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A lot of women today are delaying starting a family until later in life. By the time couples decide they’re ready to have kids, getting pregnant is sometimes not as easy as they thought it would be.
Before you start to panic, you should know that infertility is defined as not being able to conceive after one year of unprotected sex if you’re under 35 years old, or six months if you’re over 35.
If you’re still having trouble conceiving after the recommended time, there are a number of fertility options available, such as: lifestyle changes, medication, surgery and assisted reproductive technology (ART). Some women who are not yet ready to turn to fertility treatments, or who want something more to complement these treatments, are trying acupuncture to help get pregnant.
Acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat some causes of infertility. The application of fine, sterile needles inserted into the skin is thought to increase blood flow to the endometrium, and help to facilitate a thick, rich lining.
While more research is needed to determine whether acupuncture alone can help you get pregnant, some studies suggest that acupuncture may be helpful in conjunction with fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). In 2008, the British Medical Journal published a study that concluded acupuncture can be offered as a significant, clinically relevant adjunct to IVF, as it may help to relax the uterus and increase blood flow for successful implantation of an embryo within the uterine lining.
What does acupuncture involve for women trying to conceive? Acupuncture is relatively safe but you’ll want to clear it with your OB-GYN first. Also, you’ll want to find a certified, licensed acupuncturist with experience treating women who are trying to get pregnant.
The focus of your initial visit with an acupuncturist is to learn about your current menstrual cycle patterns. Any information from labs or tests is also helpful when deciding a course of treatment. Acupuncture treatment is usually broken up into phases based on your menstrual cycle:
There is another potential benefit of acupuncture for women who are trying to conceive. Acupuncture is known to help lower overall stress levels.
As you cycle through each month of your menstrual cycle, emotions play a huge piece in this journey. Each month is like a roller coaster. It starts when you are trying to get pregnant, then the waiting, and finally the result of either a positive pregnancy test or another period, which means it starts all over again. This process is understandably stressful for many women. Acupuncture can help ease your stress and calm the wide range of emotions you go through when you’re trying to conceive.
In the end, while research on acupuncture and fertility has mixed results, if it can help boost your chances for a baby (even if it’s just by helping you relax), it may be worthwhile.
If you are having trouble conceiving, talk to your doctor about your options. Learn more about preparing for pregnancy.
The Integrative Medicine Clinic at Elmhurst Hospital offers acupuncture and other therapies to address all aspects of your health. Learn more about Integrative Medicine.
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