There are 3.5 million people in the UK facing fertility issues, Around 1 in 7 couples may have difficulty conceiving. An yet, the experience of infertility can be such a lonely journey for many who are left feeling alone in the fertility struggle.
From the gruelling pain of endometriosis, the hormonal challenges of irregular anovulatory cycles such as PCOS, poor semen quality, to the heartache and emptiness of pregnancy loss, the end result remains the same. Well meaning friends and family can empathise and offer sometimes unhelpful advice such as ‘relax and it will happen’ when the reality is, there may be a fundamental biological underlying issue that needs resolving you may both need further investigations. There may be a combination of factors that when added together may increase the time it takes to conceive. It can be challenging and overwhelming to know where to start, and how to get the support needed.
If you have been trying to conceive for over a year (or 6 months if over 36) your GP is a great first step for both partners to have some initial fertility tests, such as hormone and thyroid testing, sometimes with a physical examination to feel for fibroids, PID or other causes of infertility. Men can be offered a semen analysis and a visual/ physical examination to rule out physical obstructions such as varicocele. These are great preliminary investigations, however dependant on your history further assessments would be helpful.
Lifestyle factors can hugely effect fertility such as smoking, trans fats intake, alcohol and poor sleep to name a few. Making changes a minimum of 3 months before conception is recommended. Nutrition is extremely important especially you can help yourself by consuming a rainbow full of fruit and vegetables, ideally organic where possible (especially the dirtydozen) a diet naturally full of antioxidants and healthy fats is essential. Resolving any gut issues is extremely important to ensure you can actually absorb the nutrients. This is general advice just scratching the surface, It would be highly beneficial to enlist the help of a nutritionist or functional medicine practitioner to support your individual needs.
How can a fertility acupuncturist help? Acupuncture has been rapidly gaining popularity as a modality to support fertility journeys over the last few decades. This is due to the sheer number of both couples and individuals who have used fertility acupuncture with great success. Acupuncture has shown to be beneficial in the treatment of unexplained infertility.
It is well documented that acupuncture reduces stress, which not only supports fertility, it is an extremely welcome benefit from what can be a very stressful and difficult time in someone’s life.
Acupuncture can help regulate the cycle and support ovulation (2,3), regulate 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 release of gonadotrophin releasing hormone by the hypothalamus, follicle stimulating hormone from the pituitary gland, and oestrogen and progesterone levels from the ovary. Acupuncture also increases the blood flow to the reproductive organs, can counteract the effect of polycystic ovarian syndrome (,4,5,6,7,8,10), a common cause of infertility. Acupuncture can also regulate natural killer (NK) cells (10), which in excess or deficiency can cause implantation issues. Whether you are trying to conceive naturally, or are looking for support alongside assisted fertility protocols, acupuncture can offer you the support you need, before, during and after pregnancy.
Acupuncture has demonstrated improvement in overall sperm quality, especially poor morphology (11) in studies that incorporated acupuncture twice weekly for 5 weeks resulting in a significant improvement in sperm motility and normal sperm in ejaculate.(12,13,14) Acupuncture has also been found to be useful for those with a very low sperm count (15).
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 Park JJ, Kang M, Shin S, Choi E et al. Unexplained infertility treated with acupuncture and herbal medicine in Korea. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Feb;16(2):193-8.
 Jiang DS. Ding D. [Clinical observation on acupuncture combined with medication for treatment of continuing unovulation infertility]. [Chinese] Zhongguo Zhenjiu. 29(1):21-4, 2009 Jan.
 Song FJ. Zheng SL. Ma DZ. [Clinical observation on acupuncture for treatment of infertility of ovulatory disturbance]. [Chinese] Zhongguo Zhenjiu. 28(1):21-3, 2008 Jan.
 Stener-Victorin E, Wu X. Effects and mechanisms of acupuncture in the reproductive system. Auton Neurosci. 2010 Mar 27. [Epub ahead of print]
 Stener-Victorin E, Jedel E, MannerÃ¥s L. Acupuncture in polycystic ovary syndrome: current experimental and clinical evidence. J Neuroendocrinol. 2008 Mar;20(3):290-8.
 Stener-Victorin E, Humaidan P. Use of acupuncture in female infertility and a summary of recent acupuncture studies related to embryo transfer. Acupunct Med. 2006 Dec;24(4):157-63.
 Lim CE, Wong WS. Current evidence of acupuncture on polycystic ovarian syndrome.Gynecol Endocrinol. 2010 Mar 16. [Epub ahead of print]
 Ng EH, So WS, Gao J, Wong YY, Ho PC. The role of acupuncture in the management of subfertility. Fertil Steril. 2008 Jul;90(1):1-13.
 Huang ST, Chen AP. Traditional Chinese medicine and infertility. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Jun;20(3):211-5.
 Yu, et al. (1997) Enhancement of splenic interferon-gamma, interleukin-2, and NK cytotoxicity by S36 acupoint acupuncture in F344 rats. Jpn J Physiol; 47(2): 173-8.
Qian Z (Clinical observation of 54 cases of male infertility treated by acupuncture and moxibustion) Journal of Chinese Medicine, 1996 September
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 Siterman S, Eltes F, Wolfson V, Zabludovsky N, Bartoov B, The effect of acupuncture on sperm parameters of males suffering from subfertility related to low sperm motility. Arch Androl 1997, Sep-Oct; 39 (2): 155-61
 Ischl F, Riegler R, Bieglmayer C, Nasr F, Neumark J (Modification of semen quality by acupuncture in subfertile males) Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkd. 1984 Aug; 44 (8): 510-2
 Siterman S, Eltes F, Wolfson V, Lederman H, Bartoov B. Does acupuncture treatment affect sperm density in males with very low sperm count? A pilot study. Andrologia 2000 Jan; 32 (1): 31-9.