Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine are increasingly being used to assist and enhance success rates of IVF treatment. The success rates for IVF are somewhere in the region of 20-30%, depending on the clinic and the methods used. In a recent study in Germany, a 26% success rate was achieved for women receiving no acupuncture, while a 43% success rate was achieved by those receiving acupuncture, a 40% increase (Paulus et al, 2002) Read this study. Other studies in China suggest that this percentage can be further increased by up to 60% with the additional use of Chinese Medicine.
Before IVF: Treatment to prepare for IVF should ideally start at least 3-4 months prior to commencing the IVF cycle, although even 1 month prior can make a difference to improving the success rate. The general aim of the treatment is to bring the patient to optimum preconceptual health to maximize the chances of success. Using a combination of acupuncture, herbs and nutrition, the practitioner can relieve stess, regulate the menstrual cycle, improve egg quality, balance the hormones, improve blood flow, nourish the endometrium and improve fertile mucus, as appropriate (see Female Infertility). A diagnosis is made following the principles of Chinese medicine as well as incorporating results from the Body Basal Temperature readings and other western medical test results.
During IVF: When the woman starts her hormone regime for IVF, support is mainly given with acupuncture. Point selection varies according to the stage of treatment ie, down-regulation or stimulation. Acupuncture treatment aids down-regulation and it can also help alleviate some of the side-effects of the medication (such as headaches, hot flushes or mood swings). Acupuncture treatment during the stimulation phase is used to promote the development of the follicles. At all stages, acupuncture is used to increase the thickness and blood supply of the endometrium and to relieve anxiety during this stressful time. A treatment 1-3 days before egg retrieval can also increase energy production in the cells within the follicles.
Embryo transfer: The patient should have an acupuncture treatment just prior to embryo transfer, and just after. Prior to transfer, the aim of the treatment is to invigorate blood supply to the uterus and to help dilate slightly the cervical opening in order to make transfer of the embryo into the uterus more easy, so that when the transfer is being performed, the patient is less likely to experience cramping and uterine contractions, thus helping the embryo implantation. After transfer, it is important to assist blood circulation in the uterus, relax the uterus, nourish the embryo and stabilize the hormones in order to encourage implantation of the embryo.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can also be helpful in relieving the effects of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome.
"There is measurable increase in pregnancy success rates when IVF is used in conjunction with acupuncture, vs. without"
Fertility and Sterility