Pregnancy – The Acupuncture Path

Acupuncture and your journey to conceive. Daniel Bevan explains how to help achieve your pregnancy goals.

From the first person to see me for fertility treatment back in 1999 to the present day, my journey with hundreds of people has been wonderful, yet emotional, and hugely rewarding.

For many it can feel like the end of the road (due to their age, options used up etc), for some their hopes are slim; but for so many couples, or singles, there is a happy ending and often  a return visit a few years later to help create a brother or sister! 

So what difference can acupuncture make? How much is it going to cost? Is it worth doing as I am already doing so much? Read on for the low-down on acupuncture and fertility.

Why can’t I conceive?

The range of given reasons for not conceiving range from unexplained infertility to low ovarian (egg) reserve in women or sperm issues in men. In the first consultation we explore these and take a broader view, to include other primary factors, possible causative factors such as lifestyle, diet, or heredity. For same sex couples or singles using donors, there may be no issue, just the desire to maximise the chances of IVF success and have support along the way.

There are so many factors; from the stresses of the outside world to the internal coordination of reproductive hormones, so exact pinpointing may never be possible. The key for us is to explore all possible factors, taking into account medical diagnosis, in order to maximise the chances of successful conception and birth.

Life stresses may have lead to a caffeine / adrenaline fuelled existence, where you have been coping but actually not allowing the central nervous system enough time away from ‘emergency’ mode (aka fight/flight), so not enough time is being spent in ‘safe’ mode (aka ‘rest and digest”) and your normal rhythms can be thrown out of kilter.  (see my journal piece on the steps you can take to help get the balance right)

How can acupuncture make a difference?

Acupuncture improves blood flow to the uterus and counteracts stress hormones. This evidenced based effect, along with the proven benefits of treatment pre and post embryo implantation, really show it can make a difference!

Aside from the benefits of using a time-tested system of medicine that looks at the body and its disorders from a different perspective, the medically accepted evidence based benefits alone can be game changers. When we are living on our nerves, in a busy job, often with a difficult commute, lacking sleep or not eating at the right times; when we are ‘burning the candle at both ends’, we end up spending too long in ‘survival mode’ than is good for us. Our diurnal/circadian body rhythms can be thrown out of sync. Those rhythms ensure the workings of the menstrual cycle among other things are harmonious and efficient. Stress hormones can interfere with the reproductive cycle as they are designed to help us escape danger and at these times we sacrifice blood flow to certain non vital organs in order to run away or fight. Of course the phone notifications, endless emails, car horns, noisy packed trains are not life threatening , but our systems are primal and the reactions that we have to any stressors are the same as animals. Acupuncture has been proven to improve the blood flow to the uterus and ovaries as well as put us into the restorative state where normal service can resume. Add to this a more holistic view of factors such as dietary habits, emotions, environmental factors can be of huge significance. Being guided in what you can do, as well as being treated for the effects of these things in general, will greatly enhance the chances of a positive result. 

Someone with thin uterine lining issues may improve this by having acupuncture making successful embryo implantation more likely. If there is an irregular cycle, introducing healthier routines and having regular acupuncture can really make a difference and significantly reduce stress levels.

How long will it take and will it work?

The duration of treatment and chances of success can vary greatly. Whenever I start a discussion about this I have to say that committing to a course of acupuncture involves a leap of faith to some degree. After thorough research, we can develop a better view of the chances of success (prognosis). I always take my responsibility very seriously in this department. Fertility struggles are an emotive issue, people are vulnerable and desperate to find a magic cure. As such, it is vital for the patient, any doctor, complementary medicine practitioner, counsellor etc to be realistic and strike a balance between positive intent and realism.. the two are not mutually exclusive!

Sometimes it’s a case of being prepared to come weekly for 2 to 3 menstrual cycles. When someone is already on their IVF journey, that time and number of treatments is much reduced. Women with no known reasons for their struggle often find that a short course of treatment is enough.

I have often been contacted by people who are struggling against time due to age or low ovarian reserve. They may have had several failed rounds of IVF and be close to having to give up. It is important to be aware that this means the chances of success are low but I find the majority are well aware of this. Others may only be pre-empting any issues and may discover, through treatment , that they need to adjust aspects of their diet, lifestyle etc in order to maximise their chances as well as have an easier time of it along the way


Acupuncture is an increasingly popular way to treat infertility issues. It is a tool in the work needed to achieve a successful IVF outcome. It can be a solution where there has been no medical solution so far in the journey. It is, to a significant degree, evidence – based and well accepted. It does take commitment and financial investment, but the journey involves valuable treatment, advice, support and the weekly chance to share your feelings, frustrations, progress updates etc. add to this the relaxing, floaty time spent having the treatment, the beneficial effects and side-effects are something to look forward to.

Image from ‘Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine’ J.Lyttleton 2004

Daniel Bevan is passionate about living a good life. A Member of the British Acupuncture Council, Daniel is a highly experienced acupuncturist and co-founder of Dulwich Therapy Rooms. Book an appointment with Daniel.