Increasing In Vitro Fertilization Success with Acupuncture

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Are you or someone you know experiencing fertility challenges? Chances are you have answered with a resounding “Yes” as 8-10% of the population in its reproductive years are experiencing infertility. Of that percentage, thousands seek Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), which includes In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), in their journey to have a baby. Unfortunately, IVF success rates are low and the majority of IVF cycles do not result in pregnancy. However, clinical studies demonstrate increased success rates when IVF and acupuncture are combined. If you are considering or currently using IVF, read on to find out how you can maximize your fertility and improve your chances for a healthy and happy pregnancy.


The Cause of Infertility

There are a variety of reasons why you may be experiencing fertility challenges. The causes of female infertility fall into four main categories:

  • Abnormalities in egg production
  • Structural abnormalities leading to obstruction of transport of the sperm, egg, or embryo through the fallopian tube
  • Abnormalities in the implantation process
  • Other factors including, but not limited to, emotional and psychological factors, nutrition (e.g. gluten intolerance), cigarette smoking, alcohol and caffeine intake, and borderline hormonal imbalances.
  • Acupuncture positively influences these contributing factors, helping you achieve physical and emotional balance. It is important to recognize that male factors are just as often responsible for a diagnosis of infertility as female factors. Thus, both partners are highly encouraged to seek treatment


The IVF Process

Undergoing IVF is a grueling process requiring careful coordination and timing. Women must attend early morning appointments at the IVF clinic (often on a daily basis), receive repeated injections, have frequent blood tests, and ultrasound monitoring. Combine this with the emotional and financial stresses of the procedures and it can be an overwhelming experience.

Despite the best efforts of all parties involved, preliminary results from 23 IVF Centres in Canada in 2003, as reported by the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, suggest you can anticipate an overall birth rate of only 31% per cycle started, or a 69% failure rate. If you are a woman over thirty-five your chances of achieving pregnancy with IVF are even lower. However, the good news is that several studies support the role for acupuncture in improving IVF success rates. Incorporating acupuncture into your wellness plan maximizes the financial and personal commitment you make in using fertility treatments.

How Does Acupuncture Improve Fertility & IVF Success?

Acupuncture increases blood flow to the testes, ovaries, and uterus, an essential component in using acupuncture specifically during the pre and post-transfer stages of IVF. It regulates female and male hormones and works to deregulate stress hormones (which when elevated, negatively impact your fertility).

The British Medical Journal recently released an analysis of several large, randomized, and controlled trials on the combination of acupuncture and IVF. The women received acupuncture 25 minutes before and 25 minutes after an embryo transfer and were compared to a control group of women receiving no acupuncture or sham acupuncture. In the first study of women, the clinical pregnancy rate in the acupuncture group was 42.5% (34/80) versus 26.3% (21/80) in the non-acupuncture group. A second similar study involving 225 women (average age 34 years) demonstrated that the group receiving acupuncture had significantly higher implantation rates, clinical pregnancy rates, and ongoing pregnancy rates versus the sham acupuncture group. The women in both studies received benefit after only two short treatments. However, it is recommended to begin acupuncture at least 3 months in advance of fertility treatments to properly prepare the body and further improve upon the above success rates.

Acupuncture is now gaining popularity in the West in treating many health problems, and fertility is no exception. These studies suggest that acupuncture can improve the outcome of IVF and is a safe therapy for women undergoing IVF. No adverse events were associated with the acupuncture interventions. The abovementioned studies were conducted in a well-controlled environment, using a standard protocol for each participant. Remember, you are an individual with a unique set of lifestyle and nutritional requirements and deserve a personalized treatment plan created for you and your body. Work with your health care practitioner to prepare your body for the wondrous role of being a parent.

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