In 1996, a draft report on the clinical practice of acupuncture was reviewed at the WHO Consultation on Acupuncture held in Cervia, Italy.


Although acupuncture was reported to be effective in the treatment of female anovular infertility (156), no methodologically sound, controlled trials have been reported. However, the mechanism of acupuncture in regulating abnormal function of the hypothalamic–pituitary–ovarian axis has been demonstrated in experimental studies. The data suggest that electric acupuncture with relative specificity of acupuncture points could influence some genetic expression in the brain, thereby normalizing the secretion of certain hormones, such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone, luteinizing hormone and estradiol (157). Acupuncture is also worth trying in the treatment of female infertility due to inflammatory obstruction of the fallopian tubes, where it seems to be superior to conventional therapy with intrauterine injection of gentamicin, chymotrypsin and dexamethasone (158)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is still a primary source of preventative medicine and treatment in many Asian Countries, and is comprised of acupuncture together with Chinese Herbal Medicines. TCM has been used in such cultures to treat gynaecological concerns for many years. As early as 1237 AD the first TCM book dedicated solely to gynaecology and obstetrics was published; The Complete Book of Effective Prescriptions for Diseases of Women. Since then TCM has been used for endometriosis, infertility, dysmenorrhea, abnormal uterine bleeding, premenstrual syndrome, menopausal syndrome, uterine fibroids and chronic pelvic inflammation, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), cervicitis and vaginitis. For a good review see Zhou & Qu, 2009.


A recent questionnaire study set by the British Acupuncture Council reported that 80% of UK acupuncture practitioners said the majority of their fertility-based work was related to assisted conception. (Bovey, et al., 2010) This is clearly different from its wide-spread use in Asian countries, and reflects how acupuncture is most commonly used as an adjunct to Western medicine, and is unlikely to constitute a primary source of treatment in Western countries. As acupuncture has become more common in Europe, scientific research has also increased, albeit slowly. There is a bias towards research into acupuncture’s use during ART, although there are a number of studies investigating its benefit and mechanism with regard to infertile patients not undergoing ART.

An early attempt to elucidate acupuncture’s effect on hormonal profiles was published in 1976 in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine (AJCM). (Aso, et al., 1976) Using fertile patients at various stages in their menstrual cycle, the authors concluded that properly performed electro-acupuncture stimulation might affect the female endocrine function.

A later study more specifically focusing on 45 infertile patients concluded that auricular acupuncture would offer a valuable alternative therapy for female infertility due to hormone disorders, restoring normal ovulation. (Gerhard and Postneek, 1992) The authors saw that various disorders of the autonomic nervous system normalised during acupuncture, and only matched-control patients receiving hormonal treatments suffered side-effects.

Another study, using points Ganshu (UB 18), Shenshu (UB 23), Guanyuan (Ren 4), Zhongji (Ren 3), and Sanyinjiao (Sp 6) also concluded acupuncture could modulate the endocrine system to induce ovulation. (Mo, et al., 1993) Lastly, in 1997 Chen et al published their experiences of both human and animal studies into electro-acupuncture and ovulation, and concluded electro- acupuncture could possibly regulate endocrine dysfunction by several mechanisms, including influencing gene expression within the brain normalising secretion of GnRH, LH and oestrogen to restore normal and functional ovulation. (Chen, 1997)

A study in 1996 also suggested acupuncture could modulate female fertility by virtue of the sympathetic nervous system. Ten women known to have high pulsatility indexes (PI) in uterine arteries were given acupuncture for one month, on top of gonadotrophin-releasing hormone down-regulation to remove any endogenous causes for changes in their PI. Post- acupuncture PI values were significantly reduced compared to their baseline values, and the authors suggested this was due to the acupuncture having a central inhibitory effect on the sympathetic nervous system. (Stener-Victorin, et al., 1996)A recent study found that manual acupuncture at bilateral SP6 could elicit immediate reductions in uterine PI values. (Yu, et al., 2010)

Since the mid 1990’s there have only been a few studies focusing on sub-fertile patients not undergoing ART. However, they appear rather consistent in identifying benefits to acupuncture, with results regarding ovulation either equivalent or better than Western hormonal treatments, and similarly positive results regarding pregnancy rates. However, it should be noted that full text versions of these studies are currently unavailable so a complete critical analysis is not possible. The exact acupuncture timing and regime used is unknown, as are patient ages. The mechanism by which acupuncture achieves the results is likely not established by these studies. More research is needed to build on these preliminary results, but the current studies appear to have positive outcomes and improve patients’ fertility without resorting to IVF.

