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How Acupuncture Can Improve IVF Success Rates.




In the world we live in today, starting or expanding your family can require some outside help. You may have irregular cycles, poor quality fertile mucous,  painful periods, low progesterone or maybe you’re not ovulating or perhaps your partner’s sperm quality is not optimal. There are a multitude of reasons why you may be having trouble, despite your best effort, you are not alone. The World Health Organisation reported that approximately 1 in 6 adults worldwide experience infertility. In fact, one in every 18 babies in Australia are now born through IVF and many couples are choosing to support conventional fertility treatments with acupuncture. Within the whole system of Chinese medicine, acupuncture is one treatment. Although evidence is still emerging, here are some ways research has shown that acupuncture supports patients to conceive.



IVF Timing


New research from Perth has shown that the time of year your egg collection is done, likely related to increased hours of sunlight, can improve your success rate. The live birth rate of babies was 30% greater for women who had their egg collections done in summer.

 

Three months of preparation for IVF with diet, Chinese herbs and antioxidants targeting egg health can significantly improve your chances of having a baby.

 

It’s estimated that around one third of women undertaking IVF are using acupuncture to support their IVF journey.



1.      Acupuncture improves blood flow

An important consideration for optimal reproduction is to ensure your reproductive organs are receiving adequate nourishment. Both stress and aging can cause a decline in blood flow to your uterus and ovaries. Regular acupuncture treatments can help to increase blood flow by down regulating the nervous system, causing the blood vessels to dilate.


This can provide several benefits. Firstly, when the vessel dilate nutrient dense blood is released to the ovaries and uterus, which may help with a positive response to fertility medications. Secondly, an increase in uterine blood flow promotes a thick uterine lining which is ideal for implantation.



2.     Acupuncture reduces stress and anxiety associated with IVF and fertility treatment

Undergoing fertility treatment can cause additional stress. We know that acupuncture can really help with anxiety through this period. During acupuncture treatments, whereby needles are strategically placed on different parts of the body, the body will release endorphins. These “feel good” hormones cause our muscles to relax, our breathing to slow down and promote a calm sensation in the mind.


Research also found that Auricular Acupressure (AA), which is essentially a micro-acupuncture technique like reflexology is also effective in lowering levels of anxiety, improved endocrine functions and follicular fluids markedly, therefore improving IVF outcomes. AA works by stimulating the central nervous system through the cranial nerves/spinal nerves on the auricle of the ear. It is a non-invasive and easily administered technique that can be applied to the ear and then worn for several days to maximise the benefit.



3.     Acupuncture improves your odds of having a baby with IVF.

Despite some mixed and unclear results regarding acupuncture and IVF in the past – there is some fabulous new data that has just emerged demonstrating that individualised acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer is associated with a 55% increase in frozen embryo transfer (FET) live births and 42% reduction in biochemical pregnancies compared with FET alone. Overall, IVF with adjuvant WS-TCM was associated with greater odds of live birth.

 




If you are interested in incorporating acupuncture to your IVF cycle, you can book a consult with Rebecca here.

 

In your first Initial Acupuncture Consultation, you can expect an hour-long review of your medical history, including bloodwork and tests and an evaluation based on Traditional Chine Medicine. A treatment plan will then be formulated and recommendations of acupuncture treatment frequency for best outcomes.

 

Rebecca Tanner is an Acupuncturist, Naturopath and Midwife who enjoys blending eastern and western healing traditions and has decades of experience treating women with a wide range of health concerns. 

 

 

References:

[1] Phillippi, K., Kamel, L. A., Hullender Rubin, L. E., Jeelani, R., & Soy, T. (2022). Does individualized pre- and post-embryo transfer acupuncture affect live birth rates? Fertility and Sterility, vol 118, iss 4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2022.08.755

[2]  Qu, F., Zhang, D., Chen, L. T., Wang, F. F., Pan, J. X., Zhu, Y. M., Ma, C. M., Huang, Y. T., Ye, X. Q., Sun, S. J., Zheng, W. J., Zhang, R. J., Xu, J., Xing, L. F., & Huang, H. F. (2014). Auricular acupressure reduces anxiety levels and improves outcomes of in vitro fertilization: a prospective, randomized and controlled study. Scientific reports4, 5028. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep05028

 

[3] Hullender Rubin, L. E., Opsahl, M. S., Wiemer, K. E., Mist, S. D., & Caughey, A. B. (2015). Impact of whole systems traditional Chinese medicine on in-vitro fertilization outcomes. Reproductive biomedicine online30(6), 602–612. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rbmo.2015.02.005

 

 

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