Embarking upon IVF treatment is not a decision that is made lightly, so it’s only natural for prospective parents to want to do everything they can to promote their chances of a successfully outcome.
To date there has been very little research into the area of acupuncture and IVF, however I thought I would explain some of the theory behind the Chinese medicine approach, to help you decide if it is something you’d like to explore.
Chinese medicine takes into consideration the overall health of the individual, as the individual after all will be the one producing the healthy eggs or sperm for the IVF process.
As an acupuncturist, I like to start working with you at least 3 months before your IVF cycle, to help prepare you for the physical and emotional demands of the process. As your overall health and wellbeing may affect your chances of becoming pregnant, together we will aim to improve things such as your digestive health, emotional resilience, and sleep habits, using traditional Chinese medicine techniques.
ACUPUNCTURE AND IVF FOR MEN
Addressing male fertility seems more straight forward than female fertility, as there is no monthly cycle to work around.
Fertility in men depends on the quality and quantity of sperm produced. In the months before IVF starts, it’s a good idea to improve your diet and modify any lifestyle factors which may impact the health and mobility of your swimmers. Your acupuncturist will discuss with you any areas for adjustment, based on your personal health and individual circumstances.
ACUPUNCTURE AND IVF FOR WOMEN
Acupuncture treatments in the initial stages of IVF are focused on improving Qi and blood flow to the ovaries in the hope that this will enhance follicle growth and quality, as well as endometrial thickness. Diet and lifestyle factors may be addressed, as ideally you want to have your body in tip top condition, and for your emotional landscape to be as balanced as possible.
The second phase of acupuncture treatment occurs between trigger and egg pickup (roughly day 11-14). This is a small window (around 36 hours) where the ovaries are triggered to mimic ovulation in preparation for collection. Many women feel quite tense and anxious at this time, and then feel tense and anxious that this may affect their chances of becoming pregnant! This is why acupuncture treatments at this stage aim to relieve stress, and any other symptoms and side-effects such as insomnia, dizziness, headaches, abdominal pain, and nausea.
The third phase of acupuncture treatment occurs after egg collection (roughly day 14-16) and aims to reduce the effects of medication such as swelling and abdominal bloating. Directing energy and blood to the abdomen is thought to promote healing, as well as prepare the endometrium for transfer of the embryo.
The next phase of the IVF cycle is embryo transfer (roughly day 19). Acupuncture treatment may be offered on the same day, both before and after transfer, as it may help the patient to relax and reduce their stress response, which some fear can discourage the implantation of the embryo during IVF.
The final stage is implantation. This occurs roughly 4-8 days after the embryo transfer, around the time the embryo would naturally implant in the uterus. Acupuncture treatment now aims to direct blood flow to the uterus, where a thick, nutrient rich lining is necessary for the embryo to attach and grow; and again, relaxation is a key focus.
I have had many female clients report that acupuncture treatment for IVF gives them an opportunity to discuss in a confidential and safe environment:
- how the cycle is unfolding,
- if and where it is varying from past cycles
- their physical and emotional wellbeing.
People do not always understand the pressures surrounding IVF treatment, and partners are not always able to provide support in a calm and reassuring manner. An acupuncturist may be able to assist with information on lifestyle factors, in addition to offering emotional support to help your IVF treatment go as smoothly as possible.
Lyttleton, J 2013, Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine, 2nd edn, Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, Edinburgh.
Maciocia, G 1998, Obstetrics & Gynecology in Chinese Medicine, Churchill Livingstone, New York.
Szmelskyj, I & Aquilina, L 2015, Acupuncture for IVF and Assisted Reproduction: An integrated approach to treatment and management, Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, Edinburgh.