Acupuncture: The infertility cure?

Science has a growing love for the ancient practice of using needles as a way around infertility - Acupuncture is being explored as a possibility for many women who are trying to conceive.

The number of couples experiencing infertility in South Africa is on the rise, especially as more women delay falling pregnant in favour of careers, or because they haven’t found the right person. As a woman ages her eggs age along with her and, by the time she reaches 40, the fertility curve is on a rapid downward slide with her chances of falling pregnant dropping to as little as one percent by the time she hits 44. This can be further complicated by issues such as endometriosis or PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and in some heart-breaking cases the reasons for infertility remain unknown.

Science vs. snake oil salesmen

Enter a thriving world of alternative medicines that hint at miracle cures and pregnancy guarantees. Plenty of women are happy to spend their money on all sorts of fakery because facing the thought of a permanently empty womb is numbing and terrifying and sad.

I am one of these women, but I’m all about what the science says and, unlike cupping, acupuncture has science on its side. This ancient Chinese practice really can boost fertility. A report published in the 2008 British Medical Journal found that acupuncture had the potential to increase a woman’s chance of pregnancy by 65%, and an even more recent study in the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism1, found that it could increase the frequency of ovulation in woman with PCOS. Yet another study2 showed that acupuncture given to women on the day they did embryo transfer of donor eggs in IVF gave them a higher rate of pregnancy and live birth. In fact, there are so many studies about acupuncture and its fertility boosting powers that I’m surprised there aren’t acupuncture practitioners stationed inside local fertility clinics, needles at the ready...

Wait, I remember why.


Have you seen acupuncture needles? They are long and pointy and frankly terrifying, even for people without needle horror, and I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t have a fear of needles. However, there was no way I was going to run screaming from this scientifically loved infertility treatment just because my new Chinese practitioner was waving long needles under my nose and cackling. Well, he actually just asked me to lie down on my back so he could get busy, there wasn’t any maniacal laughter.

The session started with a rather vigorous massage that made my wibbly bits flail around like a walrus on a ski run and then he wiped down my abdomen to prepare it for acupuncture. I could not tear my eyes away from the needles as he ripped them out their paper shrouds and jabbed them into me. He did this flick-tap movement that saw the needle shoot into my body. Each time I braced for impact, but I felt nothing. If I moved around, the needles would remind me that they were there, but not to the point where I could say they were painful. He layered them around my womb, explained how each point would boost my fertility and left me to relax for half an hour. I fell asleep. Who knew that my alternative route through infertility could be so relaxing?

Did it work?

I’m not pregnant and, as of today, I know it for sure. Is acupuncture a con? No. I have only been twice and each time I have found myself feeling more energised and content. I have also had the least painful period of my life and that is most definitely from the acupuncture. This is one alternative cure that I won’t be giving up on, especially since another infertile has just announced her pregnancy three years down the battle lines and two months into acupuncture… She’s 42.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Would you try out acupuncture while TTC?

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