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 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.

In a recent study researchers from  China divided women diagnosed with unexplained infertility into two groups: acupuncture and control. Women in both groups were trying to conceive for about 5 years.

Upon enrolling into the trial all couples had comprehensive fertility workup that included a Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) – a test for blocked Fallopian tubes.

After HSG, both groups got instructions to try up to three natural cycles or until pregnancy occurred. All women were prescribed 10,000 IU of hCG to trigger ovulation. If not pregnant they underwent 1 – 3 cycles of controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH) and timed intercourse.

The acupuncture group had acupuncture for 3 menstrual cycles additionally to prescribed treatments.

The results were worth attention.

Overall pregnancy rates in both groups were higher than is typical for COH. The authors’ reason that this could also be caused by the HSG test. This sounds right, as similar results were achieved in the recent trial using Lipoidal flushing.

There were no significant differences between pregnancy rates in the acupuncture and control groups. However, there was one important difference. Fewer women had to undergo COH, as they were able to conceive naturally. In other words, it was easier for women in the acupuncture group to fall pregnant naturally without the need to resort to controlled ovarian hyperstimulation.

Authors conclude that acupuncture can be used as an adjunctive treatment for couples with unexplained infertility.

Acupuncture made a difference for these couples by reducing time to conception. In other words, it shortened the heartache of the infertility journey.

Treatment of Unexplained Infertility by Acupuncture in Natural and Control Ovarian Hyperstimulation Cycles: A Prospective Analysis

Liuhong Cai, Rihan Hai, Bin Zhang, Yanfei Wen, Minhui Zen, Manbo Jiang


Acupuncture is an important method of treatment in Chinese medicine. The objective of this study
was to evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture as an adjuvant treatment for unexplained infertility. Here we conducted a prospective study, with data consisting of acupuncture group (38 cases) and control group (42 cases). Infertility evaluation workup consisted of semen analysis, ovulation assessment, hysterosalpingogram (HSG) and blood analysis. The patients in acupuncture group received 3 acupuncture sessions, and each at seven acupuncture points (EX-CA1, CV4, CV6, SP10, ST36, SP6, and KI3). The session started 12 days before menstruation and continued for 10 days. The patients in control group did not receive acupuncture. All patients tried 1 – 3 natural cycles 3  months after HSG test, if not pregnant, underwent 1 – 3 cycles of control ovarian hyperstimulation (COH) and timed intercourse. Pregnancy was evaluated by measurement of blood human chorionic gonadotrophin (?-hCG) and subsequent trans-vaginal ultrasound. No significant difference of clinical pregnancy rate was found between the acupuncture group and the control group, however, numbers of COH cycles were significantly less and more pregnancies occurred in a natural cycle in the acupuncture group.

We concluded that acupuncture can be used as an adjuvant treatment for unexplained infertility. Although acupuncture did not increase the cumulative pregnancy rate, it decreased the number of COH cycles and more patients got pregnant in natural cycles after receiving acupuncture.