Did you know acupuncture can increase your chances of pregnancy when used with IVF?

In an effort to promote some of the benefits of acupuncture, Yinstill posted this early in 2015… (in reference to the study: SEE: INFLUENCE OF ACUPUNCTURE ON THE PREGNANCY RATE IN PATIENTS USING ARTIFICIAL REPRODUCTION THERAPY).


Nine months later, as this information was maturing on the Internet, one of our readers asked the question: What evidence do you have to make this claim? They then referenced a wikipedia entry that speaks to the inability to distinguish the effects of real acupuncture from sham, proposing that the placebo effect may be the sole benefit of this modality. (SEE: EFFECTIVENESS – SHAM ACUPUNCTURE AND RESEARCH).

And then the following discussion took place between Dr. Spence Pentland and the commenter.


Essentially this commenter was questioning acupuncture’s efficacy with respect to fertility and health, calling into question the validity of Chinese medicine. This allowed us at Yinstill the opportunity to reflect on our practice and general perceptions of acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

Let’s assume for a minute that acupuncture is only successful because of the placebo effect (We at Yinstill do not believe this to be the case, but for the sake of argument let’s entertain that notion). The placebo effect isn’t very well understood, yet is widely accepted (SEE WIKIPEDIA: PLACEBO AFFECT). Basically it says that sometimes there are real, measurable health benefits from inert or controlled treatments that are not meant to elicit a healing response. Just the idea that something may be helpful is enough to make it helpful. This is well documented and although there are some theories no one really knows why this happens. Interestingly, the opposite is also true – “nocebo” – meaning that the expectation something will be harmful despite it being harmless, could actually make it harmful. This is not unique to Chinese medicine, and to put it in perspective 50% of certain medication’s effects have been attributed to the placebo effect. (SEE: PLACEBO AND MIGRAINE MEDICATION)

There is still a lot of mystery when it comes to health, and more than one way of approaching health and patient care. Chinese medicine and acupuncture are rooted in comprehensive diagnostic systems that allow the practitioner to observe and question a patient in order to better understand how a person is out of balance so we can best treat and advise them towards improved health. Compared with conventional/allopathic medicine, it is a very different way of looking at health and the human body. Often, and unfortunately, clinical trials are insufficient and don’t fit with how acupuncture is practised; we do our best to understand each patient and accurately describe their situation while choosing the best acupoints and/or herbs for that patient. Randomized control trials are targeted towards testing one specific treatment for a cross section of disease suffers, and treatment must perform better than placebo to be considered effective. Acupuncture treatment is tailored towards each individual, and we do not share the exact same disease categories and follow a different diagnostic set. This article discusses some of the issues that arise with the clinical practice of Chinese medicine and RCTs (randomized control trials). (SEE: CHINESE MEDICINE AND CONTROL TRIALS)

If hope, positivity, intention, caring and the expectation of improved health is of benefit and can bring about change, then great. In fact, better than great – incredible. Chinese medicine has connected the mind, body and spirit in its practice for millennia, sensing the power that emotions and thought processes, both positive and negative, can have on the healing process. Watch this Tedtalk about new ways of looking at medicine and how a better understanding of how our approach to patient care can make for better medicine:SEE: TEDTALK PATIENT CARE)

Along with work supporting fertility and supporting IVF, acupuncture has also been proven useful at reducing stress hormones in women with ovarian hyperstimulation undergoing IVF. (SEE: STRESS AND OHSS). This meta-analysis on Cochrane Review has found positive results with respect to acupuncture with electrical stimulation and fibromyalgia. (SEE: ACPUNCTURE AND FIBROMYALGIA).
Another meta-analysis on Cochrane Review has found positive results with using acupuncture to reduce period pain, but admits more research is required (SEE: ACUPUNCTURE AND PERIOD PAIN). And on and on. Of course there are also studies and reviews that have shown acupuncture may not be helpful or that more research is required, but surely this can be expected for any treatment modality. This is also why good practitioners will continue to research and keep up to date on new studies and ideas surrounding acupuncture as a treatment modality. In the meantime, patients will continue to seek support using acupuncture and Chinese medicine during the IVF process and for many other ailments that report positive results.

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