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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Barren Advice: Twenty Seven

This is the 27th installment of Barren Advice. You can ask questions that are fertility or non-fertility related.

Barren Advice is posted each Tuesday-ish. If you have your own question for Barren Advice, click here to learn how to submit. Please weigh in with your own thoughts in the comment section and indicate which question you're addressing if there are multiple questions in the post.

Dear Mel:

I am looking into acupuncture. It is pretty expensive, so I would like advice from you and others on the prospects of acupuncture working for me. I have been diagnosed with PCOS and Clomid has not been successful in making me ovulate. I will be moving on soon probably to injectables and IUI cycles. Any help, any pros/cons any success stories involving acupuncture, etc. would be great! Thanks!

--He Resoreth My Soul

Unlike other alternative therapies (rubbing yam cream on your inner thighs anyone?), acupuncture has been well-studied in regards to infertility. And that could be because while it's alternative for us, it is mainstream for a large portion of the world. And NIH simply cannot deny its success rate even though they state that it is "difficult to reconcile with contemporary biomedical information." In other words, American doctors can't figure out how it works based on our breadth of knowledge but they do know that it does work.

And, at the very least, it falls in the "can't hurt" category.

Most of the studies on acupuncture and infertility have focused on IVF rather than IUI. Fertility and Sterility has released articles on utilizing acupuncture to increase the success of IVF. Acupuncture benefits have been studied for cycles where treatment fell during the luteal phase (after ovulation) as well as on the day of transfer during IVF. In both cases, pregnancy rates were higher for those who utilized acupuncture over the control group who received a placebo (non-strategically placed needles? Ouch!).

Acupuncture has also been studied in regards to male factor infertility. A recent study reported through National Institutes of Health (NIH) saw significant increases in sperm production after acupuncture was used and concluded: "acupuncture may be a useful, nontraumatic treatment for males with very poor sperm density, especially those with a history of genital tract inflammation." Another study also reported by NIH found that not only sperm quality increased after acupuncture, but also fertilization increased.

So nothing specifically with PCOS and IUIs from a medical study, but certainly enough anecdotal evidence on the Web to warrant trying it.

All that said, just as you do diligence to find a good reproductive endocrinologist, make sure you're comfortable with your acupuncture practitioner. In other words, go with someone licensed. The best bet is to contact your local Resolve chapter because they have lists of recommended practitioners for everything from reproductive endocrinology to acupuncturists who specifically work with infertility.

If you've utilized acupuncture in addition to injectable with IUI cycles, share your story below.

No really, the beauty of a blog advice column is that you get to weigh in with your two cents too. Let the questioner know if you support the advice, add to the response, or dispute it completely.

Leave a comment in the reaction box below--only keep in mind that conflicting advice is embraced and rudeness is not. Want to ask your own question? Click here to see what you need to send in order to be included in a future Tuesday's installment of Barren Advice


Kristin said...

Its amazing to me that Western medicine fights so hard to not acknowledge things that the rest of the world knows works.

Anonymous said...

thanks for posting my question! I did decide to start acupuncture treatments and have only had one so far. I can't say for sure that it worked, but I didn't have any cysts from my canceled cycle AND my p.eriod was WAY more manageable this month then it usually is. The only thing I did different this cycle was have acupuncture, so I'm gonna go ahead and think it did the trick! I will find out tomorrow if it helped with ovulation this cycle!

Leslee said...

I am currently undergoing testing for PCOS and have started going to acupuncture last month and have been three times so far. I don't know for sure if it has altered my cycles at this point, but I definitely feel relaxed after the appointments which is a bonus even if nothing else happens!

Good luck,
babyattheend blogspot

Amanda said...

I'm doing it right now in combination with Clomid and I have PCOS. I've really liked the experience. My acupuncturist recommended starting therapy 2 weeks before my cycle and since I was on a forced break due to a cyst I really found the appointment helpful in that it gave me something to do when I couldn't do anything else. Also, the cyst resolved and I have reason to believe the acupuncture significantly contributed to that.

