What are the benefits of having acupuncture will undergoing IVF?
A recent article in Fertility and Sterility medical journal reports that acupuncture has the following benefits;
- Increased blood flow to the uterus and therefore uterine wall thickness: an important marker for fertility
- Increased endorphin production which, in turn, has shown to effect the release of gonodotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), a-decapeptide involved in regulation reproduction
- Lower stress hormones responsible for infertility
- Impact on plasma levels of the fertility hormones: follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), oestrodiol (E2) and Progesterone
- Normalisation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, a key process in fertility.
I am considering starting IVF; how long should I see an acupuncturist before my IVF cycle?
In the ideal world we suggest that clients come in 3 menstrual cycles prior to IVF procedures so that your acupuncturist can begin correcting any underlying conditions that may affect your procedure. However you can start anytime during the IVF cycle.
I have started my IVF cycle is it too late to start acupuncture?
No you can start acupuncture support at any time. Herbal medicines are not given unless specifically approved by your fertility specialist during and IVF procedure.
It’s my first IVF attempt, can I still use acupuncture?
Yes, we are certainly able to support your body through IVF even if it is your first cycle or subsequent cycles.
How many treatments will I need?
This varies, depending on your previous fertility history and medical conditions. Your practitioner will guide you through the process and suggest the best treatment plan. However below is a sample of an expected treatment plan.
Before a stimulation cycle or assisted cycle
Schedule: 1 – 2 treatments weekly
Before you get started or resume on your assisted fertility journey you may benefit from acupuncture as it can regulate your hormones, may contribute to follicle development and increase implantation. Studies have suggested that after 8 acupuncture sessions a marked improvement in blood flow to the uterus, and improved endometrial lining thickness.
During a stimulation cycle or pre-transfer
Schedule: 2-3 treatments for 4 weeks (optimal) plus treatment on day of transfer
Acupuncture treatments during this stage are to increase arterial blood flow to the uterus, nourish and support the endometrium and ovarian cell growth. Acupuncture can also be used to manage any side effects you might experience and reduce anxiety. The treatment protocols used are based on clinical experience. You may see reduced fatigue, moodiness, abdominal swelling and discomfort.
Acupuncture during this stage when combined with Acupuncture on the day of transfer has resulted in significant improved pregnancy rates in IVF.
Pre and Post embryo Acupuncture treatments
Schedule: 1 session within 24 hours before and 1 session after embryo transfer
Acupuncture is thought to increase the arterial blood flow to the uterus to nourish and support the endometrium, as well as create physical and mental relaxation for the woman prior to the transfer.
For the treatment after transfer, Acupuncture treatment is used to create a calm environment in the uterus and minimise any discomfort or cramping from the transfer procedure. Acupuncture points are selected that will support healthy implantation of the embryo and also improve the health of the blood flow and tissue of endometrium to support a pregnancy.
Continual Acupuncture support after a transfer
Schedule: Day 3, 6, 9 post transfer and then continuing weekly once pregnancy is confirmed. By continuing to stimulate blood flow to the blastocyst, Acupuncture helps to maintain the health and strength of the blastocyst-corpus-luteum relationship, thereby maintaining the proper level of progesterone. Then, after six weeks, your placenta takes over the role of secreting progesterone. Acupuncture stimulates blood flow to the placenta helping it to do its job of protecting and nourishing your growing baby.
As Acupuncturists we approach pregnancy in the role of supporting and bolstering pregnancy, and overall wellness of the mother. Our focus is now on nurturing and bolstering a healthy pregnancy, and for many of our clients a healthy labour process. However we know that Acupuncture may also have a role in the prevention of miscarriage as discussed below.
Acupuncture has been demonstrated to have significant immune-modulating effects. This may be important in reducing the risk of rejection by the mother’s immune system in early days as the embryo implants and a pregnancy is established.
In addition regular monitoring of the pulse (a TCM diagnostic technique) and regular treatment with acupuncture designed to reduce anxiety offers you important and reassuring support during these first few weeks of pregnancy. Clinical trials have shown that regular monitoring and reassurance reduces miscarriage rates. Studies in China have shown that Chinese herbs can reduce the incidence of miscarriage in early pregnancy in IVF.
Can you assist when an IVF cycle has failed?
Unfortunately undergoing IVF doesn’t automatically mean that you will conceive. In the majority most cases 1-3 transfers of a healthy embryo will result in pregnancy. For some women it is important to work on the quality of the lining and environment, which the embryo is being transferred into. In cases such as repeated embryo failure at Balanced Life Health Care, our experienced practitioners will recommend a treatment plan for your unique situation, often a course of at least three months of regular acupuncture sessions and Chinese herbal medicine.
 A pilot study evaluating the combination of acupuncture with sildenafil on endometrial thickness; Yu W et. Al; Presented at the Pacific Coast Reproductive Society Annual Conference 2007
 Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterus arteries of infertile women with electro-acupuncture; Stener-Victorian E, et al.; Human Reproduction 1996: 11:1314-1317
 Acupuncture & IVF Poor responders: A Cure?; Margarelli P, Cridennda D.; Fertility & Sterility; 2004; 81 (Supplement 3): S20
 Effect of Chinese herbal treatment on Th1- and Th2- type cytokines, progesterone and beta-human chorionic gonatropin in early pregnant women of threatened abortion; Liu F, Luo SP; Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine; 2009 Oct: 15 (5): 353-8