Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome. Researchers find acupuncture effective for normalizing hormone levels and improving the overall health of patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome. Scientific data demonstrates that acupuncture produces significant improvements in menstrual regularity, restores ovulation pattern regularity, increases pregnancy rates, regulates hormonal secretions, normalizes basal body temperature patterns, and increases embryo survival rates. Fertility enhancements provided by acupuncture apply to both natural conception and IVF (in vitro fertilization) patients.
Research published in the Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion entitled Advances In Clinical Research On Acupuncture Moxibustion Treatment For Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome cites several clinical studies. Let’s take a look at the finings. Chen et al. applied stimulation with acupuncture at sacral plexus acupoints and paraspinal acupoints. Acupuncture treatment sessions were regularly administered over the course of three menstruation cycles. Upon completion of all acupuncture therapy, follow-up examinations (including ultrasound imaging) demonstrated significant improvements in menstrual regularity, ovulation frequency, and cervical mucus consistency. In addition, the pregnancy rate of patients in the study increased significantly.
The research published in the Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture reviewed the work of Wang et al. That study demonstrated an 80.8% total effective rate for the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome with acupuncture. The acupuncture points used in the study included the following acupoints:
Two additional acupuncture points were added, based on symptomatic presentations and differential diagnostic considerations: Taichong (LV3), Fenglong (ST40). In another investigation, Huang et al. combined moxibustion with traditional Chinese medicine massage (Tui Na) and medications. The controlled investigation demonstrated the ability of traditional Chinese medicine to regulate ovulation and secretion of sex hormones to normal levels when compared with the control group that received only drug therapy. Moxibustion was applied to the following: Sanyinjiao, Guanyuan, Zigong. The researchers conclude that moxa and Chinese massage enhance the efficacy of drug therapy for the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Xie et al. combined traditional Chinese herbal medicine with acupuncture and achieved significant clinical results. Patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome had an 80% total treatment effective rate using the combined therapy protocol. An herbal pill (Zi Shen Yu Tai) was administered to nourish the kidneys and reinforce fertility. On the fifth day following menstruation, acupuncture was applied to the following acupoints:
The pattern of basal body temperatures significantly normalized using the herbal medicine combined with acupuncture therapy approach to patient care. In addition, hormone levels significantly normalized, including the following hormones: LH (luteinizing hormone), testosterone, FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone). The work of Xie et al. was published in the Guiding Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Qiu and Xu administered electroacupuncture to patients that had a combination of polycystic ovarian syndrome with obesity. Electroacupuncture was applied to body style acupuncture points. In addition, auricular (ear) acupuncture was added. Important clinical improvements were documented by the researchers. Patients had significant improvements in the reduction of polycystic ovarian syndrome symptoms, including improved menstruation regularity. In addition, many patients experienced a healthy reduction a bodily fat. The total treatment affective rate was 89.7%.The auricular acupuncture points used in the study were as follows: Zigong, Neifenmi, Pizhixia, Pi, Shen, Luanchao. Body style acupuncture points used in the study were as follows:
Li et al. administered acupuncture therapy to determine whether or not it is successful for the improvement of in vitro fertilization (IVF) embryo survival rates. Inclusion criteria for the study predetermined that all patients were of kidney deficiency type (according to Chinese medicine principles) and had a confirmed diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome. The results demonstrate significant clinical improvements, including higher embryo survival rates. The following acupuncture points used in the study were as follows:
In related research, Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine researchers investigated ovulation and pregnancy rates for patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome. The study involved two groups. Group one received acupuncture, herbs, and therapeutic exercises. Group two received drug therapy (cyproterone acetate / ethinylestradiol tablets and metformin). The acupuncture, herbs, and exercise group slightly outperformed the drug group.
The combination of acupuncture, herbs, and therapeutic exercises produced higher rates of ovulation and pregnancies in PCOS patients, producing a 46.92% ovulation rate and a 32.16% pregnancy rate. The drug therapy protocol produced a 40.61% ovulation rate and a 30.16% pregnancy rate. The researchers concluded that drug therapy and Chinese medicine produce similar positive patient outcomes for patients with PCOS.
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Zheng HM, Lv GY, Wang YJ, Hou WG, Chen YL, Zeng YJ. (2013). Advances in Clinical Research on Acupuncture moxibustion Treatment for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 32(9).
Wang XY, Zhang YJ, Wu FD, Lu Y & Huang GQ. (2007). Acupuncture Treatment for 26 Cases of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Journal of acupuncture, moxibustion & Tuina. (05).
