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Patients turning to acupuncture to boost fertility

Several years ago, I had a short-lived experience with acupuncture: After just a few sessions I discovered I was pregnant and had to stop. I had sought out the treatment to help with a chronic illness - not for fertility reasons - but in the back of my mind, I've always wondered if those early sessions might have helped move things along in the reproduction department.

I was interested, then, in an article in today's San Jose Mercury News on the use of acupuncture to treat infertility. As writer Sandeep Ravindran explains, the literature on the treatment's effectiveness is mixed, but acupuncture is still increasingly being embraced by Bay Area patients and clinicians:

It's fairly common for patients who are undergoing fertility treatments to also use acupuncture, said Lynn Westphal, [MD,] a physician and associate professor in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Stanford has an acupuncturist on staff, and Westphal said she has seen acupuncture become increasingly popular in the past five to 10 years, maybe [as] a result of more scientific studies supporting acupuncture treatment for various ailments.

A recent UC San Francisco study observed 428 couples for 18 months after they visited a Bay Area reproductive clinic and found that nearly a quarter had used acupuncture and nearly 1 in 5 had used herbal therapy to treat infertility.

The piece goes on to say that experts believe acupuncture may be able to help fertility by "reducing stress, increasing blood flow and relaxing the uterus." And regardless of how it exactly works, Harvard's Alice Domar, PhD, points out, "it's inexpensive, and there's no downside. At the very least, women feel more relaxed and less anxious."

Related: Acupuncture appears helpful at easing hot flashes
Photo by VirtualEm

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