Acu-Pros vs. Acu-Cons

People often ask me how being treated with acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine differs from being treated in an OB or RE’s office… I usually respond by muttering something snarky about the amount of needle pokes, but truthfully, there are a lot of differences!

I’ve been thinking about and adding to this list for a while now, and I hope it helps someone who is just getting started on their infertility journey and is wondering what path to take, or someone who has been on their path for some time now, and feels that they need a change of direction.


Acupuncture/TCM vs. Western Medicine:  The Good

Little to NO blood work with TCM vs. Lab blood draws 3-5 times per Western cycle

Acu appointments are as relaxing as lying on a warm massage table with soft music playing while taking a little nap vs. Stressful and sometimes humiliating “get in the stirrups for Dr. Dildocam” RE appointments

TCM practitioners practice open, honest communication vs. Doctors and nurses who sometimes hold your lab results hostage until you blow a gasket over the phone

No nasty drug reactions with TCM or acupuncture vs. Western meds that can cause hot flashes, nausea, headaches, and other even nastier side-effects like OHSS

Naturally guide your body to better all-around health vs. Forcing your body into submission with synthetic hormones

Less risk of multiple births vs. Some Western meds and treatments where multiple birth outcomes are commonplace, risking the health of mom and babies

Acu and TCM influence you to clean up your diet vs. Western meds which make you emotional, irrational, and generally like a narcoleptic T-Rex, eating everything terrible in its path.  And then napping.


Acupuncture/TCM vs. Western Medicine:  The Bad

Acupuncture and TCM are often not covered by insurance policies, forcing out of pocket costs vs. Infertility treatments with an RE, which are sometimes covered up to a certain point

Acu and TCM require patience, and seeing results can take 3 to 6 months with treatment vs. Western meds and in-office monitoring, which offer immediate gratification (and delicious lab results to obsess over!)

Acu appointments may happen as much as once or twice per week for the treatment period vs. RE monitoring which typically lumps the bulk of the appointments into the beginning of the cycle

Acupuncture and herbs can only do so much for someone with a severe case of whatever-is-causing-your-infertility vs. Western medicine’s ability to diagnose and treat – sometimes surgically correct – issues which Eastern medicine just can’t combat effectively

I’m not gonna lie:  herbs taste gross when brewed as a tea, but some come in capsule form vs. Western meds which mostly come in pill form… Or as injections and suppositories, which are also not fun…


Acupuncture/TCM vs. Western Medicine:  Your Choice

I realize that I threw a lot at you there, but it really comes down to this:

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine have been around for thousands of years.  They are tried and proven effective for many, many situations and different types of people – especially for fertility.

While TCM can’t be expected to treat everything under the sun, the success rates for fertility, while hard to pinpoint due to erratic research information, are there.  There are no (or very few) side-effects, you’re healthier and less stressed while you’re committed to the program, which helps to enrich your life in general, not just in the baby-makin’ department.

Western medicine is nothing short of a modern miracle with its ability to combine egg and sperm in a petri dish, and create life outside of the womb.  There’s no substitute for what doctors and nurses can do in labs, but Western medicine also isn’t your only option.  Your Ob-Gyn may not know what to do with you beyond a few cycles of Clomid, but that’s no reason not to educate yourself on the choices you have for your body and reproductive future.

If you have Unexplained Infertility, PCOS, or Endometriosis (and other fun diagnoses!) and are tired of feeling hormonal, defeated, and anxious, then Acu and TCM may be worth looking into.

If you’re struggling with a severe diagnosis, a physical abnormality like fibroids or a tubal issue, or are just not capable of giving three to six months to this process, then stick with that RE.

Actually, no.

Stay with your RE, but find out if they will allow you to solicit the help of an experienced and fertility-specializing Acu/TCM practitioner during your Western treatments.

I truly believe that everyone can benefit from at least some aspect of this process, whether it’s the dietary and lifestyle changes, the herbs and supplements, or the acupuncture-induced zen relaxation.

I don’t think I’ve met one person who has seen an Acupuncturist for fertility that has regretted their pursuit of the Eastern path, whether it worked for them directly, indirectly, or perhaps not at all.


Is there anything that any of you might add to these lists?

What has been your experience with Acu/TCM vs. Western medicine?

Who has a success story – with either treatment option – or both! – that they can share to encourage others?

Who wants me to stop asking questions and just end this post already?  😀


…Fine.  You win.

Happy Hump Day, y’all!

11 comments on “Acu-Pros vs. Acu-Cons

  1. A Morning Grouch
    November 20, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    Interesting. I have only tried Western Medicine route, which I’ve been happy enough with, though I do question my diet and how that might influence my body/regulate hormones. I consider myself overall pretty healthy but I wonder if I am one of those who is just hyper sensitive to certain foods that throw my hormones off. So far, I haven’t been too willing to test it though (normal BMI, active lifestyle, eat a lot of fruit and veg…I guess I’m sort of okay with “good enough” for now).


  2. lucy50
    November 20, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    I just recently started acupuncture in addition to treatment with an RE. I’m going at it from all sides. I don’t have a success story yet, but I do feel like my stress level has dropped just a bit. At the very least, I feel as though I’m doing everything in my power to make pregnancy happen and that, overall, comforts me.


