Pelvic inflammation – how acupuncture can help

Our patients often ask how acupuncture boosts fertility.  One of the ways is by reducing inflammation in the reproductive system. I recently came across this little study showing acupuncture’s anti-inflammatory effects for the pelvic inflammatory disease.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an acute inflammation in your reproductive organs.  It is a complication often caused by STIs, like chlamydia or gonorrhoea. With a recent rise of reported STIs cases in New Zealand, there is an increased risk in of women developing the pelvic inflammatory disease.

It’s concerning as you may not realise you have PID.  Symptoms may be mild, or you may not feel any difference at all.  However, if you have symptoms like

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IVF acupuncture: why 2 sessions on the day of ER are not enough

How many acupuncture treatments do you need to improve IVF outcomes?

Our own analysis of IVF acupuncture studies has shown that the treatment protocol for IVF patients needs to take into account your specific situation.

Furthermore, the results can be significantly improved when we use the comprehensive approach of TCM diagnosis and make use of both acupuncture and herbal medicines 3+ months leading to IVF. And our colleagues who did their research agree. Furthermore, below is a study published this month suggesting that three acupuncture sessions around the day of embryo transfer are insufficient intervention.

There are situations where you will not have enough notice, or you will learn about acupuncture late in the IVF process. It may be not too late. You can still benefit from a shorter course of treatment. As an example, studies have shown that when done correctly, even four acupuncture sessions can improve uterine blood flow. If you’re willing to benefit from this treatment, please get in touch with us as early as possible. If you started IVF and you feel like it’s too late don’t worry. There are still ways how we may help improve your chances of success. When we apply the correct approach, we can make a difference even after you’ve started IVF.

If your fertility is on the rapid decline because of your age, or other factors, delaying IVF to boost your fertility may not be wise. We take every aspect of your reproductive and general health into consideration. During your initial appointment, we discuss all options with you so you can choose.

We’ve prepared a lecture on the strategies of designing optimal individualised acupuncture protocol. This lecture soon will be available via a leading continuing medical education provider shortly.

Get in touch if you’re interested to learn about the optimal protocol for IVF Acupuncture.

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Why you should try acupuncture for unexplained infertility

Unexplained infertility probably is the most heartbreaking diagnosis. Not knowing why you can’t get pregnant is frustrating.

The principal treatments for unexplained infertility are recommendations for timed intercourse, lifestyle changes, Clomiphene citrate, intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). Recently, Lipoidal flushing showed promising results.

What role does acupuncture play in treating unexplained infertility?

We see reproductive acupuncture benefits and results for couples with unexplained infertility in our clinical practice. We have seen patients who were under a specialist care and tried everything else for as long as 7 years conceiving naturally under our care. However, acupuncture research is technically challenging and underfunded, there are only a few research papers that analyse this issue.

So understandably, I was excited to see a paper that took a challenge and looked into acupuncture’s benefits for unexplained infertility. It is unfortunate they did not utilise the power of acupuncture fully by using everything available. Nonetheless, the women who had acupuncture were better off.

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How many acupuncture sessions will reduce your IVF stress?

Stress affects your fertility. We can’t ignore this fact any longer.

Furthermore, long-term stress can reduce your IVF success. UK scientists measured cortisol levels in women undergoing IVF. They took samples of hair and saliva. Hair sampling allows analysis of cortisol over the preceding 3–6 months. While saliva sample shows immediate stress levels. Results were eye-opening. Women exposed to chronic stress were 27% less likely to conceive with IVF.

Is it realistic to think that one acupuncture session can reduce the stress that has accumulated in 3-6 months?

A recent study led by Dr Sutton looked for the answer. They compared a month of regular acupuncture with one session on the day of embryo transfer. Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer is often recommended by reproductive endocrinologists.

To no surprise women who had several acupuncture sessions felt more relaxed. Unfortunately, researchers didn’t look if acupuncture dose has an impact on pregnancy rates.

