Fertility, IVF and Acupuncture
Research has found that acupuncture treatment can have a highly positive effect on those trying for a baby and can actually aid the conception process.
Acupuncture stimulates the follicle hormone and affects oestrogen and progesterone level production in the body. Some of the positive effects of acupuncture in fertility treatment are thought to include:
• Regulate the menstrual cycle and promote regular ovulation
• Regulate the hormones to produce a larger number of follicles
• Improve the functions of ovaries to produce better quality eggs
• Enhance the vitality of sperm
• Relieve the side effects of drugs used in IVF
• Increase the thickness of the uterine lining so to encourage successful implantation
• Reduce the chance of miscarriage
It is known that stress has an adverse effect on the fertility hormones. Acupuncture can be used to strengthen the constitution, thus enabling couples to cope with any stress and anxieties they may experience during the process of trying to start a family. The acupuncture treatment can help promoting a calm, positive, relaxed frame of mind which can bring a more successful outcome for conception.
A 2004 study conducted by the Reproductive Medicine and Fertility Center in Colorado found that 51% of women who underwent both IVF and acupuncture treatment at the same time became pregnant, while only 36% of those who only underwent IVF did. The latter group also had higher rates of miscarriage and stillbirth (20%) compared to those women who had received acupuncture (8%).
How does Chinese Medicine work alongside IVF
Ideally, preparation with Chinese Medicine for IVF should be started 3 months before starting IVF. During the IVF cycle, there are specific times when acupuncture treatment can be most beneficial.
At the end of down-regulation or prior to the period : this ensures that the old endometrium is properly cleared, allowing the formation of a good quality new lining (essential for implantation).
Treatments during egg stimulation can make a big difference in the quality and number of eggs produced. Two treatments are recommended during this phase. After egg collection, acupuncture can minimise trauma and promote healing by promoting Qi flow to the abdominal area and helping prepare the lining for the transfer.
Two treatments are recommended before and after egg transfer. Pre transfer aims at opening the cervix, relaxing the body and mind and promoting blood flow to the uterus. After transfer the acupuncture points used are aiming at preventing contractions from the uterus and helping to close the cervix. These treatments promote deep relaxation.
It has been suggested that acupuncture may increase implantation rates by regulating stress hormones, regulating hormones and modulating cytokines and immune response.
A recent article in the British Medical Journal analysed all the available research that stood up to rigorous scrutiny, and found that acupuncture increases the success of IVF to about 65%. This means one additional pregnancy for every 10 cycles of IVF performed.
Acupuncture to prevent and treat miscarriage
There are many reasons why a woman experiences recurrent miscarriages or recurrent implantation failure naturally or with IVF.
The most common cause of recurrent miscarriage is age. However there are a number of other reason such as:
Genetic, hormonal imbalances, clotting disorders, autoimmune, structure abnormalities.
Acupuncture can be very useful for assisting in the prevention of miscarriage when not related to chromosomal abnormalities by treating many of the common causes of miscarriage. Acupuncture can be helpful in the following ways:
Increasing the thickness and quality of the endometrial lining
Helping regulate hormones
Helping to treat PCOS
Reducing uterine contractions in early pregnancy
Improving uterine blood flow to help prevent blood clots
Regulating the immune system
Research on acupuncture and miscarriage is very promising. One recent study on acupuncture alongside IVF showed a 50% decrease in the miscarriage rate. Another study suggests acupuncture may even be a potential supportive treatment for threatened or recurrent miscarriages due to its beneficial effects on serum cortisol and prolactin levels during IVF.
Acupuncture’s known effects on stress are also a possible mechanism by which miscarriage rates could be reduced. According to this same study, it is possible that stress in very early pregnancy may cause overactivity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis leading to reduced progesterone levels. In reducing this stress, progesterone levels may stay higher.
Acupuncture and Fertility in MEN
Men today also face fertility problems. Benefits to male fertility have been helped by acupuncture with positive effects on sperm count, morphology and mobility.
sperms are vulnerable to oxidative stress of free radical damage. This damage results in abnormally formed sperm, poor morphology , and motility results.
Acupuncture has been shown to improve both sperm quality and quantity when carried out regularly over several weeks.
A 2005 study conducted by Shanghai University found that acupuncture also helped treat male infertility. Of the men who participated, those who had acupuncture had an increased percentage of sperm in their semen; their sperm structure and morphology was also healthier than their counterparts who did not undergo acupuncture infertility treatment.