I'm hoping that the acupuncture with the clomid will get my ovaries going so that I can avoid more expensive treatment with worse side effects.

When I get done with my appointments I feel better and more relaxed. I'm becoming a believer.

Searching for Serenity said...

Everything that Mel explained is true. Although initially skeptical, I am now a huge advocate for acpuncture. First, I suggest you read The Infertility Cure, by Randine Lewis. Second, find a licensed acupuncturist in your area that specialized in ferility, if not at least women's health.

A little background on my situation. I was undiagnosed by my OB, but I knew something wasn't right. Although I didn't suffer from PCOS, I did diagnose myself as having LPD (luteal phase defect). I was ovulating on day 20+ of my cycle. I saw my acupuncturist once a week for 6 months. The final month before we were to do our first IUI, I ovulated on day 14 and we concieved naturally (with the exception of DH being on Clomid for MFI). If you'd like to read more, you can check out my post about acupuncture. Feel free to contact me with any qustions.

Best of luck to you!

christina said...

I have to say that acupuncture has done wonders for me, both physically and emotionally/spiritually. I also have PCOS and don't O without drugs. Back before the holidays, we decided to take a break for 3-4 months, so I placed acu in the "can't hurt" category and tried it out. I have to say that now 3 1/2 months into it, I belive it can be the answer that many of us are looking for!

I started out with 50+ day cycles before starting meds. During my first cycle off of meds at the end of 2008, I had a 42-day cycle (which is still bad bad bad!) After a 2 months of acu, my cycle was exactly 30 days last month and we will see for this month, but it's looking to be spot on! This was big news for me, as I have never, in my adult life, had a normal cycle. (Feel free to check out my blog where I talk more in depth about my experience w/ it.)

I also just love that it kind of feels like an hour-long spa treatment every week. It's a great time to relax, and I promise you, all of your worries fly out the window for that amount of time. I have gained a lot of insight and also a lot of peace about my IF journey and I attribute it to the acu.

Good luck!! I say give it a try, but be sure to commit to at least 3 or 6 months. From what my acupuncturist says, your body should start to respond after 4-8 treatments.

Barb said...

It was comforting to me, and I know to others, but I don't know personally many for whom it's done a lot when they have PCOS. Just a personal experience. I have about 5 examples here.. so small sample, but all PCOSers. I've heard it help with IVF though. And the herbs seemed to help some of my friends. One of them got a thicker lining with herbs.

I say if you have the money and it makes you feel good.. go for it! Making you feel good is worth it in any case! If it would be a stretch financially, or you hate how it feels.. don't do it. That's how I approached it. It may help, but probably isn't the big "ANSWER."

Good luck!

Ellen K. said...

I don't have PCOS but used acupuncture during my successful IVF cycle. I just wanted to quickly mention that community acupuncture clinics can be a very affordable and enjoyable alternative to private sessions. This is the type of clinic I used, and it allowed me to have multiple treatments per week on a sliding-scale fee.

Shinejil said...

I use acupuncture regularly, and used a standard TCM protocol with my first inject/IUI cycle (I hate Clomid with a seething passion, hence the injects). I got pregnant that cycle, but it was ectopic. The treatments were calming and supportive. I also used them to boost my fertility before my current cycle (outcome unknown) and produced the same amount of eggs on about half the meds.

In general, I say make sure to find someone you feel listens to your concerns and explains why they are taking a particular treatment approach. I trust my acupuncturist and like her as a person. She's done much to heal my heart in this long, sad process.

Best of luck to you, restorethmysoul!

April said...

the only other thing that i would add, is to go with someone who is recommended by other infertiles if you can.

my first acupuncturist was good, but the one i go to now is amazing!

holly said...

I did acupuncture for 2 out of my five treatment cycles. All were clomid IUI's. Both cycles with accupuncture resulted in losses at 6-8weeks. I had one loss, one negative, and one resulted in this current pregnancy with out acupuncture. I'm 30 weeks right now. While accupuncture did relax me and help me cope with the stress of each miscarriage. I don't really think it did much other than that. It made me feel like I was doing something at times when I couldn't do anything except wait.