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Ovarian reserve – acupuncture offers new hope

In this study, researchers investigated how acupuncture influenced ovarian reserve in women who had low ovarian reserve or “very few eggs left”. They used a kind of acupuncture with no needles, where very gentle electric impulses are used to stimulate acupuncture points. This study has shown improved the hormone levels including Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH). AMH test is a test often used by IVF clinics to estimate response to the IVF drugs. Researchers observed increased number of eggs collected with IVF. The embryo quality was also improved. Consequently, women who had acupuncture had better IVF pregnancy outcomes.

The study was published in The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research.

Are you interested in learning how your fertility can be optimised with acupuncture?  Contact Dr Vitalis Acupuncture in Auckland.

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Reproductive acupuncture vs medication for anovulation

Interested know how reproductive acupuncture scores against medication at improving ovulation and ovarian health?

One of the causes for anovulation is luteinised unruptured follicle syndrome (LUFS). LUFS affects 5%-10% of healthy women of childbearing age and 25%-43% of women with infertility. This syndrome is more common among women diagnosed with endometriosis.

Most commonly LUFS is diagnosed during series of ultrasound scans. In women with LUFS the dominant follicle will grow bigger than usual (up to 4 centimetres). The follicle will undergo the luteinisation process, but it will not rupture during the midcycle to release the mature egg. Progesterone secretion will increase, the endometrium will undergo the secretory changes. Your won’t be able to see any difference in your period. The menstrual flow will be no different to healthy menstrual cycle; but, obviously, if oocyte is not released, fertilisation and pregnancy cannot happen. Pathogenesis of LUFS is poorly understood. The main treatment is ovulation induction with hCG hormonal injection or Chlomiphene. These treatments are a risk of hyperstimulation syndrome and other side-effects.

A recent literature review on acupuncture’s effect on LUFS has been published in Journal Of Acupuncture and Tuina Science. And if offers a safe and effective alternative. Read more

Hyperprolactinemia: reproductive acupuncture holds a promise

hyperprolactinemia-prolactinomaHyperprolactinemia can be a significant obstacle for women trying to get pregnant, and reproductive acupuncture may be one way to address the condition in some women. Previous research has shown that acupuncture influences prolactin levels in women undergoing IVF. We have studies showing acupuncture can reduce prolactin levels (auricular acupuncture using NADA protocol).

This study is interesting, because the researchers were looking at natural conception rates; and women who had acupuncture treatment showed significant difference – they were more fertile. Acupuncture plus standard treatment resulted in 43% pregnancy rate vs 20% of standard treatment alone. Bromocriptine has some nasty side-effects, including dizziness, nausea, confusion, even hallucinations and uncontrolled body movement. Women undergoing acupuncture treatment had much better response to the drug, but also had fewer side-effects.

Obviously, this is a small study; and further research looking into hyperprolactinemia and acupuncture are needed. The abstract of the study is below.

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Comprehensive Traditional Chinese medicine approach improves IVF outcomes

Reprod Biomed Online. 2015 Jun;30(6):602-12. doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2015.02.005. Epub 2015 Feb 24.
Impact of whole systems traditional Chinese medicine on in-vitro fertilization outcomes.
Hullender Rubin LE1, Opsahl MS2, Wiemer KE2, Mist SD3, Caughey AB3.
Author information
1 Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, 75 NW Couch St, Portland, OR, 97210, USA; Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR, USA; Portland Acupuncture Studio, Portland, OR, USA. Electronic address:
2 Poma Fertility, Northwest Center for Reproductive Sciences, Kirkland, WA, USA.
3 Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR, USA.


