acupuncture to get pregnant

Can acupuncture increase blood flow to reproductive organs? (Photo contribution: dream design Freedigitalphotos.net)

Acupuncture is an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine an can be dated back for over 3000 years.

Its use has gained much popularity in the Western world; in Europe, over 100 million citizens report using acupuncture for various health reasons.

Women who are in fertility treatments might have heard of acupuncture improving implantation chances of the embryo.

Apparently, there is sporadic evidence of improved pregnancy outcomes in women undergoing IVF if they went to at least one acupuncture treatment following the embryo transfer. Such claims are serious, and lately there have been many attempts to test them by scientific methods.

The theory behind the needles and babies goes like this:

Acupuncture mediates neurotransmitter release, resulting in the stimulation of hormones from the brain. In animal studies, acupuncture can affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis by altering the release of neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters are important molecules, something like words which parts of our body exchange in process of talking to each other.

Sometimes those parts are not physically connected; in that case, neurotransmitters are something like Facebook status updates: if the message they convey is convincing enough, there will be hormones released and buzz created all over the body, and the original message gets amplified.

So, if acupuncture can affect neurotransmitter release, it will have an automatic impact on many other processes, too.

Further, acupuncture may also stimulate blood flow to the uterus.

Therefore, a hypothesis arises that, applied in the days before the ovulation, acupuncture may have a beneficial effect on egg and embryo quality.

This study from 2009 has ben set to determine the effectiveness of acupuncture on the outcomes of ART (assisted reproductive techologies). Autors have identified sixteen randomized controlled trials that involved acupuncture and assisted conception and performed meta-analysis.

However, there was no evidence found that acupuncture benefits pregnancy outcomes when performed around the time of oocyte retrieval or embryo tranfer.

Interestinly, authors add that this could be attributed to placebo effect and the small number of trials
included in the review and that larger studies are necessary to confirm the results.

So why is it that both patients and healthcare workers are so attracted to acupuncture?

Only due to it being non-invasive, risk-free, and easy to perform?

Because it gives hope (and something to do while waiting for the positive HCG-test)?

Or could it be that science was wrong?

I definitelly look forward to new developments in this area.