Chen D, Chen SR, Shi XL, Guo FL, Zhu YK, Li Z, Cai MX, Deng LH & Xu H. (2007). Needle pricking therapy in treating polycystic ovary syndrome. China Journal of Acupuncture & Moxibustion. (02).
Huang M, Lai H, Lv FB & Pan BQ. (2007). Moxibustion in treating polycystic ovarian syndrome. Massage methodology. (01).
Qiu HN & Xu J. (2006). Acupuncture, moxibustion and auricular point sticking in treating obese polycystic ovarian syndrome. Chinese Community Doctors. 8(14): 86-87.
Li J, Cui W, Sun W. (2009). Electroacupuncture in treating patients with kidney deficiency type of PCOS and receive IVF-ET. China Journal of Sexual Science. (07).
Bai, S. L., Jiang, X. H., Li, Y. L., Huang, W. Q., Wang, L. & Liu, X. Z. (2014). The effect of weight-loss herbal decoction combined with acupuncture and exercise on endocrine markers and pregnancy outcomes in non-obesity patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. Chinese Journal of Family Planning. 22(8).
Diamanti-Kandarakis E, Papavassiliou AG. Molecular mechanisms of insulin resistance in polycystic ovary syndrome. Trends Mol Med JT – Trends in molecular medicine, 2006, 12(7):324.
Sun, J., J. M. Zhao, R. Ji, H. R. Liu, Y. Shi, and C. L. Jin. “[Effects of electroacupuncture of” Guanyuan”(CV 4)-” Zhongji”(CV 3) on ovarian P450 arom and P450c 17alpha expression and relevant sex hormone levels in rats with polycystic ovary syndrome].” Zhen ci yan jiu= Acupuncture research/[Zhongguo yi xue ke xue yuan Yi xue qing bao yan jiu suo bian ji] 38, no. 6 (2013): 465-472.
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Researchers find acupuncture combined with clomiphene more effective than clomiphene plus supplementary hormonal pharmaceuticals for the treatment of infertility. The combination of acupuncture plus clomiphene produces significantly higher pregnancy rates for women with anovulatory infertility than clomiphene plus estradiol cypionate and dydrogesterone. The data was published in the report entitled Effects of Acupuncture on the Endometrium in Anovulatory Cases Treated by Clomiphene: A Clinical Observation.
The addition of acupuncture to clomiphene therapy increased pregnancy rates, lowered the resistance and pulsatility indices of the uterine arteries, and reduced the adverse effects caused by clomiphene. The increase in positive patient outcomes combined with reductions of adverse effects supports the research team’s (Taian Maternal and Child Health Care Hospital) conclusion, “TCM [Traditional Chinese Medicine] can be either applied alone or combined with Western medicine to up pregnancy rates and treat infertility. With the help of TCM [i.e., acupuncture], treatment for infertility can be more effective while producing much less adverse effects.” 
Clomiphene triggers the pituitary gland to produce hormones that stimulate ovulation. The upside of this medication is that it stimulates the release of eggs from the ovaries. The downside is that it may produce adverse effects and it is contraindicated for patients with endometriosis and uterine fibroids. Notably, it may increase the incidence of having twins or triplets. The researchers conclude that the addition of acupuncture to the clomiphene treatment regimen mitigates the drug’s adverse effects and ups the pregnancy rate. Moreover, the acupuncture protocol outperforms the clomiphene plus estradiol cypionate and dydrogesterone protocol. Estradiol cypionate is an estrogen hormone and is often used for the treatment of low estrogen levels. Estradiol cypionate may increase the rate of developing blood clots, melasma (dark skin patches on the face), and may cause other adverse effects. Dydrogesterone is a steroidal progestin used in many countries for the treatment of infertility and threatened miscarriages.
The clinical study was conducted with a semi-protocolized approach to acupuncture point selection. Identical primary acupuncture points were assigned to all patients and secondary acupuncture points were prescribed based upon differential diagnostics. As a variable control, secondary acupuncture point prescriptions were limited to one of three acupuncture point groupings: liver qi stagnation, phlegm-dampness, blood stasis. Patients were not divided into treatment and control groups based upon the diagnostic groups. Instead, they were randomly divided into three groups and then diagnostic decisions were made for the addition of secondary acupuncture points for the TCM treatment group.
A total of 43 patients were randomly distributed into three groups. Group 1 received only clomiphene. Group 2 received clomiphene plus estradiol cypionate and dydrogesterone. Group 3 received clomiphene plus acupuncture and moxibustion. The number of patients in each group was 15, 14, and 14 respectively. Patients ranged from ages 21–39. The preexisting duration of anovulatory infertility ranged from 1–8 years.
