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Can shiatsu and massage help support your fertility? Men and women

You’re trying to conceive: perhaps naturally or perhaps using assisted reproductive technologies.

We would like you to consider Shiatsu and Massage as helpful resources for you at this time with their powerful combination of nurturing touch, breathing/visualisations, exercise and postural awareness.

These resources may help you to tune in more to your fertility and what may or may not be blocking you conceiving. They may also help support you through the often stressful process of assisted reproduction. Some research even indicates that they may even help improve your chances of conceiving. You can also learn ways to support each other.

Please go to What is Shiatsu for more information on shiatsu and also About  for our specific approach to shiatsu.

If you want to start experiencing shiatsu and massage, we guide you through some general information on how to find a suitable practitioner.

If you decide that shiatsu or massage is something to consider, you can find a practitioner on the Wellmother register to  find a suitably qualified practitioner.

Frequently asked questions about shiatsu and massage and fertility

Below are some answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) about fertility and how shiatsu and massage may be helpful to help you.

On this page:
How to decide if massage and shiatsu can be helpful to support you to conceive
Finding a suitable practitioner
Supporting Natural conception
Supporting assisted reproduction
How soon after implantation can I receive massage or shiatsu?
Useful articles and references

If you have a question which is not here, please feel free to post it on our Facebook page or you can email us directly. These are free services.  If your question is more in-depth and you need more of a mini consultation, this can be offered via Skype consultation. A fee will be charged for this service.

How to decide if massage and shiatsu can be helpful to support you to conceive

Whatever your conception journey, shiatsu and massage may be of benefit. Read our page on what shiatsu is.

How can shiatsu and massage help you? By being in the best possible state of health at the time of conception, either physically or emotionally.

So many people are living stressful lives: having the space to address issues which are stressful and having some time to unwind in itself can be helpful.

Having shiatsu and massage treatments at different phases of your cycles can help you be more in tune with what is going on and offer support.

During assisted reproduction, it may help with some of the side effects, like nausea.  It can also help you manage the inevitable stress which can go along with the treatments and help you stay connected with what is going on in your body. It can help you process some of the emotions which may come up.

If you are lucky enough to conceive, shiatsu and massage can support you during your pregnancy (link to pregnancy). Many people find it is helpful to be seeing a practitioner who has worked with you before your pregnancy.

If sadly, you experience miscarriage or fail to conceive, shiatsu and massage may offer support for you to process these experiences, physically and emotionally.

Finding a suitable practitioner

We have included some general questions you can ask your short list of practitioners.

How will know if the practitioner is the right one for you?

Ask specifically what experience they have of working with fertility and how much they have worked with supporting natural fertility or with assisted reproductive approaches.

More specifically you will want to know a bit about how they work; for example how often you would need to come, how do they support you at different phases of your cycle, how much do they work with both partners.

Remember: at the end of the day, you have to work with someone you feel comfortable with. Try different practitioners until you find the right one.

Supporting Natural conception

A key aspect in pre conception is that both partners are in the best state of health, both physically and emotionally at the time of conception. You could decide to go to the same practitioner or you might decide to go to different ones.

For women

If your practitioner is experienced in working with conception they ask you questions about where you are at in your cycle. Shiatsu and massage are important tools to help you to connect with your menstrual cycle during its various phases in a positive way as well as supporting your body to deal as well as it can with any issues which may arise such as physical pain or on an emotional level .

Shiatsu can be helpful in working with unexplained infertility; because it is supporting your body to function in the most optimal way.

Shiatsu also can support your body if you have more specific issues such as

  • PCOS
  • endometriosis
  • ovulation issues
  • menstrual cycle irregularities
  • recurrent miscarriage

For men

Sometimes men can get left out.

It is also important that you are in the best possible state of health at the moment of conception can be supporting emotional aspects as well as any specific issues such as

• low sperm parameters: count, motility, morphology

Supporting assisted reproduction

It is still important to be in the best possible state of health at the start of your treatments (as in the question above). Often clinics will monitor your cycle for a month or two before starting any treatments. Shiatsu and massage can support you during this process.