I usually tell my friends, if it makes you feel better than go for it. If the prospect of paying 70 bucks a treatment stresses you out then it might not be worth it.

I wanted acupuncture to be my answer, but for me it wasn't. For some it might be.

KandiB said...

I have PCOS and did accupuncture with my first IVF cycle. It worked. Not sure if it was the accupuncture, but it was very relaxing.

Grad3 said...

I have PCOS and was not responding to Clomid/ Femera for several cycles. I took me a while to get to acupuncture (it was when we started consider the possibility of IVF).

I did not find it helpful to me medically BUT I did it in conjunction with Hatha Yoga and I was a much more emotionally balanced person. I just felt better.

I had to stop due to the expense. In the end I would do it again because my sanity is worth something- especially my husband ;)

~Luck and Hugs~

Anonymous said...

I found this article in Acupuncture in Medicine that also reviews a number of studies of acupuncture in fertility treatments and includes some results of very small experiments (

About PCOS in general, they say "clinical and experimental evidence seem to indicate that acupuncture may have a beneficial effect on women with PCOS and anovulation. In a woman with PCOS, acupuncture may therefore be an alternative or a complement to pharmacological induction of ovulation that has no negative side effects. However, more randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in women with well defined diagnoses are needed."

Peeveme said...

I know what I am going to say goes against the "Holy Grail" that is accu in the infertility community. It did nothing for me and I don't believe in it (for me). There, I said it. Feel free to throw hot daggers at me (just not needles please). And since it used up much financial and emotional reserves I did find that "it hurt".

For the money I could have had a massage every other week AND hired a cleaning lady. Many woman find it relaxing but I find a massage even more relaxing. I'd find not scrubbing my bathroom floor the most relaxing of all.

If it works for you more power to ya. But don't feel like a failure if it doesn't work for you and don't spend money on it if you are not seeing results just because everyone else says it worked for them.

jenn said...

I don't have PCOS but did do acupuncture for about 6 months before my IUI. I have only rave reviews- at the very least it's an hour a week just for you- which we all need! I also had a Clomid challenge with my IUI & the acupuncture seemed to support it well.

Check out community acupuncture centers- they are becoming far more popular & are much more affordable. You get pretty much just as much one on one time since you meet with the acupuncturist before each treatment.

Angie said...

I don't have PCOS either...but I did acupuncture during my ivf cycle. Although it wasn't successful, I would recommend it. I am a type A person and the treatment really helped me relax and focus on my health.

Also, my clinic specializes in infertility. I did a treatment pre and post transfer that was supposed to help the process. So, you could check for clinics that offer that, too.

Thanks for sharing the info about the community clinics! My clinic is a private clinic at $90/visit, so this is awesome!

G & H said...

I too am trying acupuncture and its not really as expensive as you think. Considering we had been paying for all IF treatments out of pocket 1000's a month we are now doing acupuncture once a week for 80$ a time herbs included...I don't know if it has worked yet but I also figured it couldnt hurt :)

Connie Barrow said...

Look for the mind/body/spirit way that speaks to you to connect to your heart, listen to your body, and quiet your mind. More importantly, I would recommend slowing down your life, putting ease in the other hours of your day. Remember the need for balance..yin & yang. We receive our children...they are not goals to be accomplished. I was on this journey for 5 years...and that last point was my biggest lesson prior to conceiving our daughter. Recommend Dr. Randine Lewis' & Niravi Payne's books. For a list of fertility resources, check out my website, under "fertility coaching". blessings to all!

Bea said...

I would say one thing, devil's-advocate style. The *amount* of difference acupuncture makes is quite small. If you can afford it, by all means go go go. If you're already struggling to pay for your injectables, you're better off saving your money for that extra cycle.

I tried it. It didn't work for us, but that's statistics for you.


Bea said...

Just realised the questioner has already made the decision. Fingers crossed for your ovulation!