Acupuncture has always had many advocates, and some sceptics; lots of research for, as well as evidence against.

So, it wasn’t a huge surprise to see some negative headlines earlier in the year, after a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association claimed acupuncture doesn’t improve the likelihood of IVF success (

Against this backdrop, it was very timely to catch up with NCA alumnus Fiona Wolfenden (pictured) for this blog post, with Fiona specialising in treating fertility problems at Edinburgh’s Albany Street Clinic.

Before graduating with a Diploma in Acupuncture in 1996, Fiona had plenty of experience working in a Western healthcare setting.  Like many NCA students and graduates though, she was eventually drawn to the conclusion that the medical system she had always known, and trained for, didn’t treat patients holistically.

“I became an acupuncturist because I felt Western medicine wasn’t answering all the questions,” explained Fiona.  “I originally did a university degree, trained as a nurse and worked in the wards.  I felt there was a gap though, there just wasn’t enough preventative medicine, not enough lifestyle interventions.  It was all just drug treatments, some were good but some weren’t that great, and I found that I didn’t want to continue in that system.

“Becoming an acupuncturist was a journey, like it is for most people.  For me, it was a combination of my experience in nursing, and also seeing an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist.  At the time, I was feeling that my health wasn’t fantastic, although I was fine, but I got some herbs from him, changed my diet, and felt so much better.  I felt like a different person, and so that was a personal imprint that made me think this [Chinese medicine] all made sense.”

Fiona now spends much of her working time treating patients with fertility issues.  With so many positive stories over the years of patients getting pregnant after treatment, backed up by clinic statistics, she is continually buoyed by the successes she sees.

“It just started to evolve,” explained Fiona, about focusing her acupuncture provision on the fertility field.  “I started to see more clients coming through with gynae or fertility issues, so we decided to offer it more as a specialism.

“It’s something we have quite a lot of success in, which is really good to see.  It also seems to be people who tend to be very motivated, and that’s not always the case in other patient groups.

“Obviously there are also people that don’t get pregnant but you still hopefully help them with their particular journey.  I do see lots of success though, so fertility is a really good field to work in.

“We do gather stats, but obviously we’re relying on people to let us know they’ve got pregnant.  We contact people after a few months of coming to clinic, there’s a number we don’t hear back from, but we have a good success rate from the people that get back to us.

“So, for example, between November 2012 and October 2017, the Albany Street Clinic saw 932 patients for fertility issues.  From those 932 patients, we managed to make contact with 405; and 345 of those had conceived.  This was a success rate of 83 per cent.

“The Chinese have used acupuncture for thousands of years, and why would they be doing something like that if it didn’t work?  Just because it sometimes doesn’t perform to Western research paradigms.  Just seeing so many patients become pregnant over the years, is evidence for me at a practical level.”

NCA Principal Richard Blackwell states: “Infertility is a growing global problem and something the vast majority of our graduates will come across in their practices. Some of our graduates, like Fiona, will choose to specialise in this area and go on to have real expertise – and thriving businesses – helping couples realise their dreams of having a baby. They often tell us how rewarding this aspect of their practise is. New research is being produced all the time and, as Fiona says, proof is in the many successes acupuncturists have helping infertile couples. The fact that many patients choose to pay for private traditional Chinese acupuncture as part of their treatment, often recommended by the doctors and other health professionals, is also testament to acupuncture’s success.”

NCA Research Director Karen Charlesworth added: “There are plenty of positive research studies into the effectiveness of acupuncture and infertility. A recent study by US acupuncturist Lee Hullender Rubin showed that acupuncture is associated with greater odds of live birth in IVF, and these findings are supported by other research conducted across the world.”

If you’re interested in studying acupuncture, please visit the NCA website – or call Denise on 01904 343309.

Find out more about treatment offered at the NCA – visit our Clinics page.

Fiona talks about her clinic and work on this Youtube video

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