At Fertile Ground Health Group, our acupuncturists are very experienced in supporting men and women with fertility concerns, including IVF support when needed and issues which may present during early pregnancy.

Our practitioners see patients with fertility issues as part of their daily practice so you can be confident the treatment methods chosen are known for their therapeutic value and safety. The majority of our patients will incorporate acupuncture into their treatment regime and some choose to also use Chinese herbal medicine. Not all of our traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners use Chinese herbal medicine, so do check with our receptionist at the time of booking if you wish to use both.

IVF and acupuncture

In this review of all of the latest and relevant evidence (published in Jan 2019) about acupuncture and IVF from English speaking publications by Australian researcher Caroline Smith et al. she concludes that:

  • Acupuncture may have potentially significant benefits when compared to IVF in regard to both clinical pregnancy AND live birth rates.
  • Acupuncture seems most effective when there are more treatments (higher dose) than just pre and post transfer acupuncture – especially with a treatment in both the stimulation and implantation phase.
  • Further benefits are seen when points selected are tailored to the individual rather than using a pre-prescribed treatment protocol.
  • Benefits are especially true for women who have had multiple previous IVF cycles.

Smith also mentions how acupuncture may be working via the stress relieving and psychosocial benefits with a significant anxiolytic effect reported and potential beneficial effects such as increase in uterine blood flow, endogenous endorphins and cytokines. The non-needling benefits of acupuncture treatment (the holistic nature of a consultation with palpation, education, self-care and diagnosis etc) are discussed too.

Smith further states that acupuncture remains a low risk intervention that women should know about to support their IVF attempts at creating a baby.

Also, the British Medical Journal has stated “that adding acupuncture to IVF improved pregnancy rates more than any other recent improvement or advance in IVF technology”. See full text here.

While it is so good to read this validation of the use of acupuncture during IVF, for us, although our patients having a take home baby is obviously a key desired outcome, benefits of treatment are not only about the pregnancy and live birth rates. Reduced anxiety levels and a better ability to cope with infertility and IVF is so important for people struggling with poor outcomes, fragile emotional health, and those doing back to back cycles who need to ‘gear up again’ after a negative result. This effect cannot be underestimated. Sometimes it can be the difference between patients feeling like they have the internal resources to take on the next cycle, or need a break.

Regular acupuncture with practitioners skilled in working with IVF patients can provide the support you need to navigate your experience as seamlessly as possible, potentially with fewer side effects and positive outcomes more quickly.

Patients consistently report that acupuncture:

  • Alleviates side effects from medication and/or egg pick-up including trauma, bleeding, bloating, pain, constipation and anxiety
  • Reduces uterine cramping / pain
  • Increases their sense of wellbeing, stress reduction and relaxation

We offer acupuncture services to support IVF patients at Fertile Ground Health Group as a 1:1 appointment or in our multi-bed facility which works really well for the flexibility of fitting IVF transfer patients in on the day when they find out their transfer times.

We generally recommend patients come in at least once before the transfer as the follicles are stimulated, one to two times on the day of transfer, and another around five to seven days after transfer for implantation support.

Weekly treatments are usually recommended for acupuncture (and if herbs are being used they will be regularly adjusted as well). While some research focuses on the pre and post-transfer appointment as a key time for treatment, much more can be achieved through regular acupuncture in the weeks and months preceding and following embryo transfer. Once your embryo is safely on board we focus on miscarriage prevention until, hopefully, your positive 12 week scan. If not, we help you prepare and focus on a more positive outcome in subsequent cycles.

Female infertility

A 2015 updated meta-analyis research review suggests that management of female infertility with Chinese herbal medicine can improve pregnancy rates 2-fold within a 4 month period compared with Western Medical fertility drug therapy or IVF. In addition, fertility indicators such as ovulation rates, cervical mucus score, biphasic basal body temperature, and appropriate thickness of the endometrial lining were positively influenced by CHM therapy, indicating an ameliorating physiological effect conducive for a viable pregnancy.

A 2012 systematic review on Chinese herbal medicine for infertiltiy with anovulation shows a superior effect on increasing ovulation, pregnancy rate and reducing miscarriage rate when compared to clomid

Another separate Cochrane meta-analysis review concludes that in endometriosis cases, Chinese herbal medicine may have comparable benefits and even better overall treatment effect to western medication but with fewer side effects.

Further research demonstrates that acupuncture can:

  • Increase uterine and ovarian blood flow (Stener-Victorin E, et al,1996)
  • Optimise follicular development and endometrial lining (Yu W et.al. 2007)
  • Improve micro circulation to uterus and ovaries (Stener-Victorin E et al, 2003)
  • Reduce uterine artery impedance (Stener-Victorin E, et al, 1996 & Ming H et al, 2009)
  • Regulate hormones, including improved response to hormonal stimulation (Magarelli, PC, et al, 2009 & Quintero R et al, Fertil Steril, 2004 & Magarelli P, et al 2004)

Assessment of the quality of the menstrual cycle integral to TCM diagnosis, appears to be fundamental to successful treatment of female infertility. Your practitioner will seek to normalise and optimise your cycle by working with regular (usually weekly) appointments geared toward optimising normal function at that particular time of your cycle, as well as treating other underlying issues which may be affecting your fertility.

 

Male infertility

Acupuncture and herbal medicine is also an appropriate intervention for assisting with sperm quality and quantity issues. Regular treatments over a longer period of time (ideally 3 months) achieve the best outcome. See more information here.

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