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Lesson 6 of 6

Choosing An Acupuncturist

Written Lesson

The Basics

When selecting an acupuncturist, you’ll want to ensure your practitioner has graduated from a master’s or doctoral level program that is accredited with the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Herbal medicine (ACAHM). Your acupuncturist must also have a license to practice acupuncture in your state. The entry-level degree for licensure is the master’s degree, but some colleges also offer doctoral-level degrees, which require a greater number of hours of training. Acupuncturists are also certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). This certification is required for state licensure in some states.

Beyond that, a more contentious debate is whether this acupuncturist should have a focus on fertility and whether that should be reflected in an ABORM accreditation. At the moment, there is little data to say one way or another.

Minimum Standards

Patients should confirm that their acupuncturist has graduated from a master’s or doctoral program at an ACAHM-accredited school.

In states that require NCCAOM certification for licensure this will also be something to check for. Some states only require this certification for initial licensure and not for license renewal. Maintaining current NCCAOM certification means that this acupuncturist has undertaken continuing education to maintain their certification. Therefore, checking for current certification is important in states that require NCCAOM certification.

The NCCAOM has different types of certifications. If your acupuncturist has studied both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine (involving an additional year of schooling), they will be a “Diplomate of Oriental Medicine”. This marries the “Diplomate of Acupuncture” (for acupuncturists that have only studied acupuncture) and “Diplomate of Herbology”.

Most U.S. states require acupuncturists to pass certain examinations to practice. In some states these are offered through the NCCAOM and result in the certification mentioned above. Other states have their own licensing exams and do not require NCCAOM certification. However, not all states require this and so the minimum standards for being state licensed can vary. Finally, some states have hardly any standards or minimum requirements whatsoever, in which case patients likely need to be all the more discerning.

Additional Standards

Focus On Fertility

There is no data available that acupuncturists with a specialization in fertility treatment deliver better outcomes than generalists. That said, we believe it makes sense to find a practitioner who is experienced treating fertility patients, is familiar with the underlying issues and knowledgeable about what western fertility treatments patients will undergo. There are circumstances, especially when it comes to the use of herbs, when an acupuncturist and a fertility doctor need to be familiar with what the other is doing.

When choosing an acupuncture provider, we suggest asking about their level of training, experience in treating infertility patients and ongoing educational activities. Consider working with a provider who has at least 3 - 5 years of clinical experience in the field of infertility.


The American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM) is an independent organization formed recently (in 2007). It requires prospective members to complete post-graduate training specifically in reproductive medicine and be licensed for a minimum of at least 2 years. The applicant must also pass a certification examination.

We consider ABORM Fellowship to be an indicator that an acupuncturist has a focus on fertility but there are a significant number of superb fertility acupuncturists who do not belong to ABORM.

Location of Treatments

A course of 10 treatments will cost the patient 5 - 15 hours of treatment/commute time. Finding an acupuncturist that is close and accessible should be a priority. Additionally, you should look to work with a practitioner who can treat you at your clinic on the day of retrieval or transfer.

Team approach

It may be helpful if your fertility doctor and acupuncturist have worked together before. While we believe it’s rare for the reproductive endocrinologist and acupuncturist to communicate, should that be necessary (e.g. for instance around topics like diet or herb use) it will save time if there is already a trusting dialogue in place.

One place to start your search is at your clinic. Acupuncture is now a common treatment supplement in fertility practices and so your doctor and their staff will likely work with local acupuncturists. Many practices have a trusted group of acupuncturists whom they've likely vetted.

Pro Tips

  • Ensure your clinician graduated from an ACAHM accredited program.

  • Ensure they have NCCAOM accreditation (or proper state licensure) with a bonus if they are “Diplomate of Oriental Medicine” for prescribing herbs.

  • Preference those acupuncturists with experience treating fertility patients. Membership in ABORM is one potential indicator of this.

  • Ensure your acupuncturist can treat you at your clinic on the day of transfer.