore is important to consider that it lacks the rigorous peer-reviewed studies and mass trials needed to categorically prove the validity of its claims.

These days, practitioners tend to fuse the traditional elements and knowledge of acupuncture with the research and evidence based approaches we are more used to seeing in modern medicine. As such, acupuncture is often used as a complementary approach to existing practices.

How is acupuncture related to fertility?

There are many factors in our day to day lives that can play a role in affecting fertility. Stress, weight and lifestyle habits such as alcohol, smoking and diet can all affect the body’s natural ability to conceive.

The primary goal of acupuncture is to relax and regulate the body. For fertility acupuncture, you could expect to receive needles in the legs, lower back and abdomen. What is important to note – the needles themselves will not make an individual pregnant. Instead they act as an aid to regulate the menstrual cycle and improve blood flow to the uterus, better preparing the body for conception, whether natural or otherwise. 

An acupuncturist is likely to take a holistic approach in understanding your existing and past attempts at conception, and try to gain a deeper knowledge of all aspects of your health to tailor a treatment plan. This may involve extended discussions of your overall health, rather than a primary focus on fertility-related questions. 

Fertility acupuncturists will also be very familiar with IVF and other assisted reproductive technology practices, and will not expect you to stop these practices in order to try acupuncture. More likely, they will work in collaboration with your fertility specialist,GP or gynaecologist to gain the best results. You may find they can act as another source of insight and help you understand more about infertility issues, bringing a different knowledge informed from traditional wisdom into your consultations.

Is fertility acupuncture the right treatment for me?

As acupuncture is an individualised practice, it is highly tailored for each client. That said, it can be especially beneficial for certain groups, for example women over 30, who may have more difficulty conceiving naturally.

Those who have gone through repeated cycles of IVF and suffered miscarriages from previous rounds may find fertility acupuncture an alternative method to relieve the body and mind from the emotional and physical stress of these experiences, in preparation to try again. For those who are currently undergoing IVF treatment or planning to do so, acupuncture can be a great accompaniment, as high stress levels are widely accepted to negatively affect the chances of a successful outcome.

Keep in mind too that fertility acupuncture is not just for women – much like fertility in general is not exclusive to the female body. Men with poor quality or low sperm count may find acupuncture can increase their sperm production. It also provides all the same health and psychological benefits for those undertaking surrogacy or artificial insemination methods, as well as for queer couples.

Whilst there’s no right or wrong way to go about your fertility journey, exploring new avenues could open up a wider path to success, or help you along the way. At the very least, it could provide physical therapy from the emotional stress of what can sometimes feel like an exhausting and challenging process. 

And if it doesn’t feel right for you, then don’t worry. Acupuncture, like any alternative method of conception, is no foolproof guarantee, so deciding it’s not something you feel open to trying will not prevent you from conceiving.

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