Treatment with traditional Chinese Medicine has been shown to have a beneficial effect on couples who have difficulty conceiving, either on its own or in combination with IVF or other forms of assisted reproduction. A German study in 1992 found that conception rates rose to 42.5% compared to a non Acupuncture group that achieved a success rate on only 26.5%.IVF, while 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 with the figure being closer to 65%. This means one additional pregnancy for every 10 cycles of IVF performed.
I have extensive experience working with fertility, using a combination of Acupuncture and concentrated herbal powders. I have also experience working with protocols adapted to the phases of the menstrual cycle. Chinese Medicine regulates and works in sympathy with the menstrual cycle and promote the flow of Qi and blood in the abdomen. Each treatment is tailored to the individual, taking into account their medical history, the characteristics of their cycle and their general health. Treatment is to enhance the whole person and harmonise that which is out of balance, while IVF success rate improvement is the main focus, I am aware of the stress that the IVF process carries, and acupuncture treatment can provide great support to ease stress levels.
Acupuncture is also beneficial in preparation for IVF where there is high FSH or low oestrogen levels preventing the initiation of treatment, by regulating normal pituitary-ovarian function. Also helpful when there is high prolactin levels being regulated by drugs.
During pregnancy it can benefit morning sickness and other complaints that might arise, and in the last month of pregnancy I carry out weekly treatments to help relax the body for delivery. I also use acupuncture to promote relaxation into labour when it is delayed.
After delivery, I use herbal medicine to restore blood and Qi. This helps breast feeding, mood and energy levels.
How long does fertility treatment last?
A minimum of three months' treatment can be expected in the case of unexplained infertility, although with underlying problems the treatment can last a year. Acupuncture may need to be given every 2 weeks or once per month, depending on the severity of the disharmony of Qi and Blood.
Having said that, many women get pregnant quite quickly when having acupuncture as the relaxation produced by the treatment enhances fertility.
We lead very fast stressful lives and this has an impact in fertility. Relaxation promoted by acupuncture helps hormonal balance.
How does Chinese Medicine work alongside IVF?
Ideally, preparation with Chinese Medicine for IVF should be started 3 months before starting IVF, though treatments just a couple of weeks in advance can also be done. During the IVF cycle, there are specific times when acupuncture treatment can be most beneficial.
At the end of down-regulation(long protocol) or prior to the period (short protocol): this ensures that the old endometrium in 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. These are done using the Paulis protocols. 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 treatment 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.
After pregnancy is established, weekly treatments until the 12th week are recommended to prevent miscarriage and support the body through the natural adjustments. Some women chose to continue with monthly acupuncture until one month before delivery.
For the last 4 weeks before the due date these weekly treatments are resumed, to promote a smooth and efficient flow of Qi for labour and delivery. If there is nausea and sickness during pregnancy, Acupuncture may help in relieving these symptoms (researched positive outcome).
There is plenty of research on helping turn breeched babies with moxibustion, thus preventing a medical delivery.
What if IVF hasn't worked?
If the IVF cycle is not successful, Acupuncture can help prepare for the next cycle or restore the body to its normal function if no further treatment is followed. Many women do get pregnant naturally after failing several IVF cycles.
Can Acupuncture help after giving birth?
The recovery period after pregnancy and delivery is a very important time to take care of the new mother. In the East it is considered necessary to regain energy and replenish the blood that has been exhausted, and many instances of post natal depression can be easily avoided by nourishing the body properly and resting after delivery. Herbal medicine plays a big part in this recovery.
If you would like to know more about fertility and pregnancy please contact me by clicking here. For further information about assisted reproduction visit the Human Fertility & Embryology Association HFEA.
For articles and more information about acupuncture and IVF go to Acubalance
For Chinese Medicine treatment and support with fertility in Surrey, visit my excellent colleague Paul Johnson