ACUPUNCTURE AND IVF
In 2002, the Fertility and Sterility Journal (Paulus et al (2002) 721-4) released a study entitled ‘Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy’. The results from this paper showed clinical pregnancies resulted in 42.5% of patients from the acupuncture group compared with only 26.3% of patients in the control group (no acupuncture). It was concluded that acupuncture improved the clinical pregnancy rate after IVF or ICSI treatment.
Since the release of this article many IVF clinics across the world have recognised the benefits of acupuncture treatment to assist with the IVF procedure.
Preparing for IVF with Chinese Medicine
It is generally recommended to undergo one to three months of treatment before undertaking the IVF procedure. This allows for the preparation of the uterus including improving the ovarian function and blood flow, increasing the egg quality and regulating the hormones. This is carried out through acupuncture and Chinese herbal supplementation and depending on the individual the timeframe can vary. Chinese medicine aims to regain a regular menstrual cycle and it is recommended that during this period you refrain from actively conceiving.
Phase 1: Control menstrual cycle
This phase enables the doctors to ‘take control’ of a women’s menstrual cycle. This is accomplished either by taking the contraceptive pill for a month and/or by using a hormonal nasal spray and/or injections. The method at this phase depends on the clinic and on the individual.
Acupuncture treatment focuses on improving the ovarian function. Regular weekly treatments are recommended at this stage.
Phase 2: Stimulation of ovaries (Day2/3 – Day 12/13)
The ovaries are stimulated to enhance follicle development. This is accomplished by using medication that mimics the Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and LH (Luteinising hormone). Around Day 12/13 an injection/ nasal spray to stimulate ovulation will be given.
Acupuncture can assist with producing more follicles and thickening the uterine lining to prepare for implantation of an embryo. Regular weekly treatments are recommended at this stage.
Phase 3: Egg retrieval
The ovarian follicles will be extracted from the ovaries either by using a laparoscope or by the transvaginal ultrasound method.
Acupuncture can assist at this stage by relaxing the cervical opening making it easier for retrieval and transfer. It also assists with calming the patient and relaxing the uterus. Acupuncture before the retrieval is recommended (either on the day or the day before).
Phase 4: Embryo Transfer
After successful external fertilization the embryo is ready to be implanted.
Acupuncture assists in relaxing the uterus to prevent uterine contractions and to help the blood circulation to the uterus. It is recommended to have acupuncture treatments before and after transfer.
After transfer, regular weekly treatments can assist with preventing uterine contractions that may cause a miscarriage. It can also aid in relieving any stress that the procedure may have caused.
Liang, L., Acupuncture and IVF, (2004) Blue Poppy Press, USA
Paulus, W.E et al., Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy (2002) Fertility and Sterility, 77(4) 21-4.
Taylor, K., Chinese Medicine and IVF: How to maximize your patients’ chance of getting pregnant (2011), China Books, Australia.
Wesley Monash IVF, http://wesley.monashivf.edu.au
This article is intended to be used as a guideline only. Information was sourced from current literature available at the time of writing. IVF clinics vary in their method, medication and technique and therefore may differ from what is provided in this article.