Acupuncture for IVF and IUI Optimization
Although acupuncture and Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM) for the treatment of infertility has been practiced for thousands of years, the combination of acupuncture with in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI) has emerged in recent years as an effective method for improving pregnancy and live birth rates.
At Phoenix Rising Acupuncture, we apply TEAM to women who plan to receive interventions in modern medicine with assisted reproductive technology (ART) and we see amazing results. The success of either IVF or IUI still depends on the balanced state of a person’s body, and that is what acupuncture and herbal medicine do best.
Acupuncture helps to mitigate issues of circulation, inflammation, and other blockages (such elevated stress hormones) that may be preventing you from conceiving and carrying to term. Acupuncture is a very safe, effective, and supportive treatment for women undergoing ART, making the entire process more comfortable, less stressful, and increasing odds for success. We have seen improved response to stimulation drugs, better fertilization rates, higher pregnancy rates, and lower miscarriage rates in patients who receive acupuncture regularly before, during, and after a cycle. Some studies show more than double the chances of conception for couples utilizing acupuncture alongside IVF. Preparation with acupuncture should be scheduled carefully to have the best chance of success.
Using the methods of TEAM, a licensed acupuncturist will diagnose and treat each patient individually, so recommendations may vary depending on your health and medical history. For IVF/IUI optimization, beginning acupuncture treatments before, early on in a cycle, or even on a break is preferable. Ideally, we would like to start acupuncture treatments three to six months before the planned IUI/IVF cycle, as well. However, if this is not possible, we should still see good results with treatment while you are in the cycle, and we will often increase frequency of visits.
Before an IVF Cycle
We recommend seeing our patients one to two times a week for three months prior to their IVF/IUI cycle, as this is a full egg development cycle. For women with complex or especially challenging health situations, six months would be even better. During this time, we focus on general health and wellbeing, increasing a woman’s reserves, and fine-tuning circulation. Starting treatment prior to fertility medications also opens up the possibility of utilizing herbal medicine alongside acupuncture, which can be crucial for some women.
During the priming phase we will continue weekly acupuncture. For most cycles, women take medications to temporarily suppress the ovaries in preparation for stimulation. This phase is typically around a month long. We may continue with herbs during this phase depending on the woman’s condition and the medications being used at this time.
While using medications to stimulate the growth of eggs in the ovaries, continue with weekly or twice weekly acupuncture. This phase can vary in length from cycle to cycle and will be monitored closely.
1-2 days Prior to Retrieval
Once ovarian follicles are at the correct stage and size, you will be given a trigger to complete egg maturation in preparation for retrieval. Acupuncture within the day or two prior to retrieval can help with the eggs’ final maturation.
After eggs have been retrieved, you may have some cramping and discomfort from the procedure. The retrieval is an invasive procedure and acupuncture is very helpful to speed recovery and prepare the uterus for implantation. At this time, acupuncture is focused on relaxing the uterus, increasing circulation, and preparing the body for embryo transfer.
We would like you to schedule acupuncture treatments at least 24-48 hours before and after IUI/embryo transfer. We also offer the “Paulus protocol” done on-site at your fertility center, which includes not one but two acupuncture sessions immediately before and after the procedure. Our focus with acupuncture is to help create a calm and optimal environment for the embryo.
As IUI/embryo transfer procedures are typically scheduled for the early morning, we highly recommend scheduling acupuncture later the same day or the following day (unless you choose acupuncture immediately after on-site), with a second session 3-4 days later. At the very least, we encourage following up with 2-3 acupuncture treatments within the 5-7 days following embryo transfer, in order to further assist implantation and embryo development. Studies have shown that acupuncture just before or after an embryo transfer will increase the odds of a successful pregnancy.
After IUI/embryo transfer and through the end of the 1st trimester if there is a pregnancy, we recommend continuing with weekly acupuncture to support a healthy pregnancy. Acupuncture treatments twice weekly for at least 12 weeks is ideal if there is a history of miscarriage or in an otherwise high-risk pregnancy. If the IUI/embryo transfer is unsuccessful, we recommend scheduling a re-evaluation to discuss any changes about the plan going forward.
