Acupuncture and IVF
Acupuncture can 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 (Qian et al 2016)”. 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 ( Jo,J et al 2017). 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 (Smith, C 2018). This study did however conclude that acupuncture provides definite psycho-social benefits for women undergoing IVF (Smith, C 2018). 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 (medicalxpress.com 2018).”
How can Acupuncture improve IVF Success?
IVF acupuncture performed according to accepted protocols can :
- regulate neuro endocrinological factors (Anderson et al 2007)
- optimise endometrial (lining) growth (Yu, W et al 2007)
- improve response to stimulatory hormones optimising follicular growth (Magarelli, PC et al 2009)
- increase blood flow to the uterus and ovaries (Anderson et al 2007)
- modulate cytokines ; reducing inflammation and immune hyperactivity (Anderson et al 2007)
- promote relaxation and eliminate interference of stress hormones (Anderson et al 2007)
- improve sperm quality including morphology, motility and count ( Chen et al 2014).
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:
- addressing any diagnosed causes of sub-fertility/infertility
- balancing hormones and promoting circulation to the ovaries and uterus.
- regulating the adrenals and the nervous system
- 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 on supporting the hormonal changes, promoting circulation and reducing stress and anxiety.
- 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 to help support implantation and growth during the crucial initial stages of foetal development.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Anderson, B.J., Haimovici, F., Ginsburg, E.S., Schust, D.J., & Wayne, P.M. (2007). In vitro fertilisation and acupuncture: clinical efficacy and mechanistic basis. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 13 (3), 38-48.
Grant, L-E., and Cochrane, S. (2014). Acupuncture for the mental and emotional health women undergoing IVF treatment: A comprehensive review. Australian Journal of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, 9 (1), 5-12.
Manheimer, E., Zhang, G., Udoff, L., Haramati, A., Langenberg, P., Berman, B.M., & Bouter, L.M. (2008). Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth on women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal, 336 (7643), 545-9.
Sterner-Victorin, E., Waldenstrom, U., Andersson, S.A., and Wikland, M. (1996). Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries of infertile woman with electro-acupuncture. Human Reproduction, 11 (6), 1314-1317.
Chen, A., et al. (2011). Effect of acupuncture-moxibustion therapy on sperm quality in infertility patients with sperm abnormality. Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science, 9 (4), 219-222.
Magarelli, PC, D Cridennda, M Cohen. Changes in serum cortisol and prolactin associated with acupuncture during controlled ovarian hyperstimulation in women undergoing in vitro fertilization–embryo transfer treatment Fertil Steril. 2009 Dec;92(6):1870-9
Yu W et.al. A pilot study evaluating the combination of acupuncture with sildenafil on endometrial thickness Presented at the Pacific Coast Reproductive Society Annual Conference 2007
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27995371 (Qian et al Study)