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Does Acupuncture Help Improve Your Fertility?

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by Rachel Lehmann-Haupt, Oct. 29, 2009

Infertility causes stress that is comparable to dealing with any serious illness. The stress affects us both emotionally and physically, and the Catch 22 is that it can further affect your chances of getting pregnant.

Many leading fertility clinics are now turning to traditional eastern medicine, specifically, acupuncture, to help regulate menstrual cycles, nourish eggs with blood and Qi, regulate stress hormones, and create a better overall physical environment for in vitro fertilization (IVF) and a growing fetus.

In December, Dr. Paul Magarelli and Dr. Diane Cridennda, two pioneers in the study of acupuncture’s effects on infertility will publish a new study in The Journal of Fertility and Sterility that offers evidence based on Western physiology that acupuncture actually decreases the levels of Prolactin (a hormone associated with lactation) and Cortisol (a hormone related to stress) in a woman’s body, therefore creating a more fertile environment for the fetus.

This study builds on their past research that shows that 12 acupuncture treatments increased overall reproductive outcomes in patients by 26 percent. The studies are concurrent with a meta analysis published by Dr. Eric Manheimer in 2008 in The British Medical Journal, which also concluded that acupuncture given during embryo transfer improves rates of pregnancy and live births.

“With acupuncture, one out of ten couples or women will not have to repeat an IVF cycle,” said Dr. Margarelli. “This not only improves pregnancy rates but can help patients save millions of dollars.”

Now many leading fertility clinics are including acupuncture programs in their treatment menus. Pacific Reproductive Fertility in San Francisco has just launched a study on the effects of six weeks of acupuncture treatment on IVF outcomes through which patients are given free stimulation drugs and acupuncture treatments.

But acupuncture's not a magic bullet, says Dr. Alice Domar, who runs The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health as a division of Boston IVF. Dr. Domar is a strong proponent of acupuncture to decrease stress, but she also maintains a sober perspective.

“My data didn’t conclude increased pregnancy rates,” she explains. “I suspect that previous studies that do, only include patients with good quality embryos. If you have an abnormal embryo, acupuncture is not likely to affect whether or not you’ll get pregnant.”

Dr. Domar believes that there are many doctors selling acupuncture’s benefits on unproven data. “There is no data yet that shows that acupuncture lowers FSH levels and Cortisol is a hormone that fluctuates so it’s hard to draw conclusions.”


Rachel Lehmann-Haupt ( is a journalist and the author of In Her Own Sweet Time: Unexpected Adventures in Finding Love, Commitment and Motherhood.