Is Acupuncture Effective for Treating Infertility?
Acupuncture as an alternative or complementary treatment to traditional Western reproductive medicine is becoming more common. In fact, many fertility clinics offer acupuncture and other traditional Chinese medicine within their clinics or refer their patients to an acupuncturist. How do you know if acupuncture is right for you in your path to achieve pregnancy?
What Exactly Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the ancient Chinese practice of medicine in which tiny needles are inserted strategically into the skin. There is a wide range of types and sizes of needles, points of insertion, and styles of acupuncture practice. In the United States, traditional acupuncture is reportedly the most common style of practice.
How Can Acupuncture Help Infertility?
Creating a Family did an excellent radio show on the topic of complementary treatments. Guest expert, Mark LeWinter, a licensed acupuncturist, and a fellow of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine, discussed these three benefits of acupuncture in the treatment of infertility.
- Stress Reduction – It’s sad but true: when trying to get pregnant, stress matters. Research shows that higher levels of stress are clearly associated with a longer time-to-pregnancy and an increased risk of infertility. Acupuncture is considered by many fertility specialists to be a complementary tool in improving relaxation and reducing stress.
- Improvement of Blood Flow and Organ Function – Acupuncture for fertility concerns has been shown to improve the volume of blood flow and the quality of that blood to reproductive organs. This is particularly true if you find a good acupuncturist who is trained and knowledgeable about the multiple facets of reproductive issues or infertility.
- Management of Symptoms and Side Effects – Acupuncture has been shown to help manage the difficult symptoms of conditions like PCOS, fibroids, and endometriosis. Additionally, many have found relief for side effects like bloating or nausea that can often come with certain fertility medications. Your male partner or spouse might also find some improvement in sperm count or quality using acupuncture.
Where Do I Find An Acupuncturist Trained in Fertility Issues?
If your clinic does not already have an acupuncturist with whom it works closely, you can find one who specializes in fertility issues and is certified with the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine. He or she should also be registered with the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) or the American Board of Medical Acupuncture (ABMA).
How Do I Get Started? What Will Feel Like?
Once you’ve found a certified and registered acupuncturist, you can expect that the first appointment will be much like any other first appointment with a fertility specialist. She will ask you a lot of questions about your health history, lifestyle (diet, stress levels, exercise, sleep habits) and your fertility concerns. There will likely also be an exam, including feeling your pulse and looking at your tongue.
The actual acupuncture (insertion of the needles) might also happen at this first appointment. It can take about 30 minutes, up to an hour. Most patients report little to no pain. You might feel some dull ache, pinch or a slight shock sensation.
Is Acupuncture Expensive? Is it Covered by My Insurance?
Many insurance plans are now offering coverage for alternative or complementary treatments like acupuncture. Look over your policy to get familiar with the coverage you have. When you call to make your first appointment, be sure to talk with the scheduler about your individual insurance plan and the coverage it offers.
If your plan does not cover alternative care, speak with the clinic staff providing the acupuncture. Ask for detailed information about fee schedules and payment plans before you begin treatment. Financial surprises will not help reduce your stress!
Understandably, people are leery of alternative or complementary care like acupuncture. But it’s important to know that many reputable and ethical fertility-care providers have come a long way in their understanding of its benefits. Find an infertility treatment plan that is tailored for your needs and your comfort with non-traditional care. Your reproductive specialist can be a great resource for options that are available and what can be truly beneficial in helping you get pregnant. Talking with her about your questions and concerns about acupuncture can help you partner with her for a treatment plan that works best for you.
Have you tried acupuncture as a complementary or alternative treatment for infertility? What did you think about it?
Image Credit: Thunderchild7; Philip Taylor