Couples struggling with infertility or undergoing IVF may find the results of a recent study very exciting indeed. In the experiment, one group who received no acupuncture treatment later had an IVF success rate of 21.7%. But the other group were given four sessions of acupuncture before and during their IVF treatment, and a whopping 46.2% of them conceived.
While the authors of this study are themselves cautious about interpreting these results, these impressive figures may have you wondering whether you need to book an acupuncture appointment as soon as possible! If you’re considering IVF and want to use complementary treatments to boost your chances of success, here’s what you need to know.
A question of mind over matter?
It’s important to keep in mind that scientific knowledge is gathered slowly, and that single studies like this one very rarely resolve a complex issues once and for all. Since similar acupuncture studies have shown inconclusive results, it’s important not to jump to conclusions and instead treat this study as a single data point.
Some researchers have suggested that the boost in success rates in this particular study are not directly from the acupuncture itself. Perhaps the extra care and concern given during an acupuncture session makes women feel heard, nurtured and in control of their health - and it’s this that enhances the chance of IVF working.
Or perhaps the power of acupuncture lies solely in the patient’s belief in it. It’s this belief that makes some people experience noticeable benefits from taking a simple sugar pill. Though the pill actually does nothing, their belief in it is powerful enough that they experience benefits all the same.
Researchers call this a placebo effect, and it shows us just how powerful the mind can really be. The acupuncture study unfortunately did not have a group that received a placebo acupuncture treatment (for example, a “fake” session that seemed real to the patient but wasn’t) and so it’s hard to say whether the results are due to the patient’s strong belief in acupuncture or the effectiveness of acupuncture itself.
Being a smart consumer
Acupuncture is perfectly safe when done with a qualified practitioner. If you’d like to explore alternative or complementary treatments, take your time to find a practitioner who is scrupulous with hygiene and offers you treatment that makes you feel safe and comfortable.
Unhygienic acupuncture techniques can pose as much risk as tattooing or piercing with dirty needles can, and if you conceive, this may pose an infection risk to your baby. The side effects of acupuncture treatment can also include bruising, dizziness, bleeding, drowsiness and pain, so tread carefully.
The benefits of thinking holistically
Many fertility experts are seeing an increased demand for holistic and alternative treatments, acupuncture being one of them. Whether acupuncture is as successful as the study shows or not doesn’t change the fact that a holistic approach on your fertility journey will undoubtedly prove more successful.
The mere fact of approaching the problem from different perspectives will leave you with a deeper sense of balance and wellbeing. If acupuncture appeals to you, consider recreating the benefits of this kind of treatment through other techniques or approaches.
- Do you feel like the emotional side of your fertility treatment is a little neglected? You may benefit from speaking to a fertility therapist or a counsellor familiar with the challenges you’re experiencing. Share your experience with others. Make sure you’re giving yourself time to explore and process your emotions.
- Do you feel that the intense focus on medical procedures is leaving other important parts of your lifestyle unexamined? Then you may benefit from taking some initiative with healthy eating, meditating, mindfulness, stress management techniques or even a relationship workshop for you and your partner.
- Lastly, don’t ignore the yearning to address your fertility concerns from a spiritual perspective as well. Pray, consult with healers or religious figures you trust, and practice tuning into your own intuition on a daily basis. You may be surprised at how much this will enhance your experience of IVF, on all levels.
If you’ve been struggling with infertility for a while, it may be tempting to turn to a promised panacea like acupuncture or other miracle treatment. However, as heartening as the results may seem, there’s always a chance that acupuncture may not actually work for you. Keep an open mind, but do your research. Ultimately, what studies like this can tell us is how important it is to approach infertility holistically and with self-compassion.