Groups 1 and 2 received 50–100 mg of clomiphene, once per day. Group 2 also received 1 mg of estradiol cypionate and 10 mg of dydrogesterone. Group 3 received clomiphene plus acupuncture and moxibustion. The administration of care for all groups started on the 5th day of menstruation and lasted for 5 consecutive days. One treatment course consisted of three menstrual cycles. In total, 1–2 courses of treatment were applied. The TCM acupuncture treatment protocol was as follows. Patients rested in a supine position. Upon disinfection, a 0.30 mm x 40 mm filiform needle was inserted into the following acupoints:
CV4, CV3, Zigong, and ST29 were inserted transverse-obliquely (15° angle) to a depth of 1–1.2 cm. SP6 and ST36 were needled perpendicularly and manipulated with the Ping Bu Ping Xie (tonify and sedate) technique. Additional acupoints were administered based on differential diagnostic patterns. For liver qi stagnation, the following acupoint was added:
For phlegm and dampness, the following acupoint was added:
For blood stasis, the following acupoints were added:
Moxibustion sessions lasted 30 minutes and were applied at a heat intensity level until the skin became flushed. Sessions were conducted once per day. Moxibustion was not applied until 10 days passed after ovulation. Moxibustion was applied at the following acupoints:
Additional research confirms that acupuncture combined with moxibustion is effective for the treatment of infertility. Researchers conclude that acupuncture acts on the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and ovaries and regulates hormone levels in the body. [2, 3] Yu et al. conclude that electroacupuncture can increase gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) levels and increases sensitivity of the ovaries to gonadotropin. The study documents that electroacupuncture is effective for the treatment of infertility in anovulatory cases with low levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
In a related study, Xu et.al conclude that acupuncture combined with moxibustion increases ovulation rates.  The treatment protocol was as follows. First, acupuncture was applied to the following acupoints:
Additional acupoints were added based upon diagnostic patterns. For liver qi stagnation, BL18 was added; for phlegm and dampness, ST40 was added; for blood stasis, SP10 and LV2 were added. Next, moxibustion was applied to Zigong, CV3, CV4, and ST36. Subsequently, an electroacupuncture device was connected to the acupoints. The treatment was applied daily for 3–7 consecutive days. The results of B-scan ultrasonography conducted during the study documents that ovulation rates increase when acupuncture combined with moxibustion is applied.
In another study, acupuncture has been found effective for increasing infertility rates for women receiving IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatments. This highlights the role of acupuncture in an integrative medicine environment. University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers conclude that acupuncture increases pregnancy rates for women receiving IVF. In a study of 16 high quality clinical trials consisting of 4,021 subjects, acupuncture significantly raised pregnancy rates for women receiving IVF where otherwise pregnancy rates would have been low.
Strong evidence indicates that acupuncture increases pregnancy rates for women with anovulatory infertility and other forms of infertility. Acupuncture has been proven an effective complementary therapy to drug therapy and IVF protocols. Research indicates that acupuncture provides an additional benefit; it reduces the adverse effect rates of infertility medications. Based on the findings of modern research, the use of acupuncture is an appropriate, safe, and effective complementary therapy for the treatment of infertility.
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1. Effects of Acupuncture on the Endometrium in Anovulatory Cases Treated by Clomiphene: A Clinical Observation. Journal of Taishan Medical College. 2016, 37(9):1029-1031.
2. Yu J, Zheng HM, Bing SM. Changes in sSrum FSH, LH and Ovarian Follicular Growth During Electroacupuncture for Induction of Ovulation [J]. Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine. 1989, 9(4):199-202.
3. Sha GE, Huang WC, Ma RH. Acupuncture for Infertility: A Clinical Observation Based on 84 cases [J]. Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 1998, 14(1):16-18.
5. Xu XF, Gu Y, Gu Ling, Zhu YP. Investigating Advantages of TCM Intervention for Inducting Ovulation in Infertile Women [J]. Chinese Archives of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 2012, 30(3):467-468.
6. Cao ZY. Obstetrics and Gynecology [M]. Beijing: People’s Military Medical Publisher. 1999: 2474.
7. Manheimer, Eric, Daniëlle van der Windt, Ke Cheng, Kristen Stafford, Jianping Liu, Jayne Tierney, Lixing Lao, Brian M. Berman, Patricia Langenberg, and Lex M. Bouter. “The effects of acupuncture on rates of clinical pregnancy among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Human reproduction update (2013). University of Maryland.