Dr. Jennifer Shulman is a fellow of the Acupuncture and TCM Board of Reproductive Medicine, has over 14 years of experience practicing, and is part of the SCRC staff. With her expertise, we asked her a few acupuncture questions as it relates to fertility:

What is acupuncture and how does it work?
Acupuncture is the insertion of sterile, metal needles into the skin. Sometimes they’re left superficially into the skin, and sometimes they’re inserted deeper into your muscle to stimulate the central nervous system.

Acupuncture has no or very minor side effects. Acupuncture needles are very small and cause less discomfort than a simple blood draw or IV start. The positive effects of acupuncture vastly outweigh any concerns over the procedure.

More importantly, acupuncture helps to regulate your autonomic nervous system. By getting you out of sympathetic, it moves your body into parasympathetic, which is essentially moving you out of a fight or flight state and into a relaxed state. When you’re in a relaxed state, the rest of your systems are going to function better. This, in turn, triggers biochemical changes that may stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.

How does acupuncture help with fertility?
Acupuncture also increases uterine stromal blood flow, meaning your uterus, ovaries, and developing follicles are seeing an increased blood flow. When you’re thinking about follicles as a patient, you’re often only thinking about the antral follicles you can see, but the acupuncture is also increasing blood flow to all of your developing follicles in your ovaries which will be available for recruitment for later cycles.

You will notice that increased blood flow is commonly discussed when discussing fertility. We want your endometrial lining to be nice and thick for transfer or implantation. Acupuncture helps increase your blood flow to your uterine lining; in return, you should see a trilaminar lining when working with your doctor.
Acupuncture benefits your body in many ways beyond just improving blood flow. You may also experience:

  • Increased follicle count
  • Improved blood circulation to the uterine lining
  • Reduced side effects of medication
  • Increased implantation success
  • Stress reduction
  • Increased immunity
  • Menstrual cycle regulation
  • Decreased menstrual cramps
  • Hormonal balance
  • Decreased hormonal migraines

When do you recommend doing acupuncture in your fertility journey?
I always recommend beginning your acupuncture treatments when trying to conceive as soon as possible.

I don’t want to just treat your antral follicles that are already there, I want to start increasing blood flow, which is increasing oxygen, as soon as possible in oogenesis, which takes about 3 months.

In addition, acupuncture will help with your IVF medication side effects, regulate your cycle, and get you on a proper sleep schedule. All of which, show extreme benefits in finding success in your fertility journey.

Can acupuncture help with the day of embryo transfer?
A seminal study done in 2002 showed that overall acupuncture increased pregnancy rates by 16.2% on embryo transfer day.

Clinical pregnancies were documented in 34 out of 80 patients (42.5%) in the acupuncture group, whereas pregnancy rates were only 21 out of 80 patients (26.3%) in the control group. Studies show that acupuncture makes a distinct difference in your transfer and retrieval experience. Our goal is to regulate the nervous system and keep you as healthy and relaxed as possible for your procedure.

You’ll come in for your transfer appointment, and your acupuncture session will take place in the transfer room to minimize stress and anxiety.

When do you recommend doing acupuncture in your fertility journey?
It really does differ for every patient. If we have the luxury of time, I hope for at least 3-6 months before beginning your fertility journey. We also must consider your age, what your ovarian reserve may look like, and what your personal fertility diagnosis may look like.

If your doctor is satisfied with the thickness and healthiness of your endometrial lining, I would recommend coming for 4 sessions before your transfer date. If you have a history of a thinner endometrial lining or endometriosis, I recommend coming in once or twice a week for 3 months up to your transfer date.

What should I pair with acupuncture to ensure optimal fertility?
As many doctors at SCRC will recommend, I think patients will benefit from nutritional counseling, decreasing extreme exercise habits and increasing to light exercise for those who are more sedentary. Some patients may also need pelvic floor therapy to relax those muscles and correct any pelvic floor dysfunction.

A personal favorite of mine is to just remind yourself to turn off that TV and get back into reading. Submerse yourself in a quiet and relaxing environment. Ease the restrictions you’re putting on yourself and remind yourself that you’re a person, and you deserve to live your life throughout your fertility journey.

For couples seeking to create a family, both the female and male partners can use acupuncture as an effective addition to standard infertility treatment, it may significantly improve your fertility treatment outcome.

To schedule an acupuncture appointment, please contact Dr. Jennifer Shulman, DAOM, L.Ac. directly at 310-235-3840 ext. 984 or JShulman@scrcivf.com.