Acupuncture, is one of the best known of the therapeutic modalities known as Chinese Medicine (CM), a complex medical system that developed over 4,000 years ago. Inserting and manipulating ultra-fine, hair-thin needles at certain points along the body’s meridians, acupuncture restores and balances the flow of “qi” (pronounced CHEE), gradually restoring vitality and health.
Acupuncture frequently combined with herbal medicine, addresses many types of fertility disorders including spasmed tubes (though blocked tubes will not respond to acupuncture), elevated follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), repeated pregnancy loss, unexplained (idiopathic) infertility, luteal phase defect, hyperprolactinemia (when not caused by a prolactinoma), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) with annovulatory cycles, and male factor including men affected with sperm-DNA-fragmentation. Acupuncture and herbal medicine also treat other problems that affect fertility such as under-functioning (hypothyroidism), over-functioning (hyperthyroidism) and stagnate blood flow.
Ultimately, these modalities can improve ovarian and follicular function, as well as increase blood flow to the endometrium, helping to facilitate a thick, rich lining, which is why patients are commonly treated for three to four months before an insemination, in vitro fertilization (IVF), or donor-egg transfer. Additionally, patients are often treated through week 12 of a pregnancy to help prevent miscarriage.
A risk of miscarriage may develop if incorrect acupuncture points are used when a woman is pregnant. That’s why, Fertile Action recommends selecting an acupuncturist who specializes in treating fertility disorders. Acupuncture is not contraindicated for anyone regardless of their pathology or what medications they are taking.
In most states acupuncture is a licensed profession. You can visit www.nccaom.org to find a licensed and Board certified acupuncturist in your area. It is important to recognize that being licensed and Board certified does not imply expertise in reproductive disorders.
First-time patients are often surprised at how comfortable they feel during treatment. Some experience a slight pricking at the time of needle insertion that usually dissipates quickly. Most patients report no sensation whatsoever or a slight tingling, when the needle stimulates “qi”. (Make sure your acupuncturist only uses sterilized, disposable, single-use needles.)
Treatments last about 45 minutes and begin with a conversation between patient and practitioner. The patient then lies down on a massage table, needles are inserted, and the patient rests quietly for 20-30 minutes. Often patients feel so relaxed they fall asleep. The practitioner returns, removes the needles, and discusses follow-up. Typically, patients leave feeling energized and with a sense of greater wellbeing.
Acupuncture needles, which are fine and flexible—about the diameter of human hair or piece of thread—are designed not to cut the skin and are inserted at a shallow depth. They bear little resemblance to medical hypodermic needles, which are stiff, hollow, and thick, in order to force liquid into the patient’s flesh.
If you can roll up your sleeves and trousers and remove your socks, you can generally receive acupuncture in your street clothes. When necessary, you will be provided a gown.
Acupuncture sessions run between $50 and $100. Some insurance companies will cover a certain number of treatments per year, similar to chiropractic care.
Dr. Huabing Wen, MD (China), MS, L.Ac., OMD, Licensed Acupuncturist and Senior Clinical Director of Lifecycle Health in Los Angeles, CA contributed to this article. For more information about Dr. Wen’s practice, please visit the website.