Acupuncture has been used as a traditional medicine in China for thousands of years, providing a safe and effective treatment for a range of health problems. Recent scientific research has demonstrated its effectiveness in improving the chances of becoming pregnant with reproductive technologies such as IVF and IUI. Chinese medicine used before and during fertility treatments aims to improve the likelihood of success in a number of ways.
Improving the quality of eggs and sperm
Eggs and sperm are subjected to a number of rigorous processes during IVF and IUI treatments. Stronger and healthier cells are more likely to survive and maintain their vitality, increasing the chances of fertilization and implantation. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be used to support the quality and development of eggs and increase the numbers, motility (how fast they swim) and morphology (their shape) of sperm.
Supporting a thick and smooth endometrium
A thick and healthy uterine lining (endometrium) is important for the implantation and nutrition of an embryo. Acupuncture treatments are tailored to each stage of the cycle to support and prepare the uterus for implantation. Chinese herbs given after embryo transfer can also increase the receptiveness of the uterine lining.
Reduce stress during fertility treatments
Most people using assisted reproductive technologies (ART) experience an increase in stress and anxiety. Chronic stress may cause changes in hormones, interfering with the development and release of eggs and making them less likely to implant. Regular acupuncture treatments can assist in the management of chronic stress, helping patients to feel rested and grounded and better able to cope with the rigours of fertility treatment.
A recent study found beneficial changes in stress hormones in patients who received acupuncture during the medication phase of IVF treatment. The women receiving acupuncture also had significantly higher live births. Details of the study are listed below.
Increase the chances of implantation
An extensive review of studies looking at acupuncture and IVF found that treatments given on the day of embryo transfer increased the rate of live births. Details of the review are listed below.
When should I start, and how often will I need acupuncture treatments?
Acupuncture is a holistic therapy and the number of treatments will depend on your individual circumstances. Some patients choose to have treatments only on the day of embryo transfer, while others have weekly or fortnightly treatments during their IVF journey.
Ideally you will have an appointment prior to starting IVF, but acupuncture is suitable for any stage of IVF treatment. Your acupuncturist will work with you to tailor a treatment plan that will be most effective for you.
Magarelli, P., Cridennda, L., Cohen, M., 2009. “Changes in serum cortisol and prolactin associated with acupuncture during controlled ovarian hyperstimulation in women undergoing in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer treatment” Fertility and Sterility,Volume 92, Issue 6 pp 1870-1879.
Full text PDF at http://www.dikurnashi.co.il/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/cridennda-mag-cortisol-levels1.pdf
Cheong, YC., Hung, Y., Ng, E., Ledger, W., 2009. “Acupuncture and assisted conception”, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006920.pub2
Full text HTML at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD006920.pub2/full