For over 20 years, the team at the London Acupuncture Clinic have been at the forefront of treatment for immunological fertility issues. From a time when it was only tested for by very few IVF and miscarriage consultants, it has been something we have seen on a daily basis.
While acupuncture has been used for immune conditions such as arthritis, psoriasis or colitis, it is currently used alongside modern diagnostic tools in the area of fertility.
It is now considered that the immune system plays a vital role in fertility, and imbalances in immune function can impact reproductive success. Natural killer (NK) cells, a subset of lymphocytes, are among the immune cells implicated in fertility. NK cells are known for their role in the innate immune response and are present in the uterus during the implantation phase of pregnancy.
Alongside these cytokines are signaling molecules that mediate communication between cells in the immune system. They play a vital role in regulating immune responses and inflammation. Imbalances in cytokine levels have been associated with fertility issues, and understanding their modulation is a key aspect of improving reproductive outcomes.
As acupuncturists, this area allows us to take that thorough holistic approach and examine why the immune system would be overacting. Identifying lifestyles factors, dietary habits and stress mechanisms can allow us to help regulate immune function throughout the body.
Research has explored the relationship between acupuncture and NK cells, with some studies suggesting that acupuncture may influence NK cell activity in a way that is beneficial for fertility. Studies published show the results indicated a significant decrease in the activity of NK cells in the acupuncture group compared to the control group, suggesting a potential immunomodulatory effect.1 Other focus on elated NK cells and recurrent miscarriage showing significant reduction in NK cell activity2 , or the reduction in cytokine activity3
Another study, published in
“Fertility and Sterility” in 2002 investigated the impact of acupuncture on NK cell activity in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF).
“Reproductive Biomedicine Online” in 2011, focused on women with recurrent miscarriages and elevated NK cell activity. The researchers found that acupuncture was associated with a significant reduction in NK cell activity, leading to improved pregnancy outcomes in the acupuncture-treated group.
3 – Carneiro ER, Xavier RA, De Castro MA, Do Nascimento CM, Silveira VL. Electroacupuncture promotes a decrease in inflammatory response associated with Th1/Th2 cytokines, nitric oxide and leukotriene B4 modulation in experimental asthma. Cytokine. 2010 Jun;50(3):335-40. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2010.01.005. Epub 2010 Mar 15. PMID: 20231101.
“American Journal of Reproductive Immunology” in 2013 investigated the effects of acupuncture on cytokine levels in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition associated with fertility challenges. The researchers observed a decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines and an increase in anti-inflammatory cytokines following acupuncture treatment, suggesting a potential anti-inflammatory effect that may be beneficial for fertility.