Patients undergoing IVF may receive either acupuncture or whole-systems traditional Chinese medicine (WS-TCM) as an adjuvant IVF treatment. WS-TCM is a complex intervention that can include acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, dietary, lifestyle recommendations. In this retrospective cohort study, 1231 IVF patient records were reviewed to assess the effect of adjuvant WS-TCM on IVF outcomes compared among three groups: IVF with no additional treatment; IVF and elective acupuncture on day of embryo transfer; or IVF and elective WS-TCM. The primary outcome was live birth. Of 1069 non-donor cycles, WS-TCM was associated with greater odds of live birth compared with IVF alone (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 2.09; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.36 to 3.21), or embryo transfer with acupuncture only (AOR 1.62; 95% CI 1.04 to 2.52). Of 162 donor cycles, WS-TCM was associated with increased live births compared with all groups (odds Ratio [OR] 3.72; 95% CI 1.05 to 13.24, unadjusted) or embryo transfer with acupuncture only (OR 4.09; 95% CI: 1.02 to 16.38, unadjusted). Overall, IVF with adjuvant WS-TCM was associated with greater odds of live birth in donor and non-donor cycles. These results should be taken cautiously as more rigorous research is needed.

Chinese herbal medicine; acupuncture; embryo transfer; in-vitro fertilization; live births; traditional Chinese medicine

PMID: 25911598 PMCID: PMC4458185 DOI: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2015.02.005

Can acupuncture help 35+ year old pregnant women reduce pregnancy risks

pregnant maternal age

Can acupuncture help 35+ year old pregnant women reduce pregnancy risks?

Women of this age, are a high risk for developing stillbirth and fetal growth restriction among other complications.

This study, published in journal of Physiology, researchers from University of Manchester, UK concluded that the blood flow to placenta may be the reason for increased risks. Acupuncture increases the blood flow to uterus. Use acupuncture in pregnancy as preventative measure to reduce the risks for the developing baby.

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PCOS: acupuncture normalises ovarian volume and AMH


Acupuncture helps to normalise both ovarian volume and AMH in PCOS patients. These changes are beneficial for fertility.

Both acupuncture and exercise help to normalise overactive sympathetic nervous system in PCOS patients. Acupuncture, however, is much more effective.  Furthermore, as shown by this study, exercise has no effect on AMH nor ovarian volume.

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PCOS insulin resistance – Acupuncture can help

PCOS insulin resistance acupuncturePCOS can improve with acupuncture treatment. More research looks into the mechanism of it. One of the lead researchers in PCOS and acupuncture Dr Elisabet Stener-Victorin from Sweden has long suspected that acupuncture may play a role in regulating blood glucose levels and helping with insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is one of the features of PCOS. This study put the theory to test.

The study revealed acupuncture increases whole body glucose uptake during and after stimulation in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.  See the abstract and a full text of the study below.

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Electro acupuncture decreases risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation in IVF patients

ohssThis study shows acupuncture in IVF patients decreases the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation. And while it has some limitations, we need to take the results into account while choosing the right acupuncture protocol for each IVF patient.

The study was published in Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine.

[Effect of electro-acupuncture on clinical outcomes and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome in in vitro fertilization and embryo transplantation].

Hong YL, Tan Y, Yin YY, Zou YJ, Guo YH, Nie XW
Department of Gynecology, Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, China.
Zhongguo Zhong xi yi jie he za zhi Zhongguo Zhongxiyi Jiehe Zazhi = Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine / Zhongguo Zhong xi yi jie he xue Hui, Zhongguo Zhong yi yan jiu Yuan zhu ban [2014, 34(11):1292-1296]

OBJECTIVE: To observe the effect of electro-acupuncture (EA) on clinical outcomes and the occurrence of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) in in vitro fertilization and embryo transplantation.

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Acupuncture improves receptivity of endometrial lining in IVF Frozen Embryo Transfer

Frozen embryo transfer acupuncture

IVF Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) patients benefit from Acupuncture. This helps us understand how Acupuncture benefits fertility.

Electro stimulation on acupuncture points leading to the IVF transfer improves the quality/receptivity of the uterine lining. A study published in the latest issue of peer-reviewed British Medical Journal (Acupuncture in Medicine) found the rates of embryo implantation, clinical pregnancy and live birth rates were higher in patients who received acupuncture leading to the transfer. They also found significant measurable changes in the endometrium (uterine lining):

  • Acupuncture improved the chances of triple-line pattern endometrial lining. It has been shown in studies that triple-line pattern is associated with good IVF outcome.
  • Endometrial perfusion (blood supply to the uterine lining) is an important factor in the process of implantation. The study found greater endometrial and subendometrial vascularisation following a series of acupuncture treatments leading to embryo transfer.
  • Acupuncture improved HOXA10 expression. Higher HOXA10 is associated with greater endometrial receptivity and good pregnancy outcomes. HOXA10 expression is lower in the uteri of women with hydrosalpinx, PCOS, and endometriosis.

How much acupuncture should you have to see those enhancements to your fertility? Women in this study had six acupuncture sessions per cycle for three menstrual cycles.

See the abstract of the study below. Read more

Stress reduces sperm quality, is acupuncture the answer?

Stress sperm acupunctureImpact of stress on female infertility and pregnancy has been well documented. Below study, published in the journal of Fertility and Sterility, shows male reproductive health is similarly affected by it. The researchers are confident the correlation between stress and sperm parameters is clear.

Acupuncture has been shown to improve sperm quality, it has also been shown to help with stress. Researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Center have shown that acupuncture interferes with the very mechanism of stress.

Effects of work and life stress on semen quality

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Stress doubles the chance of infertility

stress-acupuncture-reproductionToo much stress is a serious factor affecting your fertility. The study published in the Journal of Human Reproduction found that stress can lead to two-fold increase in infertility among women trying to conceive for one year. Are you trying to conceive and are stressed? Perhaps it’s a good idea to consider acupuncture. It interferes with the very mechanism of stress.

Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study—the LIFE study
C.D. Lynch1,*, R. Sundaram2, J.M. Maisog2, A.M. Sweeney3 and G.M. Buck Louis2
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Low uterine blood flow = no pregnancy

fertility and sterility acupuncture

Acupuncture has been shown to increase the uterine blood flow (decrease uterine blood impedance). But does the uterine blood flow really matter when you’re having an IVF? This study provides the answer. The researchers used special ultrasound technique to measure uterine blood flow. They found that it had an immense effect on both pregnancy and implantation rates. IVF with women, who had the lowest blood flow (PI>3) on the day of transfer, unfortunately didn’t result in any pregnancies.

Fertil Steril. 1992 Feb;57(2):372-6. Read more

Acupuncture – effective treatment for CPID Chronic Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Yet another study shows that acupuncture does quite a bit more in the abdominal cavity than just increasing the blood flow to ovaries and uterus. Obviously, the study doesn’t directly link with treatment of infertility, but the promise is there.

Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 2014 Apr;39(2):156-63.
[A meta-analysis on effectiveness of acupuncture and moxibustion for chronic pelvic inflammatory disease].
Fan LL, Yu WH, Liu XQ, Cui Z, Ma J, Li CP.
To evaluate the clinical effect of acupuncture and moxibustion therapies for chronic pelvic inflammatory disease (CPID) by Meta-analysis.
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Embryo implantation failure – acupuncture increases number of implanted embryos

embryo-implantationSuccessful implantation is an absolute prerequisite for a successful pregnancy. The process by which a blastocyst is accepted by endometrium is involved and requires interplay of many systems.

The researchers of this study have discovered acupuncture can optimise this subtle uterine environment by modulating cytokines; and therefore it can increase the implantation rate.


J Huazhong Univ Sci Technolog Med Sci. 2014 Feb;34(1):91-8. doi: 10.1007/s11596-014-1237-9. Epub 2014 Feb 6.
Effect of acupuncture on CXCL8 receptors in rats suffering from embryo implantation failure.
Author information: Gao WN1, Yang W, Liu YF, Tang X, Guo Y, Wang LJ, Zhang MM, Huang GY.
Institute of Integrated Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China