Studies using patients with PCOS suggest acupuncture may have some ability to restore normal ovulation. Animal studies have also been used to help confirm the impact provided by acupuncture. A paper published in 2003 using a rat model concluded electro-acupuncture possibly mediated its action by increasing GnRH cell numbers in the brain, resulting in a similar increase in blood oestrogen levels. They also stated corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) played an important role in electro-acupunctures capability to restore normal function of the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis. (Zhao, et al., 2003)

Another study concluded acupuncture may work by modulating both hormones and their receptor expression levels. (Liu, et al., 2007b) Later they concluded acupuncture’s effect was mediated by increasing the levels of connexin 43 mRNA expression (Huang, et al., 2010). Studies on rat models have reported increased ovarian blood flow responses to electro- acupuncture, mediated by a reflex response via ovarian sympathetic nerves (Stener-Victorin, et al., 2003) although this was later shown to be frequency dependent, and dependent on the stage of the oestrous cycle. (Stener-Victorin, et al., 2006) Others have reported acupuncture can regulate the function of hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis by modulating the activity of numerous brain nuclei, measured by changes in C-fos expression. (Hu, et al., 1993) A rabbit model has also reported effects on brain activity, stating GnRH levels (which are pulsatile during ovulation) from the mediobasal hypothalamus (MBH) become amplified after acupuncture. (Yang, et al., 1994

Consequently, while further validation is necessary, it is becoming accepted that acupuncture may improve fertility by modulating the sympathetic nervous system, affecting uterine and ovarian blood flow, and more directly interacting with the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis by affecting hormone (and receptor) expression level.

ref; Zita West. Acupuncture and Fertility. Review of current literature

by Shen in association with Zita West

Bernadette Fogarty, Kelly-Anne Breen and Bernie Doyle are delighted to announce that they have become founding members of the recently launched Zita West Network for Reproductive Health, as Affiliated Acupuncturists.


Built on the ground-breaking work of midwife, author and fertility and pregnancy expert Zita West and her renowned London clinic, the new Irish network aims to share the unique skills and experience of Zita and her team of doctors, midwives and complementary therapists, with experienced independent acupuncturists across Ireland and the UK. Other health specialists (such as nutritionists, counsellors, midwives and doctors) will also be recruited to the network. The Zita West Clinic is the largest integrated (medical and complementary) practice in the UK specialising in all aspects of male and female reproductive health. It also runs occasional clinics in Dublin on a monthly basis. All acupuncturist members of the network receive training and ongoing support in Zita West’s comprehensive, holistic approach to achieving optimum reproductive health. This covers a wide range of treatments and approaches to help boost fertility, enhance IVF, improve pregnancy, enhance birth outcomes and support post-natal recovery.

The Benefits of Choosing a Zita West Affiliated Acupuncturist

Wide-ranging Medical and Complementary Health Experience

. By choosing a Zita West affiliated acupuncturist clients not only get the benefit of their practitioner’s individual expertise but, through them, the training and support of Zita and her colleagues too. The Zita West Clinic works with thousands of women and men each year, helping them to boost their chances of conceiving successfully (both naturally and through IVF) and helping those who are already pregnant to have the best pregnancy possible and the brightest and healthiest of babies. This provides an unrivalled breadth and depth of knowledge to be shared with members of the network and their clients.

Exclusive Discounts on Zita West Clinic Services

. Choosing a Zita West affiliated practitioner also provides clients with unique access to a range of Zita West clinical services – some of which are available by ‘phone as well as in person – all at special discounted prices.

Special Discounts on the Zita West Range of Nutritional Products. 

Clients of member practitioners are entitled to further discounts on Zita’s best-selling range of premium nutritional supplements for fertility, pregnancy and breast-feeding too (20% off RRP ex p&p). Similar discounts are available on her range of books, CDs, cosmetic products and gift-sets as well.

FREE Fact Sheets to Help Boost Your Fertility and Pep up Your Pregnancy

For further information contact Bernadette on 086 1910181. Or email or visit

A Natural Approach to Fertility

This is a question often asked in our clinics.

Acupuncture is not a magic cure for infertility.
However, acupuncture does work by stimulating the body’s natural healing potential and therefore optimising the entire organ system, including the reproductive system.
According to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, infertility is caused by an imbalance of the quality, quantity and flow of blood and Qi or vital energy.
So, acupuncture gently restores this balance and as a result fertility and health in general is greatly enhanced.

For more detailed information and research have a look at our blog post on Acupuncture and Fertility Research Review

Spring Cleaning

April 9, 2015


Are you looking for a quick, easy and inexpensive way to look and feel great this spring? Well why not try a body scrub? It only takes 10 minutes a day and anyone can do it. All you will need is a small cotton hand towel or face cloth, and a sink full of hot water. So, dip the towel in the water and then wring it out and fold it into a pad that fits comfortably in your hand. Now, scrub your entire body in a back and forth motion until your skin turns red. Do not scrub your face and remember to scrub your fingers and toes. It may take awhile for your skin to redden at first and it may appear dry but don’t give up. As the condition of your skin improves, you will notice that it is smoother, firmer and more supple. Try this every morning and or night before your regular shower. As well as having beautiful skin, this simple routine can improve your health too. It helps to increase your circulation and if you scrub in the morning you will feel quite refreshed and ready for the day. If you do it before bedtime, it will help your tired muscles relax and you will sleep better. Your immune system will also benefit as your body will more readily discharge toxins. So why not try it? It costs nothing but your time and is a simple and fun way to look and feel wonderful this spring.