Will acupuncture help me fall pregnant?
I get asked this ALL the time – will acupuncture help me fall pregnant?
Many of you know my story, but if you don’t, here is the short story:
My husband and I started trying to conceive at the beginning of 2012. I was CONVINCED that we would fall pregnant straight away, and visited a Naturopath in preparation. I did all the right things and took all the supplements… but didn’t fall pregnant the first month. Or the month after that. Or the month after that. In fact, we experienced months of heartache, before we stumbled into a fertility clinic a year later.
A year after that, and multiple tests and procedures later, and we weren’t really any closer to answers. Rosco’s sperm wasn’t amazing, but wasn’t terrible (and with our Naturopath came into the normal range), and my hormone levels were perfect.
My Fertility Specialist wasn’t really keen on natural therapies, but did mention that he supported acupuncture because it was one of the only therapies that was actually supported by research.
So, hence began my 3-times-a-week acupuncture regime. I talked about how my first appointment went here. I remember at the time feeling completely stretched having to manage full-time work in a management role, my million and one blood tests at the fertility clinic, my naturopath appointments, and then these. It all felt too much.
And, our finances were starting to stretch. The acupuncturist also wanted me to take an abundance of Chinese herbs, so the costs were all adding up.
Like in my first appointment, every appointment was AWKWARD and it wasn’t relaxing for me at all. It was a sterile environment with a room that was cold and too bright and I could hear all the other people in the passage way. Not once did I ever fall asleep.
It began to feel overwhelming – I just did a podcast on overwhelm here – and like too much.
So, I quit, four months in, and still not pregnant.
So, did I fall pregnant as a direct result of acupuncture?
No, I didn’t. I gave it up well before we ever fell pregnant successfully (about four – five months passed).
But, I do see some benefits to acupuncture and recommend it to people often for when they need to increase blood flow to the uterus, and improve their uterine lining. Despite my experience, I do believe in Traditional Chinese Medicine and I feel that their philosophies on diet and exercise make complete sense to me.
Prior to attending acupuncture, my uterine lining was always on the thin side, but following my stint, my lining was always a really good thickness.
I also firmly remember walking in one day with an incredibly sore back that I’d had for days, and walking out as if it was a dream.
There may have been some stuck energy that acupuncture helped to clear.
So, why do so many specialists recommend acupuncture?
A number of years ago, there was a single yet high-profile study that showed a significant increase in IVF success for patients who undertook an acupuncture. The study, which was published in the British Medical Journal in 2008 showed that when women had acupuncture two days before an embryo transfer, their success rates increased by 65%.
This is why many specialists will recommend acupuncture (and often only acupuncture as the only recommended natural therapy). Specialists love well-publicised trials.
Since then number of studies have been conducted on acupuncture, and essentially nobody has been able to replicate those results. The most recent study has been reported to essentially ‘debunk’ the myth that acupuncture increases success rates.
This study has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and reported no difference in birth rates in women who had regular acupuncture, in comparison to those who did not (18.3% vs 17.8%). The trial involved 800 women across 16 clinics in Australia and New Zealand, half of which were given ‘real’ acupuncture, and another half who were given sham acupuncture (non-invasive needles placed in non-effective locations).
What do I believe?
Despite the cliffnotes of these two studies, I do believe that acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine in general can be good for anyone suffering with infertility, especially for increasing blood flow to the uterus.
The recent study cited above, only gave women a limited number of acupuncture sessions (approximately three), and although for me, three times a week for months on end was too much, I feel there is a happy medium. It also didn’t measure their uterine lining and compare results for women for whose uterine lining was thin.
And this is why I think many of the studies should be taken with a grain of salt. There are so many varying conditions under which studies can be taken (take the diet studies for example) that without reading the entire studies, we can be slightly mislead.
So, you need to go with your gut. Back yourself.
Had the appointments not been so frequent for such a long time, and had I felt like I was in a really relaxing environment, I’m sure I would have continued there for longer.
Does acupuncture feel relaxing to you?
Do you feel like it’s working?
Does it feel more or less stressful?
And the same goes for any other natural or holistic treatment.
The long story short is: there is no harm in trying something, but if the feeling you get isn’t right, then don’t feel obligated to do it.