6 Ways Acupuncture Can Improve IVF Treatments
May 25th, 2018
With Mother’s Day having just passed, it struck me how often we as a society can take for granted the miracle of conceiving a child. Infertility, and difficulty getting or staying pregnant is an increasing problem. In Canada approximately 16% of couples struggle to create a family and
many look to In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) technology to help. Anyone who has used Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) can attest, that this is not an easy path to conception. IVF is an expensive, time consuming, stressful and at times physically demanding procedure. However when successful, it is simply amazing! Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can be
used with ART and specifically IVF to improve fertility and optimize outcomes. Here are 6 ways
Acupuncture may help you on your fertility journey, along with some links to research articles.
1. Reduce stress and anxiety
The stress and anxiety that couples feel as they navigate IVF treatment is real and acute,
and in part inherent in the process. All steps necessary should be taken to help lower
this natural stress response to IVF treatments which may include regular exercise, yoga,
meditation and mindfulness practise and increased family support.
Acupuncture is good at down regulating the nervous system, creating a greater sense of
calm, improving sleep quality, and levelling out the emotional highs and lows that go
along with fertility treatments.
2. Improve your body’s response to IVF medications
This is especially true for women of advanced maternal age, or who have diminished
ovarian reserve. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine used as a pre-treatment to
IVF may increase your ovarian response to fertility hormones and medication. This is
best done 3-6 months in advance of starting IVF. Creating a healthier environment and
increased blood flow to the ovaries assists in the early stages of egg development and
can increase sensitivity to hormonal influences.
3. Reduce the side effects of medications
Common medication side effects such as headaches, bloating, fatigue, lower abdominal
pain, and digestive upset can be diminished with the use of Acupuncture. This is a safe
form of treatment that does not negatively interfere with the IVF process. Herbal
medicine is not commonly combined with IVF medications but specific diet and lifestyle
recommendations may be used to reduce negative side effects.
4. Improve uterine blood flow and uterine lining thickness
A thick, receptive endometrial lining is key to a successful embryo transfer and
implantation. A trilaminar (three layered) 8+ mm uterine lining is optimal, and
acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow to the uterus and assist in creating
a thick juicy lining. Multiple treatments often with electro-acupuncture are necessary to
affect growth of the uterine lining. Herbal medicine in addition to acupuncture may
improve results as well.
5. Increase chance of a live birth
It seems obvious to say that at the end of fertility treatments you want a take home
baby. However, it is not uncommon for women to narrow their view towards a positive
pregnancy test, and stop seeing the whole picture. I have seen many women go ahead
with an embryo transfer when their uterine lining was marginally thick enough, when
their stress levels were through the roof, and they felt exhausted and unwell.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have a long history of safely caring for
women in early pregnancy and optimizing health and well being. Healthy Mom and
healthy baby is the goal!
6. Reduce miscarriage rates
Miscarriage rates vary based on age, with rates increasing with advanced maternal age.
Women under the age of 40 years have a 12-26% miscarriage rate. Genetic
abnormalities with eggs and sperm increase with age, which is one of the main reasons
for increased infertility, and miscarriage rates (38-52%) in women over 40 years of age.
Approximately 50% of miscarriages are due to genetic abnormalities which generally
take place in the first trimester. Many factors can lead to miscarriage and acupuncture
is showing promising results in reducing miscarriage rates that are not due to genetic
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture can be used in preparation for IVF treatments.
How many treatments recommended in advance of an IVF cycle will vary with each individual,
however, as a general rule 3 months of preparation is ideal. In addition, many fertility clinics
have an onsite Acupuncturist to provide pre and post-embryo transfer treatments, which have
been shown to significantly increase IVF success rates. To find out more about how Traditional
Chinese Medicine can support you in your quest to create a family, contact Amy Lipsett, R.Ac,
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