Pursuing Pregnancy-can acupuncture help?
Updated: Oct 23
I am about to start an IVF cycle. Will acupuncture help? When should I start treatment and is there any research that supports any recommendations?
These are well founded and common questions. Here I will outline what I understand to be the optimal way to integrate acupuncture into your pursuit of pregnancy.
Acupuncture is one main component of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the other is herbs. They can be used together or as single treatment approaches.
The when of it:
Before and after the stimulation phase of your IVF cycle. My suggestion is 1-3 menstrual cycles PRIOR to your IVF and ideally one cycle prior to a FET (frozen egg cycle). Here the focus of treatment is on the uterine lining or endometrial receptivity, to "get the house in order to welcome the guest."
So how many times will I need to have treatment?
As with all health interventions, dose matters. Acupuncture is no different.
This meta analysis involving more than 5000 women found a higher dose of acupuncture treatment prior to transfer was linked to an increased pregnancy rate. Other studies linked more than three acupuncture treatments to significantly improved rates of pregnancy.
One review observed that acupuncture administered to IVF patients at a dose of 9-12 treatments prior to embryo transfer is associated with more live births. This review analysed the outcomes of more than a thousand IVF cycles and found that women who used a whole systems Chinese Medicine approach (acupuncture with or without herbs, dietary and lifestyle advice), had a higher live birth rate than those doing IVF alone.
The proportion of live births was:
61.3% in the Chinese Medicine group
48.2% in the IVF usual care group and
50.8% in the group having acupuncture only on day of embryo transfer.
With more than 30 years of clinical experience and a Masters in Reproductive medicine, a whole systems Chinese Medicine approach is the one I work with.
When should I book in?
Ideally? 3 months or at least 1 month before your start your IVF cycle.
How often ? bi-weekly treatment for 4 weeks prior to IVF cycle and the (roughly) 2 weeks of the medicated part of the IVF cycle.
When should I consider Embryo transfer acupuncture?
Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer (or within a 24 hour time frame) has been found to show 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 Smith 2019.
Continuing this approach in the two-weeks as you wait for that pregnancy test can be helpful to manage stress and anxiety.
Is acupuncture safe in the weeks after Embryo Transfer and during pregnancy?
It is considered to be extremely safe in pregnancy when administered by a registered acupuncturist.
I will often continue acupuncture and or herbs for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to support early pregnancy physiology. This is discussed on a case by case presentation.
How do I book in for acupuncture with you?
I am located in New Farm and Bulimba. THIS LINK will enable you to book online. Alternatively you can do it the traditional way, by phone: 3902 0099 or 0449 261 123.