Although dealing with invasive fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) can be highly stressful, acupuncture is a simple, risk-free way to help alleviate this burden. Significantly, acupuncture may also help boost fertility and increase the success rate of IVF.
IVF consists of extracting a woman’s eggs, fertilizing them in a laboratory and then reimplanting them into her uterus. It is an expensive, highly invasive procedure that can produce intense feelings of stress in the women who undergo it, in addition to the stress caused by infertility itself. Indeed, studies have shown that most women who undergo fertility treatments have high levels of anxiety.
” researchers found that women in the traditional treatment group had significantly lower average scores on the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale than women in the sham treatment group “
Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine that consists of inserting needles into specific bodily locations (“meridians”), as designated by the health problems being treated.
In a 2012 study published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, Brazilian researchers assigned 43 IVF patients to undergo four weekly treatments of either traditional Chinese acupuncture or “sham” acupuncture, in which needles were inserted near but not at the appropriate meridians.
After four weeks, the researchers found that women in the traditional treatment group had significantly lower average scores on the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale than women in the sham treatment group. In addition, far more women in the traditional treatment group experienced anxiety score reductions of more than 30 percent.
The researchers concluded that acupuncture shows great promise as an anxiety treatment for women undergoing IVF. They noted, however, that the study excluded participants with a history of psychiatric illness or who were taking antidepressant or anti-anxiety drugs. Further research will be needed to confirm the effectiveness of acupuncture in those groups.
Yet many other studies have shown that acupuncture can have anxiety-reducing effects in a wide variety of populations. Research suggests that acupuncture helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system’s “relaxation response,” as well as boosting the nervous system’s production of mood-improving endorphins and encephalins.