To observe the effect of acupuncture on CXCL8 receptors (CXCR1 and CXCR2) in rat endometrium experiencing embryo implantation failure, 72 pregnant rats were randomly divided into four groups: normal group (N), embryo implantation failure group (M), acupuncture treatment group (A), and progestin treatment group (W). Then the rats in each group were equally randomized into a day-6 (D6) group, a day-8 (D8) group, and a day-10 (D10) group. The rats in group M, group A, and group W were treated with mifepristone-sesame oil solution on day 1, while the rats in group N were injected with the same amount of sesame oil. Meanwhile, “Housanli” and “Sanyinjiao” were selected for acupuncture. From day 1 to the time of death, the rats in group A were fastened up and then acupuncture was administered while the rats in group N and group M were only fixed, and the rats in group W were given progestin. The number of implanted embryos was calculated. The expression of CXCR1 and CXCR2 in rat endometrium was detected by immunohistochemistry, Western blotting and real-time PCR. Compared to group N, the average number of implanted embryos, the protein and mRNA expression of CXCR1 (D6, D8 and D10), and the protein and mRNA expression of CXCR2 (D8 and D10) in rat endometrium were significantly decreased in group M. Compared to group M, there was significant elevation in the average number of implanted embryos, the protein expression (D6, D8 and D10) and mRNA expression (D8) of CXCR1 in rat endometrium of group A, and the protein expression (D8 and D10) and mRNA expression (D8) of CXCR2 in rat endometrium of group W. These findings indicated that acupuncture can increase the number of implanted embryos in rats of embryo implantation failure, which may be relevant with up-regulation the expression of CXCR1 and CXCR2 at maternal-fetal interface of rats with embryo implantation failure.

Acupuncture more effective than clomophene in treatment of pcos

clomophene pcos acupunctureThis study by Beijing Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynecology has shown acupuncture to be superior to clomophene on ovulation and pregnancy rates in treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome.

Other studies have shown that unlike Clomophene, acupuncture can have long term effect on PCOS by reducing the sympathetic nervous tonus. Apart from study methodology issues, another limitation of this study is that it only looked into the short term effect, but didn’t evaluate the effectiveness over a longer term. However, this is another study adding to the body of evidence. The study was published in the journal of Zhongguo Zhen jiu (Chinese Journal of Acupuncture & Moxibustion [2013, 33(11):961-964]).

Efficacy and safety evaluation of acupuncture combined with auricular acupoint therapy in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome

Department of Acupuncture and Physical Therapy, Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing 100026, China.
Zhongguo Zhen jiu = Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion [2013, 33(11):961-964]
Type: Journal Article, English Abstract (lang: chi)

OBJECTIVE: To compare the efficacy differences between acupuncture combined with auricular acupoint therapy and clomiphene oral administration in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

METHODS: One hundred cases of PCOS were randomized into two groups, 50 cases in each one. Acupuncture combined with auricular acupuncture group (group A): acupuncture was applied at Guanyuan (CV 4), Zhongji (CV 3) and Zigong (EX-CA 1), once daily; auricular point sticking was applied at Spleen (pi, CO13), Endocrine (neifenmi, CO18), Uterus and Kidney (shen, CO10), the plaster was changed once a week. Clomiphene group (group B): oral clomiphene was prescribed at the 5th day of the menstrual, for 5 consecutive days, totally 3 menstrual cycles was needed. The ovulation induction, pregnancy and menstruation resuming of patients in the two ‘ , The totally effective rate was 90.00% (45/50) in group A, which was group were observed and compared.

RESULTS: The totally effective rate was 90.0% (45/50) in group A, which was superior to 86.0% (43/50) in group B (P<0.05); the ovulation rate and pregnancy rate were 68.0% (34/50)and 64. 0% (32/50) in group A, which were superior to that of group B (all P<0. 05); the menstruation resuming rate was 94.00 (47/50) in group A, which was superior to 88.00 (44/50) in group B (P<0.05). No adverse effect was observed in group A, while in group B, varying degrees of nausea, vomiting, headache and dermatitis were observed in 29 cases, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) like polycystic ovary was observed in 14 cases under the B ultrasound. CONCLUSION: Acupuncture combined with auricular acupoint therapy has a better effect than clomiphene in the treatment of PCOS without any adverse effects.