In a previous article, I discussed five general ways acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help couples struggling with fertility issues.
This article continues the discussion and dives into how acupuncture can help couples who are using assisted reproductive techniques (ART) like intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) to achieve pregnancy.
Studies show that acupuncture can improve live birth rates when combined with assisted reproductive techniques (ART). There are strategic ways to use acupuncture when trying to conceive. Some couples choose to do acupuncture strictly before and after an IVF transfer. While this can be helpful new research shows that using a whole system acupuncture approach has better outcomes than using acupuncture strictly around the timing of the embryo transfer.
How does acupuncture improve IVF outcomes?
One of the main ways is acupuncture can improve blood flow to the uterus and ovaries. When performed around the timing of embryo transfer, this can help improve implantation.
That is fantastic, as long as the IVF cycle resulted in a number of follicles and egg quality is good. But what if your cycle didn’t yield good numbers or good quality eggs? That is where a more whole system approach really shines.
Whole system acupuncture is the way traditional Chinese medicine is meant to be practiced. It considers the patient’s signs and symptoms, lifestyle, habits, emotions, constitution and Chinese medicine pattern of disharmony and seeks to regulate, balance and improve the patient’s overall health, and more specifically their reproductive health. This is just as important in an IUI or IVF cycle as it is for couples trying to conceive naturally. When the parents are healthy, and their reproductive systems are optimized, the chances of achieving a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby are significantly increased.
Why is it more beneficial to receive acupuncture care well before embryo transfer?
Simply put, taking care of your health through acupuncture and Chinese medicine has a positive impact on the quality of the egg and sperm and the body’s ability to support a healthy pregnancy.
A woman’s cycle is a changing process of hormonal fluctuations that, when working properly, results in the release of an egg at ovulation and has the capacity for a healthy implantation and growth of a fertilized embryo. Most women do not know that the egg that is being released in any given cycle began its development three cycles previously!! That means, that whatever a woman was doing in the approximately 3 months prior to ovulation, has the potential to affect the health of that egg!
Similarly, it takes 50-60 days for sperm to develop in human males. Since men are 50 percent of the embryo equation, the health of their sperm is also important, and is affected by lifestyle, constitution and genetics.
Making positive changes, balancing hormones, promoting blood flow, managing anxiety and stress through acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, can correct irregular cycles, improve ovulation, improve sperm parameters, and improve egg quality.
While IUI and IVF cycles can manage issues related to ovulation and irregular cycles, and mitigate poor sperm quality, they do nothing to improve egg and sperm quality.
When you embark on fertility treatment with an experienced fertility acupuncturist practicing a whole system style, you will receive a full assessment of issues that are affecting your fertility and will be guided through how to address those issues, as well as receiving safe and comfortable acupuncture care to optimize your results.
We address diet, exercise, sleep, supplements and may recommend Chinese Herbal medicine to enhance our outcomes. Issues such as age and other diagnoses that affect fertility can be addressed. We can also help manage side effects from medications.
Because egg and sperm development begin long before your current cycle, in many cases it is wise to allow at least three menstrual cycles of treatment (or 60 days for men) before embarking on IUI or IVF.
That being said, it is never too late to start!