Acupuncture and IVF
Acupuncture may be a valuable adjunct treatment for couples wanting to maximise their IVF chances.
Recent clinical studies into acupuncture ‘s efficacy return varied conclusions. Some studies yield positive findings regarding acupuncture and IVF success due to its abilities to stimulate blood flow to the uterus and ovaries yet others report that it has no impact. For example, a 2016 study determined that “acupuncture improves the clinical pregnancy rate (CPR) among women undergoing IVF (1)”. Further to this, a study researching the efficacy of acupuncture for PCOS patients on IVF concluded that acupuncture “may increase the CPR and OPR (ongoing pregnancy rate) and decrease the risk of OHSS (ovarian hyper stimulation ) in women with PCOS undergoing IVF or ICSI (2). Conversely a recent study, which utilised sham acupuncture as its control, reported that acupuncture may statistically be no better than sham at improving live birth and pregnancy outcomes (3). This study did however conclude that acupuncture provides definite psycho-social benefits for women undergoing IVF (3). In fact one of the study’s co -authors Professor Michael Chapman of the UNSW Sydney and President at the Fertility Society of Australia remarked that “Feeling relaxed and reporting relief from stress and feeling good about themselves is to be welcomed for women as they undergo an IVF cycle (4).”
What is involved in a typical treatment program to optimise IVF results?
Preparation for the IVF Cycle
Essentially, acupuncture can be commenced at anytime during the IVF process. Some couples start after a few unsuccessful cycles whilst others start well in advance.
Sessions can commence up to 3 months before starting an IVF cycle depending on what type of issues couples present with. Focus at this stage is on the following where appropriate:
- conducting an assessment, diagnosis and treatment plan according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles that is specific to the individual or couple
- incorporating dietary and lifestyle changes, herbs and supplements (if necessary) to optimise the health of both partners.
During an IVF Cycle
- Commencement of drugs: Weekly acupuncture is advised. The focus of which is to support the female in dealing with the hormonal changes and stress and anxiety occurring at this time.
- On the day of the Embryo Transfer: Acupuncture is performed before and after the procedure.
- After embryo transfer: Acupuncture is recommended weekly throughout the first trimester.
We practice evidence based acupuncture and this involves following the protocols outlined in clinical studies. Central to these protocols is performing the pre- and post-transfer acupuncture on the same day of the transfer. It is important to us that this is achieved and we endeavour to coordinate the timing of treatments to align with the scheduled transfer time as closely as possible. Where prior notice is given, we are able to guarantee pre- and post-transfer treatments 7 days a week.
(1) Qian Y, Xia XR, Ochin H, Huang C, Gao C, Gao L, et al. Therapeutic effect of acupuncture on the outcomes of in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2016 Dec 19.
(2) Jo,J and Lee, YJ. Effectiveness of acupuncture in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome undergoing in vitro fertilisation or intracytoplasmic sperm injection: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acupunct Med. 2017 Jun;35(3):162-170. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2016-011163.
(3) Smith, C et al: Effect of Acupuncture vs Sham Acupuncture on Live Births Among Women Undergoing In Vitro Fertilization A Randomized Clinical Trial Journal of the American Medical Association 2018 ; 319(19):1990-1998.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27995371 (Qian et al Study)