Benefits of acupuncture for IVF patients


acupuncture for IVF IUI and fertility

If you have been trying to conceive for a while, you might have heard of the benefits of acupuncture on fertility.

Your reproductive endocrinologist and fertility clinic might even have told you to start getting acupuncture treatments. The evidence showing acupuncture helps with IVF is abundant. [1]


In this article, we will go over why acupuncture and Chinese medicine can support you through this roller coaster of a journey, and when it is best to start getting care.



Going to the root: far beyond protocols


What we provide at taproot goes far beyond the standardized protocol that you get only on the day of embryo transfer. With a combination of acupuncture, diet, and lifestyle therapies and traditional Chinese Medicine herbal formulas, we can shift the situation way more profoundly. ⁠


A study that compared a group of women following a complete Chinese medicine pre-treatment with a group of women who only received standardized acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer. The odds of live birth were 53% higher in the group that had received a complete care regimen.

Relieving stress throughout IVF


A 2001 study that was published in Fertility and Sterility focused on the mindset and emotional state of women going through IVF. It found that the women who were most stressed and worried about the procedure were likely to have 20% fewer eggs available for retrieval, and a fertilization rate that was 19% less than more optimistic women.


Stress can tremendously impact fertility for those trying naturally, but also for those who undergo IVF [3]. That is when acupuncture comes to play! A study examining the effect of acupuncture on depression and stress-related illnesses concluded that acupuncture is a viable option to relieve stress in women that are undergoing fertility treatment.


Preparing the soil: before your first round


acupuncture for IVF IUI and fertility

At our practice, an ideal and typical acupuncture treatment plan to support an IVF includes minimum 9 to 12 sessions prior to embryo transfer. At the rate of one session every week, you are looking at minimum 3 months of care. It is in our experience the typical minimum time frame needed to really shift any gynecological presentation, fertility or otherwise.

Individual treatment details will vary and be highly personalized.⁠ We are slowly building the soil for the seed to grow, and it takes time.⁠


Eggs and sperm take roughly 90 days to develop. For optimal results, both partners should begin their fertility acupuncture protocol approximately 3 months in advance of any planned fertility treatment, IVF or IUI.

Acupuncture works on the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Ovarian (HPO) axis, regulating hormones and improving ovulation. It also increases blood flow to the pelvic region, can help improve the blood supply to the reproductive organs, improve the quality of the endometrial lining.

Researchers found int a study that after several acupuncture treatments, participants showed improved endometrial thickness, reduced stress, and improved patient satisfaction [2]


Supporting the retrieval: more and better eggs


acupuncture for IVF IUI and fertility

The quality of the eggs depend on the DNA and the environment in which they are developing.

The lifecycle of an egg is north of 150 days, but the 3 months prior to ovulation is the most critical time of cell division. This is why we encourage our patients to plan at least 9-12 visits before their retrieval date.

A study found that acupuncture can help increase the high-quality egg rate and high-quality embryo rates for women suffering from infertility [4] .



Acupuncture is also found to improve the number of follicles retrieved in women with poor ovarian response. [5] Another study by Dr. Susan Emmons, a Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Oregon Health Sciences University, demonstrated that acupuncture increased the number of follicles in women undergoing IVF.


Accompanying you on the day of the embryo transfer


acupuncture for IVF IUI and fertility

The benefits of acupuncture on the day of transfer are so well known and documented that most fertility clinics have a dedicated treatment room for acupuncturists.


The standard treatment includes 2 sessions of acupuncture, right there at the fertility clinic. You will get a 30-minute treatment right before and one right after transfer.





The famous study that popularized acupuncture for IVF was conducted in Germany and had 180 participants. 180 women who were undergoing IVF got divided into two groups of 80. One group had IVF with acupuncture and the other group had IVF without acupuncture.

The group that had acupuncture had a pregnancy rate of 42.5% versus the group that had no acupuncture that had a pregnancy rate of 26.3%.


There is almost a 50% better outcome for pregnancy rates in the group of women who have received acupuncture the day of transfer.

Two other studies have confirmed these outcomes: this one and this one.

So even if you have not been receiving care beforehand, it is still worthwhile to contact an acupuncturist to help you on your big day.

Supporting the first trimester and preventing miscarriage


acupuncture for pregnancy and to prevent miscarriage

Research has shown that acupuncture during pregnancy may be a safe treatment for relieving discomfort without adverse effects on delivery outcome [6] .For mom, acupuncture can help to reduce stress, nausea, morning sickness and fatigue.


Acupuncture is known to increase blood flow to the uterus. Because baby gets nourishment through the mother's blood in utero, it then makes sense that acupuncture can help to provide the baby with more nourishment.



Studies have also shown that acupuncture can contribute to beneficial hormonal responses with decreased miscarriage rates. [7]

What about the male part of the equation ?


The male side makes up half the genetics of an embryo! Often in clinic, we only see the woman when an IVF is planned. It is mistakenly assumed that the female partner is the one responsible for a couple’s infertility.


In reality, 30% of cases of infertility are related to the male-factor alone [8]

Men can also use acupuncture to increase fertility. Read our article here about male fertility.

No matter where you are in your

women's health, fertility, pregnancy & mothering journey,

if you need support, we can help.

In addition to our own team of fertility & women's health acupuncturists, we are well-connected within the Los Angeles- Pasadena area community to help you

find the right integrative and holistic care for you.

On our website, you can learn more about our services, and book an appointment.

If you have more questions please call our front desk, at 626-841-2991, or email us.



References


[1] Stener-Victorin E, Humaidan P. Use of acupuncture in female infertility and a summary of recent acupuncture studies related to embryo transfer. Acupunct Med. 2006 Dec;24(4):157-63. doi: 10.1136/aim.24.4.157. PMID: 17264833.


[2] Hullender Rubin LE, Anderson BJ, Craig LB. Acupuncture and in vitro fertilisation research: current and future directions. Acupunct Med. 2018 Apr;36(2):117-122. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2016-011352. Epub 2018 Feb 10. PMID: 29440044.


[3] C.D. Lynch, R. Sundaram, J.M. Maisog, A.M. Sweeney, G.M. Buck Louis, Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study—the LIFE study, Human Reproduction, Volume 29, Issue 5, May 2014, Pages 1067–1075, https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/deu032


[4] Lian F, Chen C, Xiang S. [Improvement of the oocyte quality with electroacupuncture in infertility patients of kidney deficiency pattern]. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2015 Feb;35(2):109-13. Chinese. PMID: 25854012.


[5] Chen J, Liu LL, Cui W, Sun W. [Effects of electroacupuncture on in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer (IVF-ET) of patients with poor ovarian response]. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2009 Oct;29(10):775-9. Chinese. PMID: 19873910.


[6] Moon HY, Kim MR, Hwang DS, Jang JB, Lee J, Shin JS, Ha I, Lee YJ. Safety of acupuncture during pregnancy: a retrospective cohort study in Korea. BJOG. 2020 Jan;127(1):79-86. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.15925. Epub 2019 Sep 19. PMID: 31483927.


[7] Betts D, Smith CA, Hannah DG. Acupuncture as a therapeutic treatment option for threatened miscarriage. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012;12:20. Published 2012 Mar 22. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-20


[8] Agarwal A, Mulgund A, Hamada A, Chyatte MR. A unique view on male infertility around the globe. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2015;13:37. Published 2015 Apr 26. doi:10.1186/s12958-015-0032-1

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