We have plenty of evidence to provide a useful explanation for how acupuncture may benefit fertility (Gerhard 1992 and Stener-Victorin 2000, 2008, 2010).
We can show that acupuncture regulates fertility hormones.
Stress and other factors can disrupt the function of the Hypothalamic Pituitary-Ovarian Axis (HPOA), causing hormonal imbalances that can negatively impact fertility. Acupuncture has been shown to affect hormone levels by promoting the release of beta-endorphin in the brain, which affects the flow of the gonadotrophin-releasing hormone by the hypothalamus, the follicle stimulating hormone from the pituitary gland, and the oestrogen and progesterone levels from the ovary (Ng 2008, Huang 2008, Lim 2010, Stener-Victorin 2010).
Acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow to the reproductive organs.
Stress has the negative effect of constricting the ovarian arteries, but acupuncture inhibits this sympathetic activity, improving blood flow to the ovaries (Stener-Victorin 2006, Lim 2010).
Acupuncture’s ability to relax the body and the nervous system, is one of its key strengths.
During stressful times our whole body chemistry is changed. It isn’t always easy or possible to remove all stress in our lives and Acupuncture can make a huge difference to our ability to cope and be resilient.
Regular stressful events can result in the nervous system getting ‘stuck’ in Alert! mode. Elevated levels of stress chemicals are maintained, but when a problem arises the body simply doesn’t have any extra capacity to respond to it.
By relaxing the body, our stress levels (and the chemicals associated with it) return to normal, so that when we need it we have the ability to respond and cope with individual stressful events again. Regular relaxation is the key to managing stress in our lives.
Acupuncture also increases blood flow specifically to the uterus.
(Stener-Victorin 1996, Huang 2008) Increasing blood flow improves the thickness of the endometrial lining and increasing the chances of embryo implantation.
Evidence shows that acupuncture is useful for one of the most common causes of female infertility, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
By reducing sympathetic nerve activity (the effects of stress) and balancing hormone levels, acupuncture has been shown to reduce the number of ovarian cysts, stimulate ovulation, enhance blastocyst implantation and regulate the menstrual cycle in women with PCOS (Stener-Victorin 2000, 2008, 2009, Zhang 2009). Acupuncture may also help to other symptoms of PCOS such as obesity and anorexia (Lim 2010).
The research for this article comes from Zita West’s Fertility Clinic in London. She has some great blog posts about increasing our natural fertility outcomes using Acupuncture and Nutrition.