Assisted Reproductive Technology

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have been shown through clinical research to be very effective at increasing both IVF & IUI pregnancy and birth rates. Some studies have shown a 50-60% increased rate of pregnancy with acupuncture as a conjunctive therapy with ART. Acupuncture can effectively help prepare the body, follicles, and uterus, for greater receptivity to pregnancy. Acupuncture also increases circulation to the reproductive organs, which allows the hormones and reproductive organs to function optimally.

As successful and wonderful as ART is in its capacity to bring couples closer to their dreams of having a child, it also can be very stressful. Acupuncture is a powerful conjunctive therapy to help calm the nervous system, increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, and can decrease stress and cortisol levels in the body.

Acupuncture can improve pregnancy and live birth rates for couples undergoing ART treatment by:

· Increasing blood flow to the uterus (thickening the endometrial lining to facilitate implantation)
· Regulating and increasing blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, preventing over stimulation from hormones due to ART treatment
· Decreasing uterine cramping to help embryos more successfully implant, lowering chances for miscarriage
· Increasing circulation to the ovaries to help with follicular development
· Improving quality and mobility of sperm to increase fertilization rates and more viable pregnancies

Acupuncture treatment before and during ART treatment
Acupuncture can effectively work on follicular development, quality of follicles, number of follicles produces and creating stronger embryos.  Follicles start to develop for many months before they are a potentially released from the ovary.  We like to have patients come in for treatment 2-3 months prior to starting their ART treatment so that we have enough time to address good quality follicles and sperm.

Pre and post IVF acupuncture treatment
Research has shown the significant positive effects of acupuncture treatment pre and post transfer.

Here is how acupuncture can help:

decreases uterine cramping, to facilitate implantation and decrease miscarriage
decreased stress and relaxes patient
increases blood flow to the uterus to helps with implantation
We like to see women right before the transfer and can see women for up to 2 days post transfer.  We use the same protocols for timing of treatments that the supportive research indicates.

Acupuncture treatment after ART
We recommend having patients come in for the first trimester, as acupuncture can help to lower the rate of miscarriage post transfer.  We design an individualized treatment plan through the first trimester for each patient based on a patients history, stress level, and experience through early pregnancy.  Acupuncture can also be very effective at treating nausea, vomiting, and fatigue during the first trimester.

Research on ART & Acupuncture
160 patients who were undergoing ART and who had good quality embryos were divided into the following two groups through random selection: embryo transfer with acupuncture  and embryo transfer without acupuncture.  Acupuncture was performed in 80 patients 25 minutes before and after embryo transfer. In the control group, embryos were transferred without any supportive therapy.  Clinical pregnancy was defined as the presence of a fetal sac during an ultrasound examination 6 weeks after embryo transfer. Result(s): Clinical pregnancies were documented in 34 of 80 patients (42.5%) in the acupuncture group, whereas pregnancy rate was only 26.3% (21 out of 80 patients) in the control group.

Two hundred twenty-five infertile patients undergoing IVF/ICSI.  In group I, 116 patients received luteal-phase acupuncture according to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine. In group II, 109 patients received placebo acupuncture.  Clinical and ongoing pregnancy rates. RESULT(S): In group I, the clinical pregnancy rate and ongoing pregnancy rate (33.6% and 28.4%, respectively) were significantly higher than in group II (15.6% and 13.8%).

In 2002, a team of German researchers discovered that acupuncture significantly increased the odds of pregnancy among a group of 160 women who were undergoing IVF treatment. Forty-two percent of the women who received acupuncture got pregnant, compared to 26 percent of those who didn’t receive the treatment. The researchers speculated that acupuncture helped increase blood flow to the uterus and relax the muscle tissue, giving the embryos a better chance of implanting.

In Vancouver on May 18, 2007, Dr. Paul Magarelli, an infertility physician at the Reproductive Medicine & Fertility Center, and Diane Cridennda, an acupuncturist at East Winds, both centers in Colorado Springs, Colorado, presented their research results which were published in Infertility and Sterility in April, 2007. This is one of several studies the two have completed. In the protocol, they used a minimum of 9 acupuncture treatments within 2 months before the embryo transfer. Since this was a research study, each patient received the same treatment. No modification in points was allowed. From a clinical TCM/acupuncture perspective, the treatment protocols were very limited compared to individulized treatment of each patient.

What were their results? Lorne Brown, Doctor of TCM, founder and clinical director of Acubalance Wellness Centre, the first TCM clinic in British Columbia dedicated to reproductive wellness, analyzed the data Dr. Magarelli presented and has posted the following conclusions on his website:

Acupuncture does not cause harm to fertility or negatively interfere with an IVF outcome.
Acupuncture can statistically improve the live birth rate from IVF to between 10-15%.
Acupuncture reduces the number of ectopic pregnancies in an IVF setting.
The acupuncture protocol (minimum of 9 treatments using set points) did not affect egg quality BUT it did improve the host. Therefore, it seemed to improve factors affecting implanation rather the egg quality itself.
The mechanism by which acupuncture improves implantation and live birth rates results from acupuncture’s ability to regulate the body’s hormone levels (particularly prolactin and cortisol) to mimic these hormone levels in a natural cycle.
Copyright © 2002 American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility. 2006 May;85(5):1347-51. Epub 2006 Apr 17.

I. Gerhard and F. Postneek, [Possibilities of Therapy by Ear Acupuncture in Female Sterility], Geburtshilfe Frauenheilke 48, no. 3 (March 1988): 165-71. Risberg T, et al. Knowledge of and attitudes toward complementary and alternative therapies; a national multicentre study of oncology professionals in Norway. European Journal of Cancer 40(4):529-35. – The Natural Pharmacy: Complete A-Z Reference to Natural Treatments for Common Health Conditions by Alan R. Gaby, M.D., Jonathan V. Wright, M.D., Forrest Batz, Pharm.D. Rick Chester, RPh., N.D., DipLAc. George Constantine, R.Ph., Ph.D. Linnea D. Thompson, Pharm.D., N.D. Learn more: