Traditional Chinese medicine has a long history of using acupuncture, herbs, and nutrition to treat infertile couples. Modern reproductive medicine has also continued to make huge strides over the last few decades in assisting couples previously unable to have children through assisted reproductive therapies (ART) such as IVF, ICSI, IUI, etc. The melding of the these two medical systems has been the focus of a large number of research studies all over the world. It has consistently been shown that the addition of acupuncture, herbs, and nutrition help to increase pregnancy and live birth rates when combined with IVF treatment. It can also help to increase the thickness of the endometrial lining and help the growth of follicles during a cycle. The addition of traditional Chinese medicine to ART treatments also helps to alleviate side effects of some of the medications used as well as reduce stress and anxiety.
A 2008 meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal found acupuncture increased clinical pregnancies in IVF cycles by 65%.
Acupuncture is also beneficial for men during the IVF process. With the use of ICSI, fertilization of eggs injected with the sperm reach a 75-85% success rate. However, ICSI does not improve the overall quality of the sperm. Acupuncture can help improve sperm morphology and motility. Sometimes, after a course of acupuncture treatment, ICSI is no longer needed for the IVF cycle.
Our plan to optimize IVF success
If you are coming to our office for the first time for IVF support, the most optimal timeline for beginning Traditional Chinese medicine treatment would be about 3 months before your planned IVF cycle. It is at this stage where we can have the most impact on balancing hormones and creating an internal environment where the healthiest ovarian follicles can grow toward a pre-antral, antral, and then dominant follicle stage.
However, even if your IVF (or FET, IUI, ICSI, etc) cycle is scheduled for sooner than 3 months out, traditional Chinese medicine can still be incredibly beneficial. In fact, a 2002 study on acupuncture and IVF published in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility showed a 60% improvement in clinical pregnancy rates over the control group – and that was with acupuncture being introduced only twice, before and after the transfer.
Acupuncture for ART preparation – 3+ months before procedure
It is at this stage where acupuncture can affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian-adrenal axis to help balance hormones, strengthen egg quality, and prepare the uterine environment for implantation.
Acupuncture is recommended 1-2 times a week throughout the preparation stage as needed.
Acupuncture during any phase of the IVF cycle
Acupuncture works adjunctively to IVF treatment and is individualized according to what IVF protocols are being used. It can help to reduce side effects of medications and decrease anxiety.
Acupuncture is recommended 1-2 times a week during this time.
Acupuncture after egg retrieval
Acupuncture at this stage can help the body heal from any micro-trauma or inflammation to the uterine tissue after the procedure and help create a calm environment for transfer of the embryo.
One acupuncture session is recommended after egg retrieval and before embryo transfer.
Acupuncture for frozen embryo transfer
Acupuncture is beneficial to increase blood flow to the uterus which helps to create a healthy endometrial lining, improves implantation, and increases pregnancy rates.
Acupuncture is recommended twice weekly for four weeks before FET (along with pre/post transfer), or once weekly if preparation is begun 2-3 months ahead of procedure.
Acupuncture for embryo transfer
Protocols are used which from clinical studies which have been shown to increase pregnancy rates.
Acupuncture is recommended before and after embryo transfer