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It is widely accepted that that acupuncture normalizes ovulatory dysfunction by regulating the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis (Chen, 1997). This was earlier demonstrated in a study where 6 out of 13 anovulatory cases responded to acupuncture treatment (Chen and Yu, 1991). There was also one pilot study of acupuncture as a substitute for hCG to induce ovulation (Cai, 1997). Of the 11 menstrual cycles, marked effect was shown in 5 cycles, significant effect in 5 cycles but no effect in 1 cycle.  Furthermore, in 9 of the 10 cycles treated with acupuncture for ovulation induction without using HCG and other drugs, the symptoms of OHSS were significantly reduced or even disappeared.

In a longitudinal prospective study at Gothenburg University in Sweden, 24 women diagnosed with PCOS underwent repeated acupuncture treatments were able to bring about regular ovulation in more than a third of the group. However, acupuncture was only successful for those women with significantly lower BMI, Waist-Hip-Ratio, serum testosterone concentration, serum T/SHBG ratio, serum basal insulin concentration.

In subsequent random controlled trials (Stener-Victorin, 2011 & 2013), menstrual frequency was demonstrated to increase with regular acupuncture session, and its effect was more significant compared with thrice-weekly exercise.

Another small prospective trial published in the American Journal of Physiology, followed 32 women with PCOS for around 3 months. Acupuncture, say the researchers, has been demonstrated to improve menstrual frequency and to decrease circulating testosterone in women with PCOS.

Sources:

  1. Chen BY, Yu J, “Relationship between blood radioimmunoreactive beta-endrophin and hand skin temperature during the electro-acupuncture induction of ovulation,” Acupunct Electrother Res,” 1991; 16(1-2):1-5.
  2. Chen BY, “Acupuncture normalizes dysfunction of hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis,” Institute of Acupuncture and Department of Neurobiology, Shanghai Medical University.
  3. Cai X, “Substitution of acupuncture for hCG in ovulation induction,” J Tradit Chin Med 1997; 17:119-21.
  4. Stener-Victorin et al, “Effects of electro-acupuncture on anovulation in women with PCOS,” Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2000 Mar;79(3):180-8.
  5. Jedel et al, “Impact of electro-acupuncture and physical exercise on hyperandrogenism and oligo/amernorrhea in women with PCOS: a RCT,” Am J Physiol Endorinol Metab. 2011 Jan;300(1):E37-45.
  6. Johansson et al, “Acupuncture for ovulation induction in PCOS: a RCT,” Am J Physio Endocrinol Metab. 2013 May 1; 304(9): E934-E943.