Acupuncture: the process of inserting small needles into specific spots in the body to encourage natural healing and release your inner chi (life energy). While some people, myself included, might be reticent to having small, sharp prick points across their limbs, the ancient Chinese medicine is frequently used in a particular community – namely, that of hopeful budding parents. You might remember it from Sex and The City, when Charlotte gave the practice a go after hearing of its successes among other mums.
Many of those struggling with fertility issues claim that acupuncture, along with other alternative Eastern medicines such as yoga and meditation, have helped them improve their odds in conceiving. But how does it really work, and is there proof of its success? Emma Cannon, who is a fertility expert and registered acupuncturist, tells Metro.co.uk about the benefits of the practice. ‘Acupuncture is the most researched complementary therapy when it comes to fertility, and there have been several well-respected studies demonstrating that acupuncture in conjunction with IVF improves IVF outcomes and increases the rates of live births,’ she said. ‘Acupuncture works in a number of ways; it improves pelvic blood flow so can be used the improve the endometrium (womb lining) and it stimulates the part of the brain that controls hormones, so optimises LH and other fertility hormones. ‘It’s very helpful in women who do not ovulate as it impacts on the hormones associated with ovulation and regulating ovulation in some anovulatory women.’
A study released earlier this year also showed that acupuncture can help with lumbar and pelvic pain in pregnant women, with 89% of participants reporting ‘symptom reduction’. This is further supported by a Swedish research article from 2005, and information from the British Acupuncture Council.
If needles make you squeamish, there’s a sister method you can try – acupressure, where your therapist will use his or her fingers to improve blood flow and release tension instead. Do note, the NHS refers to both acupuncture and acupressure as ‘complementary or alternative medicines (CAM)’, which shouldn’t replace the treatment you get from your doctor. And there’s also conflicting information on whether it’s safe to try acupuncture or acupressure during your first trimester, so it’s always best to check with your GP before you do.
Acupuncture isn’t just used to treat pregnancy ailments, but also migraines, chronic pain, joint pain, post-operative pain, menstrual problems, digestive issues, and more – the list goes on. Though available for free on the NHS, it’s very limited – and odds are you’ll be put on a waiting list.