IVF and Acupuncture
Updated: Mar 23
IVF Acupuncture research can be confusing, with the majority of research previously focused on treatment applied only at the time of embryo transfer. Then varying information on forums and in conversations abounds.
More recent research now suggests most benefit is achieved with a higher “dose” of acupuncture prior to and during the IVF cycle.
So, what does this research suggest in terms of best practice IVF Acupuncture to optimise psychological and physiological benefits and when should I start?
The evidence denotes that:
if you are going to use acupuncture it may be advisable for to have it before and during the stimulation phase of the IVF cycle.
it is useful for women to consider acupuncture treatment in the menstrual cycles before their IVF cycle, or before a frozen embryo transfer to improve the uterine lining.
2. How many sessions
The most recent Meta-analysis showed there is a relationship between the acupuncture treatment dose and pregnancy rate with higher dose acupuncture before embryo transfer showing a significant benefit and increased pregnancy rate.
In studies where more than three treatments were performed, the clinical pregnancy rate significantly improved (N=8 / n=1595, RR 1.50, 95% CI 1.18–1.90, P=0.001) (Smith 2019).
One 2015 study by Hullender showed that acupuncture administered to IVF patients at a dose of 9-12 treatments prior to embryo transfer is associated with more live births.
Further, Hullender analysed the outcomes of more than a thousand IVF cycles and found
that women who used Chinese Medicine (acupuncture with or without herbs), had a higher live birth rate than those doing IVF alone.
How much higher?
The proportion of live births was
61.3% in the Chinese Medicine group
48.2% in the usual IVF care group
50.8% in the group having acupuncture only on day of Embryo transfer.
3. When should I book in?
Ideally, 1 month before your start your IVF cycle.
I advocate bi-weekly treatment for 4 weeks prior to IVF cycle and 2 weeks during stimulation cycle.
Electro-Acupuncture may be used during IVF stimulation and/or prior to Frozen embryo transfer.
4. Day of transfer acupuncture
Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer has significant benefit for women who have increased stress levels or who have had multiple previous IVF cycles, or where there was a low baseline pregnancy rate expectation (Smith 2018).
Continuing this approach in the two-week wait for test results is also helpful for these women to manage IVF related stress and anxiety.
Embryo Transfer acupuncture (ETA) is best done on the same day (or within 24 hours if on same day is not possible).
These recommendations have put together drawing on the most recent research findings (including a 2019 Meta-analysis, 2018 randomized controlled trials and 2016 Retrospective Cohort study).
These research-based recommendations aim to clarify:
When to start acupuncture and how many Acupuncture treatments may be of benefit.
Considerations surrounding Embryo Transfer Acupuncture (ETA) and acupuncture in the wait between embryo transfer and pregnancy blood test.
The information in this article can also be viewed from the source: The Acupuncture fertility Clinic in Sydney.