Acupuncture performed before and during IVF/IUI increases blood flow to the uterus and ovaries. In addition, acupuncture regulates fertility hormones, which may contribute to follicle development and increased implantation. Acupuncture treatments around the time of embryo transfer help to promote uterine blood flow, reduce overall stress, promote relaxation and increase pregnancy success rates by assisting with implantation and embryo development.
Recent clinical studies suggest that acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatments may:
increase implantation rates
increase pregnancy rates
enhance egg quality & increasing ovarian responsiveness
improve blood flow to the ovaries & uterus
enhance uterine lining and reproductive hormones
improve sperm (count, morphology, & motility)
reduce stress and anxiety associated with infertility
prevent miscarriage and early pregnancy loss
decrease medication side effects
Research on TCM & Acupuncture with IVF
1. Impact of whole systems traditional Chinese medicine on in-vitro fertilization outcomes:
2. Acupuncture performed before and after embryo transfer: a randomized controlled trial: https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/24937975
3. Effectiveness guidance document (EGD) for Chinese medicine trials: a consensus document: https://trialsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1745-6215-15-169
4. Acupuncture and in vitro fertilization: a retrospective chart review: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2011.0888
5. P02.15. Acupuncture improves in vitro fertilization live birth outcomes: a retrospective chart review: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/1472-6882-12-S1-P71
6. The effects of adjuvant whole-systems traditional chinese medicine on in vitro fertilization live births: A retrospective cohort study: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/acm.2014.5029.abstract
7. Recurrent pregnancy loss and traditional Chinese medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3689170/
8. Diminished ovarian reserve, clomid, and traditional Chinese medicine: A case study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3579201/
9. Acupuncture and in vitro fertilisation research: Current and future directions: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1136/acupmed-2016-011352
10. P02.163. Acupuncture and donor egg in vitro fertilization cycles: a retrospective chart review comparing two acupuncture protocols: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/1472-6882-12-S1-P219
11. Adjunctive Role of Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture in an In Vitro Fertilization Cycle: https://web.b.ebscohost.com/abstract?direct=true&profile=ehost&scope=site&authtype=crawler&jrnl=15207714&AN=52109204&h=oUJ51NcJoTp1NRSAz4ZpmKo%2fCEUh4MLi2eLNmyoPMotfwxAAcMfU399DOUhnw7ZQz9mkU1%2bdoKqkbhNVuBtrBA%3d%3d&crl=c&resultNs=AdminWebAuth&resultLocal=ErrCrlNotAuth&crlhashurl=login.aspx%3fdirect%3dtrue%26profile%3dehost%26scope%3dsite%26authtype%3dcrawler%26jrnl%3d15207714%26AN%3d52109204
12. Vaginismus Successfully Treated with Chinese Medicine- A Case Study: https://web.a.ebscohost.com/abstract?direct=true&profile=ehost&scope=site&authtype=crawler&jrnl=15207714&AN=45526763&h=lsPL84Isi3EWoWGv2NiNIa4dPjAJQhoxPL82ZABbq9cK0ttocklfMrIu5w5StgYf%2fnKSaNacIcntoKf9%2fC4EKA%3d%3d&crl=c&resultNs=AdminWebAuth&resultLocal=ErrCrlNotAuth&crlhashurl=login.aspx%3fdirect%3dtrue%26profile%3dehost%26scope%3dsite%26authtype%3dcrawler%26jrnl%3d15207714%26AN%3d45526763
13. Acupuncture and in vitro fertilisation research: current and future directions: https://search.proquest.com/openview/7b21c50c2742f1330fb4ca6e46bf755c/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=38462
Live births in women who integrate whole systems traditional Chinese medicine with IVF: does age matter?: https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(17)31551-0/pdf