If you’re a believer in the mind-body connection, you’re probably a fan of acupuncture. Whether it’s to achieve harmony between your mental and physical self or simply to relax, acupuncture is a useful way to practice holistic health.
It’s no surprise, then, that acupuncture has made its way into the fertility community and is commonly offered to women beginning fertility care or undergoing In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Research into the impact of acupuncture on fertility patients has been promising, especially from a mental health standpoint – it is proven to promote relaxation and put women at ease during what is usually a hectic and stressful time.
There are two types of acupuncture practiced at RMA for women seeking care – traditional needle acupuncture and laser acupuncture. But before we get into the specifics of each, it’s important to understand the purpose of acupuncture.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of Chinese, or Eastern, medicine, which has been practiced in China for over 2,500 years. The premise is simple: there is a vital life source, or energy, which flows within the body, called Qi (pronounced ‘chee’). Qi is always in flux, moving and changing.
When Qi is disrupted, or the flow of energy is compromised, health problems and disease can ensue, requiring the restoration of Qi, which allows the body to heal.
This is where acupuncture comes in – fine needles are inserted into various points on 14 meridians, or pathways, in the body that facilitates the movement of Qi and promotes healing.
Acupuncture for fertility: How does it work?
The effects of acupuncture may include increased production of endorphins and enkephalins–natural analgesics that can increase blood flow. Advocates of acupuncture suggest that this supports the growth of healthy ovarian follicles, enhancing stimulation cycles. Other effects may include regulating menstrual cycles, combating stress and lessening headaches and digestive issues.
At RMA, the two types of acupuncture are offered at different times – needle acupuncture is offered at all stages of care; however, laser acupuncture is only offered on the day of frozen embryo transfer.
What about acupressure? Does that help with fertility?
Acupressure works similar to acupuncture (and is from the same philosophy as acupuncture) in that a practitioner targets acupoints on the body to release tension and restore the flow of energy. Instead of inserting a needle or pointing a laser, the practitioner squeezes and puts pressure on the acupoints in order to trigger release and remove a block.
There are not many large-scale studies on the efficacy of acupressure and fertility (IVF treatment), but one Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) from 2018 found acupressure did not improve IVF outcomes. We currently do not offer acupressure at RMA.
What is the difference between needle and laser acupuncture?
While the effects of traditional needle and laser acupuncture are similar, the main difference between the two modes of acupuncture is the way they are applied to the woman’s body. In traditional acupuncture, tiny needles are inserted into various points in the body for a specific amount of time.
While they are not inserted deeply, do not cause bleeding or even marking, some women do experience a pinching sensation upon application. Many other women feel nothing upon insertion, but then could feel a warm or tingling sensation while they lay still with the needles inserted.
It’s also possible to feel a little pressure or tightness, but these sensations are mild.
With laser acupuncture, nothing is inserted into the skin – instead, what looks like a silver metal pen is placed on various points on the body while a low-level laser emits photonic stimulation into the body.
One of the mechanisms behind the efficacy of laser acupuncture is that the laser stimulates parts of the brain that relate to specific acupoints.
Should I do both traditional and laser acupuncture?
It’s really up to you – you certainly can.
As stated earlier, the benefits from both types of acupuncture are similar, and laser acupuncture is only offered on the day of frozen embryo transfer. This means that if you want to make acupuncture a consistent part of your fertility journey, and have sessions both before and during treatment, you will inevitably experience both types of acupuncture.
Spoiler alert– the studies mentioned below refer to the use of laser acupuncture prior to transfer. If you’re doing acupuncture because you want to increase your chances of pregnancy on transfer day, you’ll want to strongly consider signing up for laser acupuncture.
What is laser acupuncture like on transfer day?
If you are like most RMA patients and opt for laser acupuncture on transfer day, here’s what you can expect:
- The laser acupuncturist will treat you in your private transfer room
- The goal of laser acupuncture is to relax and invigorate the uterus with the flow of energy and blood
- The laser is placed on points on top of the head, ears, abdomen, wrists, and legs and is left on points for only 15-30 seconds
- Most patients don’t feel anything (with needle acupuncture, patients may feel a minor pinch)
- The laser emits a beeping noise so acupuncturists can monitor time
- For post-transfer acupuncture, it is recommended the patient go to the bathroom, and then laser acupuncture is done on the ears, arms and legs
- Each treatment – before and after transfer – takes about 10 minutes
Does acupuncture really help with fertility?
Many studies indicate that it does. However, some have suggested minimal benefits.
Given this lack of consensus, researchers at RMA performed a study of their own to determine whether or not acupuncture was beneficial in our practice setting.
The study showed that women who underwent laser acupuncture had higher rates of implantation than those who did not. A recent study was done in Australia also showed a modest benefit, although the difference was small. An interesting byproduct of this study, however, was the observation that women who had acupuncture reported reduced stress than those who didn’t.
Regardless of the study, know that if you choose to undergo acupuncture during your infertility journey, you’ll be in good hands.
Acupuncture for Fertility Costs
Acupuncture appointments and treatment costs vary, so please be sure to check with your provider for accurate pricing.
Traditional Acupuncture for Fertility Costs
A round of traditional need acupuncture in conjunction with fertility treatment ranges from $75 – $150 per session. Most acupuncturists will bundle sessions together with bulk pricing so you will receive a discount the more sessions you schedule.
Laser Acupuncture for Fertility Costs
Laser acupuncture before embryo transfer typically ranges from $225 – $350.