Acupuncture for Fertility (Natural and IVF)

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine have been used for thousands of years to support fertility and healthy pregnancy. We have a wealth of ancient as well as modern information about how best to support our patients. I'm happy to discuss the "how" and the "why" of this with you when you come in for a visit (more info and scheduling at

This post includes a few studies, specifically for people who have asked me about modern scientific research on acupuncture and fertility - both if it works, and possible mechanisms for how it works.

Dive in, and enjoy.


Acupuncture & IVF (In Vitro Fertilization)

Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial

This 2006 study was a high-quality prospective, randomized trial, meaning that it was planned a head of time, and patients were divided into two groups: those who received acupuncture treatment, and those who didn't.

You can the study for all the details, but here's the data most of you are probably looking for:

"Result(s): Clinical and ongoing pregnancy rates were significantly higher in the ACU 1 group as compared with controls (37 of 95 [39%] vs. 21 of 87 [26%] and 34 of 95 [36%] vs. 19 of 87 [22%])."


Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy

This 2002 study led by Wolfgang E. Paulus, also a prospective randomized trial, was the reason many IVF doctors began recommending acupuncture.

"Result(s): Clinical pregnancies were documented in 34 of 80 patients (42.5%) in the acupuncture group, whereas pregnancy rate was only 26.3% (21 out of 80 patients) in the control group."


Effects of acupuncture on pregnancy rates in women undergoing in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis

This study is a "systematic review and meta-analysis," which means they meticulously reviewed the data from previous studies. In this case, there were 24 research studies to review. This study is a bit more complicated, because the type of acupuncture administered varied significantly between studies.

It's still informative, though, so here's their conclusion: "Acupuncture improves CPR [Clinical Pregnancy Rate] and LBR [Live Birth Rate] among women undergoing IVF based on the results of studies that do not include the Streitberger control. The Streitberger control may not be an inactive control. More positive effects from using acupuncture in IVF can be expected if an appropriate control and more reasonable acupuncture programs are used."

That conclusion needs a little bit more explanation. The "Streitberger device" is sometimes used in an attempt to include as a placebo in an acupuncture study. It involves a blunt needle that contacts the skin and gives a pricking sensation, but doesn't penetrate the skin. Some of these studies used the Streitberger device for the "control" group (meaning, the group who didn't get acupuncture). However, the Streitberger might actually be giving a beneficial effect (or as they say in the conclusion, "may not be an inactive control").

So, some studies showed that people who thought they were getting acupuncture with the Streitberger control also had higher CBRs and LBRs than those who didn't get any acupuncture or acupuncture-like treatment. When those studies were left out of the meta-analysis, acupuncture patients clearly had higher CBRs and LBRs than those who did not have acupuncture.


Acupuncture & Natural Fertility

Prior to Conception: The Role of an Acupuncture Protocol in Improving Women's Reproductive Functioning Assessed by a Pilot Pragmatic Randomised Controlled Trial

This 2016 study, a pilot randomized, controlled study, was limited to 56 women and 3 months of treatment time. Although there wasn't enough time to see the possible influence of acupuncture on overall pregnancy rates, it still revealed some informative results:

In women who received acupuncture and made lifestyle modifications, as compared to those who only used lifestyle modification, "their fertility awareness and wellbeing increased, and those who conceived did so in half the time."


The role of acupuncture in the management of subfertility

This systematic review looks at the results of studies on acupuncture in relation to anovulatory subfertility, male subfertility, pain relief during transvaginal ultrasound-guided oocyte retrieval (TUGOR), and pregnancy rate of in vitro fertilization/embryo transfer (IVF/ET). It also includes some discussion of possible markers and mechanisms for acupuncture's effectiveness, from a Western biomedical standpoint.

Most relevant to female fertility, this review includes two studies that show acupuncture increased the occurrence of ovulation in people who had not been ovulating.

This study concludes: "The positive effect of acupuncture in the treatment of subfertility may be related to the central sympathetic inhibition by the endorphin system, the change in uterine blood flow and motility, and stress reduction. Acupuncture may help restore ovulation in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome, although there are not enough randomized studies to validate this."