Acupuncture as an adjunct treatment to IVF
The potential benefits of acupuncture together with in-vitro fertilization (IVF) have been well studied. Many health practitioners have recommended acupuncture as an adjunct to assist IVF treatment.
There is continuing research into how acupuncture can assist with the effectiveness of IVF treatment and its possible therapeutic mechanisms. Research suggests there are several plausible ways in which acupuncture may help with fertility treatment. These include increasing blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, helping to optimize ovarian function and egg quality, helping regulate fertility hormones and immune function, and reducing the potential side effects associated with fertility drugs. Additionally, acupuncture helps reduce the effects of stress and improves general health and wellbeing. These combined effects help to improve the likelihood of a positive outcome during IVF treatment.
A recent research paper titled "Acupuncture and in vitro fertilisation research: current and future directions” was published on 10 Feb 2018 in Acupunt Med. The paper presents an overview and critique of the current evidence on acupuncture's impact in IVF-related stress. It concludes “Two to three acupuncture sessions performed on or around the day of embryo transfer are insufficient interventions to improve IVF birth outcomes but provide significant IVF-related stress reduction. Research investigating acupuncture to support IVF is heterogeneous and confounded by the lack of an appropriate comparator. However, evidence suggests several acupuncture sessions improve endometrial thickness, reduce stress, and improve patient satisfaction. Observational studies suggest more sessions are associated with increases in clinical pregnancy and live birth rates. An optimised acupuncture intervention with a reasonable comparator is necessary for future studies, with evidence-based guidance on technique and number of sessions. Acupuncture should not be rejected as an adjuvant therapy for IVF, but more studies are needed to clarify acupuncture’s role in supporting IVF cycles.”
Below, we summarize the different stages during IVF treatment when acupuncture may be involved. The recommended options may vary from person to person. At our clinic, we will work out an individualized treatment plan that suits your personal circumstances and gives you the best chance of achieving pregnancy.
The aim and benefit: Prior to IVF, acupuncture is used to help maximize fertility by increasing blood supply to the uterus and ovaries and helping to correct hormonal imbalance. Treatment primarily focuses on maximizing endometrial thickness, follicle growth and egg quality. Acupuncture also works to strengthen your overall health and prepares your mind and body for your upcoming IVF cycle.
Treatment schedule: weekly or twice weekly treatment for one to three months before egg retrieval.
Three days after egg collection
The aim and benefit: Following egg retrieval, treatment is focused on healing the trauma and preventing uterine cramping after surgery and replenishing energy for implantation. The calming effects of acupuncture can also help a woman prepare for embryo transfer.
Treatment schedule: 1 treatment 2 or 3 days after egg retrieval
On the day of embryo transfer
The aim and benefit: acupuncture treatments carried out on the day of embryo transfer, are focused on reducing stress and promoting a positive and relaxed state of mind. It also helps to improve the circulation of energy around the uterus and fallopian tubes, so as to create an optimum environment for implantation.
Treatment schedule: 2 acupuncture treatments on the day of embryo transfer, including one before the transfer and another one after.
After you conceive
The aim and benefit: Acupuncture treatment during your first trimester is designed to strengthen the attachment of the embryo to the uterine wall and stimulate the flow of blood to the uterus, hence reducing the risk of miscarriage. It can also help to reduce anxiety and relieve morning sickness.
Treatment schedule: 1 treatment per week until week 12. Foetal malpresentation is treated at weeks 32-34. We also recommend that you have acupuncture treatment to help prepare your body for labour in the last 4-6 weeks before birth and reduce the risk of being overdue.