Infertility, the inability to become or stay pregnant, affects approximately 1 in 8 couples.
Unexplained infertility, scarring from endometriosis, or being a carrier for certain chromosomal abnormalities are some of the reasons couples turn to IVF in the hope of having a baby.
If you’ve considered IVF, or already have some experience of it, you will know the emotional, physical, and financial toll it can take.
One mother has shared a photo that perfectly captures the emotional journey of IVF. It shows her baby surrounded by just a fraction of the syringes used to achieve her pregnancy.
Acupuncture And IVF Success
If you decide to take the leap and try IVF, chances are you’ll be prepared to do anything that might increase the likelihood of success.
A new study has found that receiving acupuncture doubled the chances of successful pregnancy with IVF.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture is considered by some as an alternative treatment, and part of traditional Chinese medicine.
It has been used for at least 2,000 years, with some sources claiming it was used more than 4,000 years ago. Either way, Chinese medicine been practiced significantly longer than modern medicine.
Acupuncture involves fine, sterile needles being placed at specific points in the body. Where the needles are placed depend on what condition is being treated.
Some find acupuncture a little uncomfortable, a few find it painful, but most find it to be a relaxing experience. Once the needles are in, the points are stimulated to improve certain bodily functions, such as blood flow, and the nervous system.
The treatment can alleviate a variety of symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, pain, and the side effects of hormonal imbalances.
Can Acupuncture Really Double The Success Of IVF?
The recent study was on a relatively small scale, but there were enough participants, and sufficient statistical differences to conclude that acupuncture could indeed play a role in IVF success.
In the study, 127 participants were divided into two groups. Both groups were undergoing IVF, but only one group received acupuncture treatment, while the other group did not.
In the acupuncture group, 42.6% conceived, compared with just 21.7% in the group that did not receive acupuncture.
The acupuncture group received acupuncture treatment before egg retrieval, before embryo transfer, and again after embryo transfer.
How Could Acupuncture Really Improve Success So Drastically?
For professionals in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this study isn’t likely to be surprising.
As mentioned above, acupuncture has been used for many conditions for at least 2,000 years. Many acupuncturists and their clients have found it to be helpful for a variety of fertility and hormonal issues.
Acupuncture has been used to treat pain and symptoms associated with endometriosis, PCOS, hormonal imbalances, etc. All of those things can affect fertility. One can assume that if acupuncture helps balance hormones and potential underlying causes for infertility, using it before and during IVF transfer might actually reduce some of the underlying causes of a patient’s infertility.
For many Western practitioners, acupuncture is still considered an alternative treatment, which might or might not have provable benefits. Some view acupuncture from a neuroscience perspective, as the needles are placed at points which hit nerves, muscles, and connective tissue. This act might trigger the body’s own functions, such as improving blood flow, or releasing natural painkillers.
As this study wasn’t a double blind study (which would be very challenging for acupuncture), the success might also be attributed to a placebo effect, according to study researchers.
The acupuncture group received treatment before, during, and after IVF procedures. This means they had more interaction with their fertility treatment team. This extra attention, and the assumption that more treatment could be beneficial, might have helped the participants to be more relaxed throughout the whole IVF process. This could mean the effect was more psychological than physical.
We know stress hormones as well as ‘feel good’ hormones can have an impact on fertility. Studies have found that laughing during embryo transfer, for example, can increase the chance of success. Another study found that having sex around the time of embryo transfer could also improve success rates.
Should I Try Acupuncture During My IVF Procedures?
The process of infertility treatment can be a very physically and emotionally draining one. Every couple wants to be sure they’re doing all they can to improve their odds.
Many fertility medications and treatments also carry a variety of side effects. Many couples who are struggling with infertility come to the conclusion that the benefits outweigh the risks.
With regard to acupuncture, as an addition to other infertility treatments it carries little to no risk. For this reason, even those doctors who are quite skeptical of TCM treatments do not usually discourage it.
Some doctors will warn couples to be cautious of any herbal treatments that might accompany TCM. If you are considering it, working with your doctor and a qualified TCM practitioner will help you make an informed decision you’re comfortable with.
Whether acupuncture treatment during IVF treatment is a placebo, or a clear physical benefit, it seems the potential benefit is quite considerable. This safe treatment option could more than double your chance of IVF success.