Comparing Acupuncture and Medications for Stimulation of Ovulation

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For women trying to conceive, ovulation is the special time, around the middle of the menstrual cycle, that makes it all possible—when the egg is released from the ovary and conception can occur. But some women don’t ovulate consistently, or at all, on their own. So what can women do in this situation?

Conventional medical treatment involves prescription of Clomiphene (also known as Clomid) or other drugs, including Letrozole (Femara) and injectable gonadotropins. For women wanting to go a more natural route, acupuncture has also been shown to be effective in stimulating ovulation, typically without the side effects of the prescription drugs. But how do conventional treatments and acupuncture compare in effectiveness? I found two research studies that addressed this question.

In the first study, one group of 60 women was treated with acupuncture and moxibustion (warming of acupuncture points) for three menstrual cycles, and another group of 60 women was treated with Clomiphene (1). What they found at the end of the three cycles was that there was no significant difference in the ovulation rate between the two groups of women, but that “pregnancy rate [was] higher and abortion rate [was] lower for the patient of the acup-moxibustion treatment than for oral administration of Clomiphene,”(1) and the difference in pregnancy rate was statistically significant.

The second study had similar findings. In this study, 25 women received acupuncture plus traditional Chinese herbal therapy, whereas another group of 25 women received treatment with Clomiphene and intramuscular injection of chorionic gonadotropin (2). The women were treated for six menstrual cycles and then ovulation and pregnancy rates were compared. Again, they found no significant difference in ovulation rate between the two groups, but the pregnancy rate was significantly higher in the acupuncture and herbal therapy group (44%) than in the medication group (16%)(2).

Many women want to try treatment with acupuncture before taking medications because they want to go a more natural route or are concerned about the side effects of the medications. The studies mentioned above suggest that acupuncture treatment is as effective as medication in stimulating ovulation and may actually be more effective than medications in contributing to a healthy pregnancy.

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References
1. Song, FJ et al. 2008. Clinical observation on acupuncture for treatment of infertility of ovulatory disturbance. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu; 28(1): 21-23.
2. Jiang, DS and Ding D. 2009. Clinical observation on acupuncture combined with medication for treatment of continuing anovulation infertility. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu; 29(1): 21-24.