|Acupuncture for Infertility
For hundreds of years, acupuncture has been used for the
management of female infertility in China. In an acupuncture book
published during Ming Dynasty (Figure on lower right), several key
acupuncture points were demonstrated in a female acupuncture
chart. Acupuncture treatment was described to increase the
chance of pregnancy by correcting the “cold uterine”, which was
believed to be the most common cause of infertility in female.
Many Chinese herbs and herbal formulas were also used to
increase the change of successful pregnancy.
In current view, infertility caused by functional alterations is often
related to stress. This rational explains why infertility seems to be
extremely common in women who work under stressful
environments. Acupuncture therapy is well known for its beneficial
effect in decreasing stress and releasing anxiety by balancing the
nervous system. Other potential benefits of acupuncture treatment
include balancing female hormones and increasing pelvic blood
Reference Reviews and Links:
Use of acupuncture in female infertility and a summary of recent acupuncture studies related to embryo
Stener-Victorin E, Humaidan P.
Acupunct Med. 2006 Dec;24(4):157-63. Review
Institute of Neuroscience and Physiolopgy, Sahlgrenska Academy, Goteborg University, Sweden.
During the last five years the use of acupuncture in female infertility as an adjuvant to conventional treatment in
assisted reproductive technology (ART) has increased in popularity. The present paper briefly discusses clinical
and experimental data on the effect of acupuncture on uterine and ovarian blood flow, as an analgesic method
during ART, and on endocrine and metabolic disturbances such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Further it
gives a summary of recent studies evaluating the effect of acupuncture before and after embryo transfer on
pregnancy outcome. Of the four published RCTs, three reveal significantly higher pregnancy rates in the
acupuncture groups compared with the control groups. But the use of different study protocols makes it difficult to
draw definitive conclusions. It seems, however, that acupuncture has a positive effect and no adverse effects on
Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy
Paulus WE, Zhang M, Strehler E, El-Danasouri I, Sterzik K.
Fertil Steril. 2002 Apr;77(4):721-4.
Department of Reproductive Medicine, Christian-Lauritzen-Institut, Ulm, Germany. firstname.lastname@example.org
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effect of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in assisted reproduction therapy (ART) by
comparing a group of patients receiving acupuncture treatment shortly before and after embryo transfer with a
control group receiving no acupuncture. DESIGN: Prospective randomized study. SETTING: Fertility center.
PATIENT(S): After giving informed consent, 160 patients who were undergoing ART and who had good quality
embryos were divided into the following two groups through random selection: embryo transfer with acupuncture (n
= 80) and embryo transfer without acupuncture (n = 80). INTERVENTION(S): Acupuncture was performed in 80
patients 25 minutes before and after embryo transfer. In the control group, embryos were transferred without any
supportive therapy. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): Clinical pregnancy was defined as the presence of a fetal sac
during an ultrasound examination 6 weeks after embryo transfer. RESULT(S): Clinical pregnancies were
documented in 34 of 80 patients (42.5%) in the acupuncture group, whereas pregnancy rate was only 26.3% (21 out
of 80 patients) in the control group. CONCLUSION(S): Acupuncture seems to be a useful tool for improving
pregnancy rate after ART.
Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries of infertile women with electro-acupuncture.
Stener-Victorin E, Waldenström U, Andersson SA, Wikland M.
Hum Reprod. 1996 Jun;11(6):1314-7.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Fertility Centre Scandinavia, University of Gothenburg, S-413 45
In order to assess whether electro-acupuncture (EA) can reduce a high uterine artery blood flow impedance, 10
infertile but otherwise healthy women with a pulsatility index (PI) >=3.0 in the uterine arteries were treated with EA in
a prospective, non-randomized study. Before inclusion in the study and throughout the entire study period, the
women were down-regulated with a gonadotrophin-releasing hormone analogue (GnRHa) in order to exclude any
fluctuating endogenous hormone effects on the PI. The baseline PI was measured when the serum oestradiol was
<=0.1 nmol/l, and thereafter the women were given EA eight times, twice a week for 4 weeks. The PI was measured
again closely after the eighth EA treatment, and once more 10-14 days after the EA period. Skin temperature on the
forehead (STFH) and in the lumbrosacral area (STLS) was measured during the first, fifth and eighth EA treatments.
Compared to the mean baseline PI, the mean PI was significantly reduced both shortly after the eighth EA treatment
(P < 0.0001) and 10-14 days after the EA period (P < 0.0001). STFH increased significantly during the EA
treatments. It is suggested that both of these effects are due to a central inhibition of the sympathetic activity.
Role of acupuncture in the treatment of female infertility.
Chang R, Chung PH, Rosenwaks Z.
Fertil Steril. 2002 Dec;78(6):1149-53. Review.
The Institute of East-West Medicine, New York, New York 10021, USA
OBJECTIVE: To review existing scientific rationale and clinical data in the utilization of acupuncture in the treatment
of female infertility. DESIGN: A MEDLINE computer search was performed to identify relevant articles. RESULTS:
Although the understanding of acupuncture is based on ancient medical theory, studies have suggested that
certain effects of acupuncture are mediated through endogenous opioid peptides in the central nervous system,
particularly beta-endorphin. Because these neuropeptides influence gonadotropin secretion through their action on
GnRH, it is logical to hypothesize that acupuncture may impact on the menstrual cycle through these
neuropeptides. Although studies of adequate design, sample size, and appropriate control on the use of
acupuncture on ovulation induction are lacking, there is only one prospective randomized controlled study
examining the efficacy of acupuncture in patients undergoing IVF. Besides its central effect, the sympathoinhibitory
effects of acupuncture may impact on uterine blood flow. CONCLUSION: Although the definitive role of acupuncture
in the treatment of female infertility is yet to be established, its potential impact centrally on the
hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis and peripherally on the uterus needs to be systemically examined. Prospective
randomized controlled studies are needed to evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture in female fertility treatment.
Acupuncture Chart shows the treatment of infertility,
published several hundreds years ago in China
A fine sterile needle is inserted on an arm point