Does acupuncture for fertility work? This is a common question asked by many couples and/or individuals who have decided (often after trying various options) to go for alternative fertility treatments.
Despite the infertility journey being full of disappointments and heartbreaks, many struggling couples and/or individuals do not give up. They continue to harness their inner strength, hold onto hope, and seek any other avenues. This is where alternative treatments like fertility acupuncture come to play a role.
My research has uncovered two different ways of explaining how acupuncture works and how benefits are achieved. The first is what traditional Eastern or Chinese medicine (TCM) says about acupuncture and fertility. The second is what Western medical research has uncovered.
East vs. West: Traditions of Fertility Acupuncture
First, let us investigate Traditional Chinese Medicine which revolves around the channels of “energy” called meridians that run through our bodies. Disruption of the flow is believed to result in physical and emotional illnesses — including infertility. By needling specific fertility acupuncture points, you can stimulate these meridians — releasing the flow of energy (also known as “qi”).
The Western scientific explanation looks for a burden of proof and has resulted in a number of theories about how fertility acupuncture works. It is believed that needling points on the body releases chemicals and hormones that change the experience of pain. This said release effectively influences the body’s own internal regulating system, encouraging its natural healing abilities. It has also been shown to enhance physical and emotional well-being which subsequently aid natural fertility.[2-4]
What acupuncture does to your body and fertility
According to a study published in the Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences, acupuncture helps in tapping into natural fertility by improving the sperm quality and ovaries function, as well as balancing the endocrine system and hormones.
High levels of the stress hormone cortisol is known to be a risk to your health and fertility, but acupuncture can help to induce relaxation. Medical research has been able to effectively show that acupuncture increases the amount of beta-endorphins (feel-good hormones) flowing through the body and that this lessens pain.
Acupuncture is not the only way to release these hormones; exercise is also known to boost the amount of beta-endorphins in the body. If you have ever experienced a high after exercising, you can relate to the benefit of a boost of these feel-good hormones.
However, more interesting research has shown that there is more to acupuncture than merely the release of chemicals and hormones. A research study involved monitoring subjects’ brains (using MRIs) while receiving acupuncture treatments. Researchers showed that when a point on the foot is stimulated, the part of the brain that regulates vision lit up.
Success rates of fertility acupuncture
Whichever school of thought (Eastern or Western) you believe in, both have shown the supportive role that acupuncture plays in fertility treatment.
Acupuncture as a fertility treatment has shown favorable results, both in men and women. In a recent study published in the Taiwanese Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, three sessions of acupuncture before and after embryo transfer significantly increased the pregnancy rates in women with unexplained infertility.[a] Anxiety levels before the embryo transfer also dropped down after acupuncture.[a]
Although other research says there are no solid conclusions supporting it as a fertility treatment, other studies prove that acupuncture for fertility success rates are promising.
In terms of what to expect from acupuncture for fertility, see it as a complementary treatment — that is extremely beneficial, together with natural health and emotional wellbeing, in optimizing your fertility. This is certainly what I personally believe in.
If you are interested and/or want to know when to get acupuncture for fertility, seek first the advice of your doctor or any other practitioner treating you.
 Cochrane, S., et al. Acupuncture and women’s health: an overview of the role of acupuncture and its clinical management in women’s reproductive health. International Journal of Women’s Health, 2014. PMID: 24669195.
 Zhu, J., et al. Acupuncture Treatment for Fertility. Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences, 2018. 6(9). PMID: 30337989.
 Xu, J., et al. [Efficacy of Acupuncture as Adjunctive Treatment on Infertility Patients With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome]. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu, 2018. 38(4). PMID: 29696918.
 Cochrane, S., et al. Prior to Conception: The Role of an Acupuncture Protocol in Improving Women’s Reproductive Functioning Assessed by a Pilot Pragmatic Randomised Controlled Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2016. PMID: 27242910.
 Xu, Y., et al. Effects of acupuncture for the treatment of endometriosis-related pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One, 2017. 12(10). PMID: 29077705.
 Heijnen, S., et al. Neuromodulation of Aerobic Exercise—A Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 2015. 6. PMID: 26779053.
 Hui, K.K., et al. Monitoring Acupuncture Effects on Human Brain by fMRI. Journal of Viscualised Experiements, 2010. PMID: 20379133.
[a] Cayir, Y., et al. Effectiveness of Acupuncture on Pregnancy Success Rates for Women Undergoing In Vitro Fertilization: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, 2018. 11(4), 224-225. doi:10.1016/j.jams.2018.08.125