Acupuncture For Women With PCOS

As readers of this website undoubtedly know, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is defined as irregular or even absent ovulation resulting in long stretches of time between menstrual cycles. Often, women with irregular ovulation are given a diagnosis of PCOS, even if they are not insulin resistant. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) sees PCOS in a few different ways, depending on how it presents in your body. Western medicine tends to treat all PCOS patients in the same way, where TCM looks at each patient’s pattern of symptoms before making a diagnosis.

How Acupuncture Can Help Fertility

Acupuncture increases blood flow to the uterus and therefore uterine wall thickness, an important factor for fertility. It also increases endorphin production, which, in turn, promotes the release of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) to regulate reproduction. Acupuncture can also lower stress hormones responsible for infertility; normalize plasma levels of the fertility hormones: follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteininzing hormone (LH), estradiol (E2), and progesterone; and normalize the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis to regulate menstruation, a key process in fertility.

During IVF, acupuncture can increase the number of follicles and improve the quality of the uterine environment by relaxing uterine muscles and thickening uterine lining. If you are coming in for in-vitro preparation, one study recommends treatment twice a week for four weeks up to the day of the transfer, in order to increase the flow of blood to the uterus.

Another study showed that for patients who received acupuncture treatment immediately before and after the in-vitro procedure, clinical pregnancies were documented in 42.5% of the patients in the acupuncture group, whereas pregnancy rate was only 26.3% in the control group.

Once you become pregnant, acupuncture can help prevent miscarriages and minimize symptoms common in the first trimester.

Traditional Chinese Medicine in 3 Types of PCOS Women

Below are the three most common types of PCOS patient that I treat. Each of these patients is quite different, but the use of acupuncture and Chinese herbs will still regulate her cycle.
The first type of PCOS is the most commonly seen, and it is caused by insulin resistance. This patient typically presents as overweight, and she may or may not have acne on her jawline and neck. She may also have excess hair on her face, and lower abdomen. This type of PCOS is called “damp stagnation”. In basic terms, the excess weight is seen as “dampness”, and the unreleased follicles as “stagnation”. It responds best to weight loss (to get rid of the “dampness”), exercise (to move the stagnation), and the supplement inositol, to help reduce insulin resistance. Important dietary changes to get rid of dampness include giving up dairy products, wheat, refined sugar and alcohol, which are all dampening foods. Metformin can also be helpful in certain cases.
A second type of patient I see with a PCOS diagnosis has what is called “Qi and Blood stagnation” in TCM. In this case, the patient is often very fit, has quite a bit of acne around the mouth, and on and under the chin and neck. She may also have some hair under her chin. She is stressed and easily frustrated, and uses frequent exercise as stress relief. She is not insulin resistant, so Metformin doesn’t work for her. Chinese herbs to move Qi and Blood stagnation work well to promote ovulation in this case. Electroacupuncture is also very effective right before ovulation to encourage an egg to release.

A third type of PCOS patient has a diagnosis of “Heart Qi stagnation”. This doesn’t involve the Western heart organ, rather the Chinese concept of the Heart, a group of functions which when combined are called “Heart” (with a capital H). One of the functions of the Heart is to open and close the cervix, ie: ovulation. When the Heart energy is damaged by trauma, anxiety or chronic sleep disorders, it has a hard time regulating ovulation. Acupuncture is quite effective in helping calm the Heart, and thus promoting ovulation. This patient may have had a traumatic event in her life, have a very stressful job (one patient was a 911 operator), or a job which upsets her sleep patterns, such as a night shift worker. This patient may or may not be overweight, and may or may not have unruptured follicles in her ovary, but her cycle is irregular, and she has received a PCOS diagnosis. Unless she is insulin resistant, Metformin will not help in this case.

The use of traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, offers women with PCOS an alternative but effective treatment for women with PCOS.

“Role of acupuncture in the treatment of female infertility.” By Dr. Raymond Chang, Dr. Pak Chung, and Dr. Zev Rosenwaks. Fertility and Sterility. 2002;78(6):1149-53.

Elisabet Stener-Victorin, Urban Waldenstrdm, Sven A.Andersson, and Matts Wikland. Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries of infertile women with electro-acupuncture Human Reproduction 1996;11(6)6:314-1317.

Rachel blunk

Rachel Blunk, L.Ac., Fellow of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine, is Northern Colorado’s premier licensed and board certified fertility acupuncturist. She is dedicated to helping women get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy from start to finish. With more than 14 years of experience as a specialist in fertility acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, Rachel helps get women’s (and men’s) bodies back into balance naturally, so that conception is possible. She has helped hundreds of women get pregnant. For more information, visit


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Comments (3)
  • Alina Gomez

    January 22, 2018 at 2:49 am

    Informative post!! Provided with the good content as how acupuncture helps fertility. One must go through the post as it has also given the three types of PCOS women in traditional chinese medicine. Thank you for the post!!!!.. Visit–

  • Firuza

    July 12, 2022 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. Ive always wondered Does acupuncture for fertility increase chance of conception without any side effects?
    I’ve seen people with pcos getting treated at fertiltree

  • Angela Grassi

    August 4, 2022 at 12:05 pm

    Yes, for some.

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