Skip to Main Content

Fertility Acupuncture - How Does It Work?

by Dr. Amber Hincks LAc

Fertility Acupuncture - How Does It Work?, Amber Hincks Acupuncture in Beaverton, OR

How does acupuncture enhance fertility?  I am asked this question frequently.  With declining fertility rates nationally, more and more people are seeking support on the path to conception, and infertility is one of the many things I treat regularly.  Acupuncture can help in a variety of ways.  While there are specific acupuncture points that “treat infertility,” like most conditions, each individual has their own set of health needs and we seek to provide treatment plans that are best suited to each specific case.  In the most general terms, acupuncture has two primary functions for fertility:

  1. Acupuncture increases blood flow to reproductive organs

  2. Acupuncture calms the nervous system - decreasing stress hormones and promoting balanced reproductive hormones

Let’s not stop there.  There are many more ways that Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help fertility.  What are the benefits of fertility acupuncture?

a. Blood Flow: Acupuncture strongly and effectively stimulates blood flow to the uterus and the ovaries. The uterus benefits because it has more nutrients delivered which can help thicken the lining and/or make it more amenable to implantation of an embryo. Poor uterine lining quality is often the culprit for ‘implantation-failure’. The eggs also benefit as a result of increased blood flow.  The uterine artery feeds both the uterus and the ovaries. Since the eggs reside in the ovaries, the eggs receive more FSH/LH from the brain; in addition, they receive more oxygen, nutrients, and electrolytes. The follicles, as a result of this increase in blood flow are also able to more effectively rid themselves of dead-cell-remnants known as ‘debris’.  A build up of ‘debris’ can lessen the quality of eggs. (1)

b. Stress: Acupuncture reduces stress and stress is associated with diminished success when trying-to-conceive. (2)

c. Sperm: Acupuncture improves sperm quality.  This improvement may be observed in a higher count, greater motility and improved morphology of the sperm. (3)

d. PCOS: Acupuncture, herbs, and the proper supplements can help PCOS patients to lose weight (when necessary), regulate the menses, ovulate more consistently, and improve fertility outcomes. (4)

e. Endometriosis: Inflammation related to endometriosis can make it difficult for implantation to occur. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can significantly reduce inflammatory states in general and in utero in particular, thereby making the uterus healthier, and more amenable to an implantation with an ongoing successful pregnancy.

f. Age: Advanced maternal age is a term conferred upon any women 35 years old and older. Premature ovarian failure is also a term given to women who show the signs of declining fertility even earlier.  This population typically has at least two issues. They present with diminished ovarian reserve and poor (or less good) egg quality. Egg quality can be improved through the proper application of acupuncture along with good nutrition and thereby significantly improve the chances of conception.  

g. Miscarriage: There are many reasons for miscarriage, many of which should be treated by a reproductive endocrinologist.  However, there are certain conditions that Western medicine does not have much ability to treat such as IUGR.  IUGR means intrauterine growth restriction. With IUGR, the blood flow to the placenta is insufficient, nutrient products are not delivered to the developing fetus and miscarriage can result. Acupuncture is capable of treating this type of issue.

h. Subchorionic hematoma:  A subchorionic bleed (also known as a subchorionic hematoma) is the accumulation of blood between the uterine lining and the chorion (the outer fetal membrane, next to the uterus) or under the placenta itself. It can cause light to heavy spotting or bleeding, but it may not.  This can sometimes end in miscarriage. This condition is more common in IVF pregnancies because the embryo is sometimes scratched to encourage it to implant.  The Western medical approach is bedrest.  Acupuncture and herbs can more aggressively treat this pathology.

i. Unexplained Infertility: Infertility due to “no known cause”.  In traditional Chinese medicine, everything is diagnosable.  The skilled practitioner will always find underlying imbalances, and by restoring health to all systems, enhanced fertility follows.  For instance, a Chinese Medicine diagnosis of Blood Deficiency could significantly impact fertility, and by increasing the quantity and nutritive qualities of blood, a pregnancy is more likely to occur.

j. Integrative Care: Acupuncture and herbs are perfectly suited for an integrative approach to fertility care. The reproductive endocrinologist will stimulate the development of follicles, retrieve eggs, inseminate them with sperm and transfer the embryo. This technique has produced more than four million live births. But there are millions more transfers that were unsuccessful. In many cases, this is due to conditions that could be improved upon by Chinese Medicine.  In short, these are: great eggs, great sperm and great lining.  Acupuncture and herbs can confer these benefits to the patient undergoing IUI or IVF, or, just trying to conceive naturally.  One day this will hopefully be the standard of care.

k. Cost Savings: Acupuncture and herbs can save you money.  If acupuncture can improve the necessary components required for pregnancy (sperm, egg, lining), you will get pregnant sooner. The sooner you succeed, the less costly the whole affair.  Not to mention, the capacity to lessen the burden of stress along the way.

I am looking forward to adding citations to this post, as recent decades have provided a lot of promising research!

  1. Stener-Victorin E, Waldenström U, Andersson SA, Wikland M. Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries of infertile women with electro-acupuncture. Hum Reprod. 1996 Jun;11(6):1314-7. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.humrep.a019378. PMID: 8671446.
  2. Balk J, Catov J, Horn B, Gecsi K, Wakim A. The relationship between perceived stress, acupuncture, and pregnancy rates among IVF patients: a pilot study. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2010 Aug;16(3):154-157. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2009.11.004. Epub 2009 Dec 24. PMID: 20621276; PMCID: PMC2904299.
  3. Siterman S, Eltes F, Wolfson V, Zabludovsky N, Bartoov B. Effect of acupuncture on sperm parameters of males suffering from subfertility related to low sperm quality. Arch Androl. 1997 Sep-Oct;39(2):155-61. doi: 10.3109/01485019708987914. PMID: 9272232.
  4. Lim CE, Wong WS. Current evidence of acupuncture on polycystic ovarian syndrome. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2010 Jun;26(6):473-8. doi: 10.3109/09513591003686304. PMID: 20230329.