  3. B
    November 20, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    I love this! I really think acu and TCM herbs are a big reason that I have a little one sleeping next to me right now. Sure she was conceived on a last ditch effort of Clomid, but it was after many months of acu and herbs only prior which miraculously got my cycle somewhat regular.
    On top of the cycle regulation benefits I found that I slept better after receiving acupuncture treatments. Plus there is nothing like having a bunch of needles stuck in your skin to make you lay still and chill the fuck out for half an hour. 😉


  4. Heather
    November 21, 2013 at 4:36 am #

    I think we need both. I did have acupuncture on the day I conceived, but if the RE had not helped me with blood tests we would not have identified the problems (thyroid) and done the op which helped clear the way. I agree that TCM is less invasive and more healthy but sometimes we need to bring out the big guns of western med to make things happen!


  5. Rachel
    November 21, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    I have been doing TCM and acupuncture for almost six weeks and feel awesome! I am a healthy person but the meidcated cycles had me feeling like a crazy person who was all over with feelings and usually not happy feelings. I have really enjoyed acupuncture (it really doesn’t hurt and is the most relaxing nap you will ever take). I love how my acupuncturist is so open and care how I feel, what is going on with my life and I am more than just another patient. I know REs see a lot more patients but I never felt like we were in it together and well I was sick of hyper stimulating anything that happened in my body. I may some day go back to Western medicine but I am going to try acupuncture for the next few months and see where it takes me. Tracy god love you for all that you do for infertility and well introducing me to TCM! The comparision you did I feel is spot on!!


  6. nonsequiturchica
    November 21, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    I used both acupuncture and IVF together. My husband thinks that the acupuncture was a waste of money, but I think that it played a part in me getting pregnant. I will never know, but I don’t have any regrets on the treatment.


  7. nikki
    November 22, 2013 at 7:04 am #

    I went to a TCM after a year of having a bunch of symptoms totally brushed off by my dr. After a consultation with a tcm that was an hour long and extrememly thorough, she determined that i had thyroid issues, which was confirmed by a blood test and completely treated with acupuncture. Problem solved. So ive been a big supporter for a while and really trust this method thats been used for thousands of years. Then a close friend who went through 4 years of medicated cycles to no avail started seeing a tcm, doing yoga for fertility and other lifestyle changes, and was pregnant 6 months later. She is careful not to make assumptions, but she tells it exactly like it is. She gave the meds a good shot and for four years had trouble. Tried something different and got pregnant. Good luck to everyone out there trying to conceive.


  8. ksirahsirah
    November 22, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    I went to Acupuncture fertility for nearly a year… My luteal phase lengthened and i overall felt better- but no pregnancy. My acu dr even recommended western medicine towards the end and said I needed extra help… “The big guns” as I have DOR. Just nearing the end of my first IVF cycle and you bet I did Acu appointments concurrent with My IVF cycle… Now I wait to see the result. ( yes I’m a huge fan of ACU- but also know that some people will benefit/need both)


  9. Emily
    November 30, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    I have just recently start acupuncture, actually because of you. So I want to say thank you. Because you don’t know what that has done for me.

    After reading about your visit to the acupuncturist I thought, why didn’t I think of that? I am someone who holds on to my stress. And it effects me physically. Greatly, actually. I never realized just how much until I went. I have learned through acupuncture and also through my religion to let go of my stress. It has given me new life. So, if the acupuncture doesn’t result in a pregnancy for us- I will be disappointed. But I will never ever regret going. It has given me more physically and emotionally than I could ever have gotten with Western medicine.

    Not a single doctor ever asked me about my luteal phase or lengthening my cycles, or my levels of stress. I have lengthened my cycle since going and alleviated a great amount of stress off my body.

    If it doesn’t work, I will then continue with more Western medicine.

    I highly recommend it, I saw results immediately and it went beyond TTC that I completely attribute to going. Had I not gone, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So thank you, Tracy. For being open and sharing. It’s the reason I thought to go.


  10. Lauren
    December 16, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    Hey there. I used acupuncture for 6 months after my miscarriage (conceived naturally) after giving up. My BBT charts never changed at all, nor did my cycles, and it didn’t make me feel any differently. I just don’t think it had any effect on me. The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when my acupuncturist suggested that I buy a new thermometer when I questions why my temps had not changed at all. I also didn’t find the sessions themselves to be all that relaxing; on the contrary, I got a little stressed by adding yet another appointment to my already busy schedule.

    This is just my experience, and things could be different for others. I just thought I’d add my two cents.


    • Tracy
      December 31, 2013 at 11:23 am #

      I’ve heard from some others, too, that acupuncture never worked for them. I honestly believe that acu didn’t work much for me the first time around either, but now, pairing it with the herbal aspect, has been what’s made all the difference for me. I’m still aware, however, that I may still need to pursue Western meds to conceive if the natural route doesn’t make things happen for me in the next couple of months… I appreciate your feedback, Lauren! Best of luck to you in your journey!


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