Acupuncture for treating infertility is likely the most popular alternative therapy for women who try to become pregnant. The media seems to report on research related to acupuncture and fertility every few months, and increasing number of fertility clinics provide or recommend acupuncture services along with conventional fertility therapies like in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI). While IVF stands for in vitro fertilization, which literally means "in lab conception", IUI means artificial insemination for women who are infertile.

Acupuncture is a part of traditional Chinese medicine, often abbreviated as TCM. Acupuncture works by placing very thin needles into particular points on the body. These points, according to the Chinese tradition, operate along the lines of energy, or meridians. From the TCM theory, an imbalance or blockage of these meridians in the body can lead to malfunction, including infertility. Correcting the imbalance by stimulating specific acu points along the meridians is thought to improve health. The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a consensus statement indicating that "There is sufficient evidence of acupuncture's value to expand its use into conventional medicine"

Given all the hype over acupuncture and infertility, you might think that the gains from acupuncture treatment have been well documented. However, that's not exactly so. Some scientific investigation have shown improved pregnancy rates for women trying acupuncture, while other research have shown no or non-statistically significant results. Researchers on either side of the issue are in agreement that acupuncture therapy is generally harmless, and just about everyone concurs it enhances relaxation, reduces stress levels, and increases beta-endorphins - the feel good, pain-busting hormones.

If it does not do any harm, why investing so much time and money into the studies associated with the issue? Why not send everyone wanting to be pregnant for acupuncture treatment? Well, if acupuncture really can improve pregnancy rates, then acupuncture therapy should be included as a formal protocol when dealing infertility. Doctors should encourage patients to see an acupuncturist for treatments, and insurance companies should also be willing to foot some of the bill.

While not inexpensive, acupuncture is definitely a lot less expensive than many fertility treatments. If acupuncture can help couples get pregnant, at the same time spending less money, less time, and risking fewer side effects, then of course acupuncture should be moved out from the "alternative" realm and into the mainstream medicine. However, if acupuncture cannot be shown to improve fertility rates, then the practice shouldn't be automatically incorporated into Western medicine's approach to infertility.

Acupuncture is not the only method of achieving relaxation. While doctors should help their patients when it comes to stress reduction, advocating acupuncture over other methods would be uncalled for. Meditation, Yoga, Guided Imagery, and other basic relaxation training can also help those with infertility beat stress, and for much less cost than acupuncture therapies. When a fertility doctor, or any doctor for that matter, recommends a treatment, the patient believes the recommendation is supported by evidence-based research. Before advocating acupuncture to patients, physicians need to be sure that they are recommending a therapy that can really help, but not just offer a false sense of hope.

For more information on this topic, please visit Britannia Acupuncture Clinic.

Author's Bio: 

Gale Benz is an alternative health commentator and blogger. She has interest in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture.