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.

What is acupuncture?

You might have seen photos of people with needles in their skin and thought to yourself, “what exactly is going on here?” Well, acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves strategically inserting very thin needles into specific places on your body. For centuries, this technique has been used to relieve pain and discomfort associated with various conditions and diseases.

By inserting needles into specific meridians or pathways in the body, acupuncture can bring energy flow to certain areas and restore balance. Acupuncture can also boost the body’s natural painkillers by stimulating specific nerves, muscles and tissues.

In addition to the already established evidence-based benefits of acupuncture, including pain relief, rebalancing energy, relieving stress and anxiety, and resolving chronic issues, it’s becoming more and more common to have acupuncture to help fertility. There is now good scientific evidence to support acupuncture and IVF, and acupuncture and fertility outcomes too.

At Fertile Ground Health Group, our acupuncturists are very experienced in supporting people with fertility concerns, including IVF support and issues that can present during early pregnancy. If you’re interested in finding out about acupuncture for fertility, read on.

Acupuncture and fertility

The most up to date 2019 review on acupuncture and IVF describes the effects of acupuncture on increasing rates of clinical pregnancy and live birth outcomes. In this review by Australian researcher Caroline Smith et al., these were a few of the main findings:

  • 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 than just pre and post-transfer acupuncture — especially with treatments 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.

The results that Smith observed in this study may have been from the effects of acupuncture on stress relief and psychosocial benefits. The non-needling benefits of acupuncture treatment (the holistic nature of consultation with palpation, education, self-care and diagnosis etc) are discussed too.

The study encourages women who are undergoing IVF to support their attempts of having a baby with acupuncture fertility treatments. The researchers further state that acupuncture remains a low risk intervention that women should know about to support their IVF attempts.

[See full text here]

The benefits of acupuncture for IVF patients

While the end goal is to help our patients fall pregnant, there are various additional benefits of acupuncture that can help with the IVF process too. Regular acupuncture with practitioners skilled in working with IVF patients can provide the support you need to navigate your experience as seamlessly as possible. Some of the benefits that our patients who are also undergoing IVF treatment often report on include:

  • Increased sense of well being and relaxation.
  • Reduced side effects from IVF medication and/or egg pick-up including trauma, bleeding, bloating, pain, constipation and anxiety.
  • Reduced uterine cramping and pain.

Our treatments — fertility acupuncture in Melbourne

Here at Fertile Ground Health Group, our team of acupuncturists specialising in fertility have treated many patients with fertility issues, so you can be sure of the therapeutic value and safety of the treatments we provide. The majority of our patients incorporate acupuncture for fertility into their usual treatments, while others also choose to use Chinese herbal medicine. However, the use of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in combination with your acupuncture fertility treatment is not mandatory.

Having acupuncture for fertility at Fertile Ground Health Group

Acupuncture can help at any stage while you are trying to conceive, including supporting healthy preconception care and hormonal health in the months leading up to trying for the first time.

If you’re having IVF treatments, we recommend booking either a 1-on-1 appointment and/or use our multi-bed facility for the day of your embryo transfer. So much can be achieved through regular acupuncture in the weeks and months preceding and following IVF embryo transfer. This is why we generally suggest that our patients come in:

  • Weekly for acupuncture for 6-12 sessions before egg collection (once or twice per week),
  • At least once before the transfer as the follicles are stimulated,
  • Once or twice on the day of transfer (known as pre and post transfer acupuncture),
  • Once around three to five days after transfer for implantation support,
  • Again just after your pregnancy blood test at the end of the cycle – where we are hoping to move towards early pregnancy support, or to otherwise reassess and make a plan for the next cycle and moving forward with proactivity and positivity.

IVF and acupuncture research

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.

Further research demonstrates that acupuncture in IVF can:

  • Improve the odds of live birth outcomes compared with IVF alone (1)
  • Increase uterine and ovarian blood flow (2)
  • Optimise follicular development and endometrial lining (3)
  • Improve microcirculation to uterus and ovaries (4)
  • Reduce uterine artery blood flow impedance (5+5)
  • Regulate hormones, including improved response to hormonal stimulation (6+6)
  • Reduce stress and increase relaxation during IVF (7)
  • Increase wellbeing, optimism, calmness, peacefulness, mindfulness and feeling good during IVF (7) as well as increased coping, resilience and self-efficacy in the situation of infertility and medical treatment (8)
  • Give a sense of regained control and encourage more proactive involvement in treatment outcomes (9)

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.

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 and acupuncture

Acupuncture and herbal medicine are also appropriate interventions for assisting with sperm quality and quantity issues — with regular weekly treatments (ideally over 3 months) achieving the best outcome. In fact, a study conducted on a group of infertile men showed that those who underwent regular treatment of acupuncture to improve fertility had significant improvement in the quality of their sperm (compared to the group that didn’t receive the treatment). Some of the results from the men who had natural fertility acupuncture include:

  • An increase in the number of sperm in ejaculate at the end of the study
  • Fewer structural defects in the sperm

[See more information here]

Our practitioners

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.

Book an acupuncture fertility treatment today

Are you thinking about acupuncture to help with fertility but aren’t sure how it could help you? The team at Fertile Ground Health Group is here to explain it all. With many highly qualified and experienced practitioners, we are able to offer a wide range of health and fertility services — from acupuncture for fertility to IVF counselling, naturopathic IVF supportpregnancy massage, pregnancy counselling, postnatal acupuncture and so much more.

To book an appointment or find out about acupuncture to help fertility or acupuncture for IVF support please get in touch with us. We’d love to see what we can do for you.

References

  1. Hullender-Rubin, L, et al., 2015
  2. Stener-Victorin E, et al., 1996
  3. Yu W et.al., 2007
  4. Stener-Victorin E et al., 2003
  5. Stener-Victorin E, et al., 1996 & Ming H et al, 2009
  6. Magarelli, PC, et al., 2009 & Magarelli P, et al., 2004
  7. de Lacey, S, et al. 2021
  8. Domar, A, et al., 2009
  9. de Lacey, S, et al. 2018