Seeking out alternative wellness treatments for fertility and pregnancy is becoming more and more popular every year. For some, this is because conventional medicine has had limited success in helping them with conceiving, or with relieving pregnancy symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, anxiety, stress, insomnia, or pain. For others, alternative and complementary therapies such as acupuncture represent a welcome respite from often dispassionate or uninviting clinical settings such as doctors’ offices, hospitals, and fertility clinics. Whatever your reason for being curious about acupuncture for fertility and pregnancy, the therapy provides a number of benefits, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.
Infertility is, unfortunately, quite common - occurring in around 12 percent of women up to 44 years of age and increasing dramatically after this age. In roughly 35 percent of cases of couples trying to conceive naturally, both male and female partners experience fertility issues. And, worryingly, these figures are growing each year.
Due to the rising instances of infertility in Australia, IVF specialists are increasingly recommending that acupuncture be undertaken alongside their treatments. Acupuncture is proven to help with conceiving by regulating hormones, improving the menstrual cycle, promoting ovulation, and helping with building the endometrium lining – all of which play a vital role in conception. However, the benefits go far beyond the physical.
Anyone trying to conceive, whether naturally or through IVF, can attest that it is a stressful time. Unfortunately, as is well-documented by the scientific community, high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) not only make conceiving harder but can result in a higher risk of miscarriage in pregnant women. By encouraging the brain to allow for more effective communication between cells (thanks to neuropeptides), acupuncture can help to relieve stressand alleviate pain¹. These powerful effects can also help to relieve depression³ and anxiety. For this reason, many doctors recommend acupuncture for fertility and pregnancy, to couples and women trying to conceive, immediately before starting IVF treatment, as well as in the first few weeks of pregnancy.
Through relieving stress and reducing cortisol levels in the body, acupuncture can assist in reducing the likelihood of miscarriage, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy. This is, of course, an incredibly important factor for many women, not least of which, those who have had difficulty in conceiving or have experienced miscarriage in the past.
Beyond the incredible stress-relieving properties of acupuncture for fertility and pregnancy, the therapy offers pregnant women a range of benefits. These include:
YES! Acupuncture is not only proven to help assist with conceiving and with pregnancy-related symptoms such as pain, stress, and swelling but can also help to facilitate labour by ripening the uterus, dilating the cervix, and relaxing the ligaments. Abundant evidence from studies has also demonstrated that acupuncture can not only alleviate pain and reduce many other pregnancy symptoms but have profound psychological effects and even activate self-healing mechanisms in the body²; thus, providing support not only throughout the pregnancy, but during and after labour. It’s no wonder acupuncture is growing in popularity, with those trying to conceive, with pregnant women, and with their doctors.
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1. Reichmann, F. &, Holzer, P., Neuropeptide Y: a stressful review. Neuropeptides 2016; 55: 99–109. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4830398/
2. Bai, L. & Lao, L., Neurobiological Foundations of Acupuncture: The Relevance and Future Prospect Based on Neuroimaging Evidence, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2013. Available at: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/812568/
3. Brandt, M., Acupuncture Lessens Depression Symptoms During Pregnancy, Study Shows, Stanford Medicine, Feb. 22, 2010. Available at: https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2010/02/acupuncture-lessens-depression-symptoms-during-pregnancy-study-shows.html