By Mary Sabo, L.Ac DACM
There are many scientific studies demonstrating the benefits of combining acupuncture with Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Let’s look at the current research so you can understand how to optimize this integrative approach.
Going through ART cycles can be incredibly stressful and anxiety provoking. Almost all women undergoing IVF report some level of anxiety. These cycles are costly, not always covered by insurance, and statistically results can range from 3.5% to 36.6% success per cycle depending on maternal age[i]. One study found that stress and anxiety levels were high whether patients were experiencing their first IVF or were on subsequent cycles. However, women in this study who reported lower stress and anxiety levels on the day prior to oocyte retrieval had higher pregnancy rates.[ii] Another study showed that techniques to reduce stress in couples struggling to conceive resulted in improvements to both pregnancy outcomes and quality of life.[iii] Acupuncture has not only been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, but has also demonstrated positive impacts on reproductive health.[iv]
Many fertility doctors are becoming aware of the benefits their patients experience with the addition of acupuncture to their ART cycles. Some clinics have even made acupuncturists available onsite. Receiving acupuncture treatments during an IVF (including during oocyte hyperstimulation phase, before retrieval, and before and after embryo transfer) has shown improved pregnancy rates in several different studies. However, a more recent study showed that working regularly with an acupuncturist who gives customized care, including prescribing appropriate herbs and supplements in the months leading up to and during an IVF, resulted in even higher live birth rates. [v]
If you are struggling to conceive or have just started the process and are feeling anxious about it, you should consider adding acupuncture and Chinese medicine to your care. It can not only increase the odds of conceiving, but can also improve your quality of life by reducing stress and anxiety while you try to get pregnant.
TIMING TREATMENTS WITH YOUR ART CYCLES:
In most cases, weekly acupuncture sessions are recommended. If you start using ART, you can speak with Mary about the ideal schedule to support you during your cycle. During an IVF the following schedule is typically most helpful:
- weekly acupuncture leading up to the start of your medications
- twice a week during the ovarian stimulation phase, timing one before the retrieval
- before and after embryo transfer
- a session one week after the transfer to support a potential pregnancy
During an IUI, weekly sessions are recommended with one timed around the day of the IUI. This schedule is a bit more flexible as the cycle is not as controlled.
If you have any questions, please contact us!
[i] Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology statistic. (June 15, 2016) https://www.sartcorsonline.com/rptCSR_PublicMultYear.aspx?ClinicPKID=0
[ii] Kathy Turner, Margaret F. Reynolds-May, Emily M. Zitek, Rebecca L. Tisdale, Allison B. Carlisle, and Lynn M. Westphal, Stress and Anxiety Scores in First and Repeat IVF Cycles: A Pilot Study PLoS One. 2013; 8(5): e63743.
[iii] Frederiksen Y, Farver-Vestergaard I, Skovgård NG, Ingerslev HJ, Zachariae R. Efficacy of psychosocial interventions for psychological and pregnancy outcomes in infertile women and men: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open. 2015 Jan 28;5(1)
[iv] Suzanne Cochrane, Caroline A Smith, Alphia Possamai-Inesedy, Alan Bensoussan. Acupuncture and women’s health: an overview of the role of acupuncture and its clinical management in women’s reproductive health. Int J Womens Health. 2014; 6: 313–325. Published online 2014 March 17
[v]Lee E. Hullender Rubin, Michael S. Opsahl, Klaus Wiemer, Scott D. Mist, and Aaron B. Caughey Impact of Whole Systems Traditional Chinese Medicine on In Vitro Fertilization Outcomes Reprod Biomed Online. 2015 Jun; 30(6): 602–612.