Acupuncture Assisted IVF

Acupuncture and IVF (in-vitro fertilization)

In-vitro fertilization was originally developed to treat infertility due to fallopian tube problems.  It is being used today to help couples who are experiencing other issues such as poor sperm quality, surrogacy, advanced maternal age, and unexplained infertility.  Recently, clinical research has shown that integrating acupuncture with IVF can contribute positively to how you feel during your IVF cycle, and may also improve your chances for a successful pregnancy.

The combination of ancient medical techniques (such as acupuncture) with cutting-edge medical technology (such as IVF) may seem strange at first.  However, there are sound reasons to incorporate an integrated approach to fertility in order to maximize your chance for success.

Treatment Schedules : Various Options Given Time & Resources...

Option A – Acupuncture as pre-conception care for 3 months before IVF cycle

Based on medical consensus that the development of follicles is a 90 day process, this treatment plan is designed to help improve blood flow to the organs of reproduction, and to reduce stress, from the stage of primary oocyte until egg retrieval.

* 1 treatment per week beginning 2 months before IVF medications begin

* 2 treatments per week for 4 weeks before egg retrieval


Option B – Acupuncture before and during medication phase of IVF

Based on the above mentioned research regarding increased blood flow to the uterus and a beneficial regulation of hormones, this treatment schedule and protocol reports a significant increase in pregnancy rates.

* 2 treatments per week for 4 weeks before egg retrieval


Option C – Acupuncture at any phase of the IVF cycle

At any point during your IVF cycle, you may seek relief from side effects such as anxiety, low energy, moodiness, hot flashes or night sweats, abdominal swelling, or poor sleep. These treatments will be catered to each woman based on Traditional Chinese Medicine theories and clinical experience, with special attention to improving uterine blood flow and reducing stress as need.

*1 or 2 treatments per week as needed


Option D – Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer

Treatments are based on protocols which show that women with an expected pregnancy rate of 35% or below benefit from acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer.

*i. before or after – one treatment
*ii. before and after transfer – two treatments

Option E – Acupuncture during the first trimester of pregnancy

A positive home pregnancy test or rising blood hCG levels is the first step towards a successful birth.  Weekly acupuncture treatments during your first trimester may help keep your body balanced and strong during that precious time.

* 1 treatment per week until week 12

Acupuncture Increases Blood Flow to the Uterus & Ovaries

Research has shown that poor blood flow of the uterine arteries is associated with decreased pregnancy rates following an IVF embryo transfer.  A 1996 study by Stener-Victorin et al, reported in “Human Reproduction” (the official journal of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology), showed that blood flow to the uterus was significantly increased after 8 acupuncture treatments.  This effect was present both immediately after the 8th treatment, and 10-14 days after the completion of the treatments.

A 2003 study by Stener-Victorin et al demonstrated that acupuncture can significantly increase blood flow to the ovaries.  While this study was done on rats, we can assume that a similar mechanism will work on women.


Acupuncture Normalizes Cortisol & Prolactin Levels During an IVF Cycle

In a 2009 study by Magarelli et al, women undergoing an IVF cycle were treated with acupuncture in the weeks before egg retrieval to improve blood flow to the uterine arteries.  The researchers found that these women showed beneficial changes in their blood levels of cortisol and prolactin when compared to a control group.  Acupuncture appears to have normalized these stress hormones, which had been artificially depressed during the IVF cycle.  The researchers also reported significantly higher pregnancy and live birth rates in the group which received acupuncture treatments.

Acupuncture Helps Decrease Stress During an IVF Cycle

The importance of reducing stress is being acknowledged in modern IVF research.  A 2009 study by Balk et alexplored whether acupuncture could affect the perceived level of stress at the time of embryo transfer, and whether these perceived stress levels play a role in the outcome of an IVF cycle.  Women who received acupuncture in this study had both higher rates of pregnancy, and lower reported levels of stress.

Although a 2010 study of Buck et al involved neither IVF nor acupuncture, it did look at the relationship between stress and fertility.  It found that a positive stress response, as measured by salivary alpha-amylase levels, significantly reduced the probability of conception. This reflects another way how acupuncture, which reduces stress hormones, may improve fertility.

Both Sides of The Acupuncture and IVF Research

While the majority of research published in the respected journal Fertility & Sterility indicates that integrating acupuncture and IVF creates a favorable result, it is important to mention that there are a few articles which indicate otherwise:

    • 2007 study indicates that acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer is not always beneficial and postulates the location of treatment to be important; however a separate 2007 study finds that treatment on the day before and after embryo transfer at an off-site clinic does produce an beneficial outcome.

In light of this research, it is generally agreed that several weeks of the correct bi-weekly acupuncture treatments result in significantly improved blood flow to the uterine arteries.  This protocol has also improved pregnancy rates after IVF.  On the day of embryo transfer, treatments which are limited to that day only appear to statistically benefit those women who have an expected pregnancy rate of 35% or less (including women with 1 or more previous unsuccessful IVF cycles, or women over the age of 35).  Women who have an expected pregnancy rate of 50-60% may not receive any statistical benefit from acupuncture on embryo transfer day only.

The Best Way to Schedule Your Acupuncture IVF Support Treatment Plan

During the 4 weeks before your eggs are harvested from your ovaries, 2 acupuncture treatments per week are recommended to prepare your body for IVF.  Considering that the generation of follicles is actually a 3 month process, you may also consider a series of once per week treatments in the two months before your bi-weekly treatments begin (especially recommended for couples who have had an unsuccessful IVF cycle in the past). Around the time your embryo is introduced to your womb, an acupuncture treatment before and after your transfer may be recommended.  Depending on your situation, it may be beneficial to arrange your treatment on-site at your IVF clinic.

Natural Solutions Acupuncture offers Fertility and IVF assistance to San Diego thru their locations in Oceanside & Rancbo Bernardo.