Does Alternative Therapy Affect Fertility Rates?


On our TVs and the internet, we are bombarded with information about how we can become virile or more fertile with companies encouraging us to buy their products or try their methods. While some of these offers do have some scientific research to back up at least some of their claims, the majority are just advertising hype, covering a general problem rather than considering any complications or issues which the individual may have.

In this article, we will look at some of the alternatives forms of medicine which couples turn to when they are trying for a baby. Many couples see fertility treatment as their final resort when they are trying to conceive, but unfortunately, the costs involved with some of the more conventional medicine can be prohibitive. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture and hypnosis as well as supplements and herbs have been tried for centuries and are often used in conjunction with typical treatments.

Most of the remedies focus more on the state of mind, which can mean that the results are subjective. Of course, you will want to be confident that you are not falling victim of a scam as many of these courses are still far from cheap, even if they are significantly less expensive than courses such as IVF or IUI treatment. Therefore, you must speak to your medical practitioner who may be able to recommend a therapist.

  1. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of ancient Chinese Traditional Medicine which is still actively practised today. In most cases, although not all, the practice involves inserting fine needles into specific areas of the body to causes therapeutic responses triggered by the body’s own energy. Although recent research is somewhat scarce, a study published in the Fertility and Sterility journal in 2006 claimed that 36% of women who received acupuncture both before and after IVF treatment became pregnant compared to just 22% who didn’t undergo the treatment.

Unfortunately, the same journal published a follow-up paper three years later, which concluded that there was no benefit gained. Sarah Berga, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist and associate dean at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Salam attributed the anomalies to fertility-impairing stress levels. It was even suggested that the stress of the acupuncture itself might have been the cause of the increased stress levels.

  1. Cognitive Therapy

As highlighted in the previous study, stress can have a significant impact on a couple’s fertility, so there is plenty of research to support the benefits of mind/body therapy and is far less of a pseudoscience than acupuncture. Cognitive therapy, when associated with fertility treatment, often incorporates deep breathing techniques, guided imagery and the general converting of negative thoughts into positive ones.

Alice Domar, Ph.D., executive director of the Domar Centre for Mind/Body Health in Waltham, MA conducted a study whereby 52% of women receiving IVF treatment as well as cognitive therapy fell pregnant after two cycles compared to 20% who did not take part in the additional cognitive therapy. The doctor believed that the results could be attributed to a combination of treatments, but the stress reduction perhaps increased libido and fertility. The suggestion was that these patients should continue to make lifestyle adjustments designed to reduce stress.

  1. Hypnosis

According to the Mayo Clinic, hypnosis is the trance-like state in which the person being hypnotised is in a heightened state of focus and concentration. In 2006, a study in Israel found that females who were hypnotised while the embryos from IVF were implanted back in the body were twice as likely to get pregnant as those who remained conscious during the procedure.

However, there appears to be a lack of independent evidence to support these claims. Dr. Domar was more supportive nevertheless and suggested that the benefits were derived from the patient being in a more relaxed state. She was confident that the procedure could cause no harm if people did want to try hypnosis as part of their treatment.

  1. Herbal Remedies

Many herbs and supplements have been suggested as a way of relieving fertility problems for centuries. Many of these claims are pseudoscientific without any real evidence to support the claims. However, there are some suggestions that several vitamins and minerals which are naturally present in our food can be beneficial and indeed, the use of supplements under the guidance of medical professional could be helpful. Several studies have found that zinc and folic acid, amongst others, do have a positive impact.

However, Dr. Berga was quick to add a word of caution emphasising that there are still a lot of unknowns, and some herbs may be toxic. She went on, “We don’t know which ones, in particular, to stay away from, because they haven’t been well studied, but it’s definitely a buyer-beware market.”

  1. Yoga

While there is plenty of evidence to support that conducting moderate exercise is beneficial when it comes to fertility, there is no definitive research to suggest that yoga is a bona fide form of fertility treatment. The ancient practice is well known for its relaxation and meditation techniques which we have already established are likely to be beneficial when it comes to fertility. However, Dr. Domar also pointed out another factor, highlighting that many couples, particularly the women, are angry with their bodies when they can’t get pregnant. As such, yoga can have a positive impact on self-image.

Finally, yoga is not regarded as a rigorous exercise, and this is certainly more beneficial for many men, and women, who may otherwise undertake harsh training programs and therefore experience fertility issues. The lower intensity allows the practiser to stay in condition and toned without jeopardising their fertility.

Contact Us

Here at First Fertility, we can discuss the best options that are available to you and your partner if you are experiencing some difficulties conceiving. Our helpful and understanding clinicians will evaluate your case and make suggestions which are relevant to you and your partner in a relaxed environment. You will be free to ask any questions and raise any concerns which you may have.