Can I have shiatsu or massage while I am undergoing assisted reproductive procedures?

Usually people want to know whether shiatsu or massage could interfere with any drug related treatments. The answer to this is that they are only ever working to support your body in where-ever it is at. They can not over ride the very powerful effects of the drugs that you are taking, but of course the practitioner needs to understand the effects in your body of the different drugs which you are taking, so that they support what is happening.

They may help offer relief from side effects of treatments such as sickness or lethargy or feelings of disconnection from your body.

Many women would like support to stay connected with what is going on; especially if  their cycle is being controlled hormonally.

They may help you reconnect with yourself  after hormonal treatments.

The most important response to this question is that it depends on how you feel. Some people find that they do not want to be touched at all and others in a very light way. The practitioner will always respect how you feel and if necessary gear the treatment to more light touch or breathing and visualisations.

How soon after implantation can I receive massage or shiatsu?

Again there is no definite answer as it depends on how you feel. However there is no evidence that it causes any harm and more evidence to indicate that it can be supportive.

Work may help you tune back into the “normal ” aspects of female energy; the early first trimester.

You might also want to read “Receiving shiatsu in the first trimester of pregnancy”

Useful articles and references

Supporting fertility:

Jennifer Dubowsky, Acupuncture, Fertility Research delivers Healthy Result, Learning Resource Center Articles

Acupuncture research is useful as it is working with the meridians and points which are used in shiatsu. Some people prefer the acupuncture approach and others prefer the touch based approach of shiatsu.

From the article:

A 2002 German study that received a lot of attention found significantly higher conception rates (42.5% vs. 26.3%) when acupuncture was used with IVF.  More recently, two studies published in May 2006, showed that acupuncture can improve IVF success rates. First, in Germany, 225 women undergoing in vitro fertilization participated in a study. Of these, 116 patients received luteal phase (the phase after ovulation) acupuncture according to the principles of TCM and 109 people received a standard protocol of acupuncture. The treatment group using TCM principles had a significantly higher clinical pregnancy rate than the placebo group (33.6% vs. 15.6% respectively).  Second, a Denmark study published at the same time examined the effect of acupuncture received on the day of embryo transfer vs. no acupuncture, and they also found a significant increase in pregnancy rates (39% vs. 26%). The researchers concluded that acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer improved the outcome of IVF.  A third study published at the same time found the results too small to be considered clinically significant but these researchers also concluded that acupuncture was safe for women undergoing IVF.

Other research is showing acupuncture’s effectiveness with men. A study published in 2005 demonstrated that sperm motility and quality improved after the men received treatment with acupuncture.

May 18, 2007, Dr. Paul Magarelli, an infertility physician at the Reproductive Medicine Fertility Center, and Diane Cridennda, an acupuncturist at East Winds, both centers in Colorado Springs, Colorado, presented their research results which were published in Infertility and Sterility in April, 2007.

Lorne Brown, Doctor of TCM, founder and clinical director of Acubalance Wellness Centre, the first TCM clinic in British Columbia dedicated to reproductive wellness, analyzed the data produced by  Dr. Magarelli and has posted the following conclusions on his website:

  1. Acupuncture does not cause harm to fertility or negatively interfere with an IVF outcome.
  2. Acupuncture can statistically improve the live birth rate from IVF to between 10-15%.
  3. Acupuncture reduces the number of ectopic pregnancies in an IVF setting.
  4. The acupuncture protocol (minimum of 9 treatments using set points) did not affect egg quality BUT it did improve the host. Therefore, it seemed to improve factors affecting implanation rather the egg quality itself.
  5. The mechanism by which acupuncture improves implantation and live birth rates results from acupuncture’s ability to regulate the body’s hormone levels (particularly prolactin and cortisol) to mimic these hormone levels in a natural cycle.

Nicole Cutler, 3 novembre 2009, Shiatsu for Boosting fertility, Institute for Integrative healthcare studies

A systematic review was published in the British Medical Journal  BMJ 7 February 2008, doi: 10.1136 Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: systematic review and meta-analysis Eric Manheimer,

No negative influence and may have positive influence although further studies are needed.

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