How can acupuncture help with IVF?
Acupuncture is the most common complementary treatment used alongside IVF treatment. It can help –
Improve gamete, embryo and endometrial quality
Reduce stress levels
Regulate hormone levels and immune response
Reduce side effects of drugs
Reduce the chance of miscarriage
Strengthen the immune system
Acupuncture during IVF Cycle
1. Prior to beginning IVF
As with natural cycle conception acupuncture during this stage is beneficial for regulating the menstrual cycle, optimising uterine environment ready for implantation, enhancing egg growth, reducing stress levels and optimising hormone levels.
Acupuncture treatment should be started between 1-3 months prior to IVF.
2. Down Regulation (Long Protocol) or Pre Period (Short Protocol)
During down regulation a woman’s natural hormones are suppressed to allow greater control over the stimulation phase of the cycle. There should be a period during this time and acupuncture is used to ensure that the endometrial lining is eliminated effectively with minimal symptoms. Acupuncture is also used to address any side effects from medication such as headaches, hot flushes and emotional changes.
During a short protocol acupuncture is still used to ensure the elimination of the endometrial lining.
Weekly acupuncture treatment is recommended during this stage.
3. Stimulation Phase
During stimulation phase medication is given via injections for 8-14 days to stimulate multiple mature egg production in the ovaries. Acupuncture is used to ensure uterine lining is at optimal thickness and to deal with any side effects of medication such as bloating, breast tenderness and emotional issues.
Two treatments are usually recommended at this stage unless lining is growing slowly then additional treatments are advised.
4. Trigger Injection
36 hours before egg retrieval an injection of hCG is administered. This injection is given to stimulate the woman’s natural L surge and initiates the eggs final growth spurt.
Acupuncture at this time is used to aid final egg maturation.
5. Between Egg retrieval and Transfer
The wait to find out if eggs have fertilised and embryos have developed can be stressful. Acupuncture at this time is used to reduce stress levels and increase blood circulation in the lower abdomen.
6. Embryo Transfer
Research shows that acupuncture before and after embryo transfer may increase the likelihood of a positive pregnancy test. Treatment is best performed on the same day as embryo transfer therefore an early morning and late evening appointment are usually recommended. Treatment is focussed on increasing uterine blood flow, reducing uterine contractions and reducing anxiety and stress levels.
7. Post Embryo Transfer
I often find that women are “touched out” after their IVF cycle and during the wait to take a test they like to focus on other pursuits. Therefore acupuncture is not essential but many do choose to continue treatment. At this time it is focussed on relaxation.