Center for East Asian Medicine
Acupuncture & IVF
Beginning our Journey Together…
What is the Assisted Reproductive Acupuncture Fertility Enhancement Program?
There are THREE stages of care. The first one is PRE-CONCEPTION Care (PC1), the second is PRENATAL Care (PC2), and the third is POST-PARTUM (PC3) Care.
PC1 – Preconception Care:
We recommend allowing your body THREE to SIX months to prepare for pregnancy. Ovarian follicles take approximately 360 days to develop from their dormant stage to the ovulatory stage. Acupuncture treatments may improve the follicular development and follicular recruitment by increasing blood flow to the ovaries especially if regular treatments are administered in the 190 days prior to ovulation/egg retrieval.
Acupuncture treatment can also help at every stage of the ART process. A Pretreatment Phase begins at 3 to 6 weeks before the start of the IVF cycle to support ovarian stimulation, egg maturation, egg retrieval, and the embryo transfer phases. Acupuncture administered during this time can help to reduce a woman’s stress levels and alleviate some of the potential side effects of the medications and promote positive outcomes.
PC2 – Prenatal Care:
Once you have tested positive for pregnancy, it is important to continue coming in for treatments. This will increase your chances of securing the pregnancy. We recommend acupuncture at least once or twice a week during the first trimester ending at 12 weeks. We also recommend acupuncture once a week during the last six to eight weeks of pregnancy to prepare for childbirth. In between those two times, it is up to you what you want to do. We leave that up to your discretion. It is not necessary to get treatments during the middle trimester unless of course, there are issues that need to be addressed.
The benefits you may experience during Pre-Natal Care is having more energy and vitality, less fatigue, fewer emotional outbursts, a calm state of mind, a feeling of happiness, less nausea, and normal appetite. It will also decrease the chance of miscarriage and promote full term pregnancy.
PC-3 Post-Partum Care:
This is an integral part of the treatment plan. The sooner you can follow up with continued treatments, the more benefit you will receive. We suggest coming in for acupuncture treatments once a week for three months. By taking care of your body after having a baby you are strengthening your reproductive organs and allowing your body the quickest possible recovery, which can provide you with future healthy pregnancies.
How Acupuncture Combined with ART Can Help!
The treatment of infertility with acupuncture and East Asian Medicine dates back thousands of years ago. One of the earliest records of gynecological medical literature is from the Shang dynasty (1600-100 BC). The Nei Jing – Su Wen (Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine – Simple Questions) also contained many references to a woman’s physiology and anatomy including the diagnosis and treatment of gynecological problems. And, in another text “Book of Mountains and Seas” from the Warring States period (476-221) described the treatment of infertility. Also, one of the most famous doctors in Chinese medical history, Zhang Zhong Jing, had written about pregnancy, post-partum problems, and other women’s miscellaneous diseases which had formed the model by which subsequent books on women’s health were later based and recorded.
These ancient, time tested techniques and modalities have long been known to improve fertility rates and support a woman’s whole body, unlocking unlimited potential for health, healing, and childbearing.
Today, more contemporary studies reported by The American Pregnancy Association suggest that the most effective fertility treatments involve a combination of traditional acupuncture and western orthodox medical interventions.
Researchers from the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York reviewed recent studies and concluded that acupuncture helps to:
- Increase blood flow to the uterus, which improves chances of an ovum implanting on the uterine wall.
- Positively affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, which plays a key role in fertility.
- Reduce anxiety and stress. Hormones secreted during stressful situations can decrease fertility.
- Decrease cortisol and reduce stress levels to improve LH and progesterone production to develop fertile cycle dynamics
- Thicken uterine lining to encourage implantation at time of transfer and into early pregnancy
- Decrease uterine cramping to encourage implantation and reduce miscarriage of the transferred embryo/embryos
- Normalize hormone and endocrine systems that regulate ovulation, especially in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- Regulates the menstrual cycle.
Most Commonly Asked Questions…
How often do I need to come in for acupuncture treatments?
This is one of the most frequent questions asked. And, it's a great question! One of the answers though is that it depends on the ART/IVF protocol that is being utilized. For example, it is a short protocol, a long protocol, or a natural cycle. This will determine the timing and frequency of your treatment plan.
Here are some general guidelines:
Pretreatment Cycle – If the long GnRh agonist or GnRH antagonist (with medications) is used, acupuncture treatments aim to:
- Treat and reduce the potential side effects of some of the medications, for example hot flashes, perspiration, headaches, mood swings, insomnia, tender and sore breasts, nervousness or fatigue.
- Relieve Stress
- Balance and Support the Emotions
Pretreatment Plan: It is recommended that at acupuncture treatments are administered 1 x per week at least one month prior to ovarian stimulation.
Pretreatment Cycle – If the short GnRH agonist protocol, GnRH antagonist protocol (without pretreatment medication), or natural (unsuppressed) cycle is used, acupuncture treatments aim to:
- Regulate the menstrual cycle.
- Encourage follicular recruitment in the late luteal phase to maximize the number of antral follicles available for ovarian stimulation.
- Balance and Support the Emotions; Reduce Stress
- Address any underlying TCM pathology.
Pretreatment Plan: It is recommended to administer acupuncture 1 x per week during the menstrual cycle before the ovarian stimulation begins. Then, 2 x per week during the last week (the luteal phase) of the pretreatment cycle. This is where the process of follicular recruitment begins.
Ovarian Stimulation Phase – Acupuncture during the ovarian stimulation phase may help to increase the number of retrieved eggs and help improve the endometrial lining.
Ovarian Stimulation Treatment Plan: It is recommended that acupuncture treatment be administered within the first 3 days of starting ovarian stimulation medication. This can further enhance follicular recruitment and follicular synchronicity. The continued treatment frequency will depend upon the ones response to stimulation. This is evaluated by test results such as: ultrasound scans (number of follicles and quality of the endometrium) and estrogen levels. Acupuncture treatments during this phase is modified accordingly to the matched test findings.
Final Egg Maturation and Ovulation Induction Phase – This is the time when trigger injection facilitates the final follicular and egg maturation process and is the preparation stage for egg retrieval and fertilization.
Ovulation Induction Treatment Plan: It is recommended that 1 acupuncture treatment be administered after the “Trigger Injection” and in between the “Egg Retrieval.”
Egg Retrieval Phase – This is when the egg follicles are aspirated under vaginal ultrasound. Typically, general anesthesia is used and one is normally discharged home after a few hours and the retrieved eggs are fertilized and cultured.
Egg Retrieval Treatment Plan: It is recommended that acupuncture be administered directly inside the recovery room after the egg retrieval. Acupuncture administered at this phase can relieve pain, calm the nervous system, and balance the emotions.
Embryo Transfer – The embryo transfer procedure is relatively simple and is usually pain free. Transfers are usually done without general anesthesia. However, this event can have an enormous emotional climax because of every phase they have been through so far. In addition, acupuncture administered around the time of ET has been shown to increase pregnancy rates in some clinical research trials.
Embryo Transfer Treatment Plan: It is recommended that acupuncture be administered before and after embryo transfer. However, one does not have to be rigid to this schedule. Acupuncture within a 24-hour period of embryo transferred has also shown to be just as effective as doing the acupuncture treatment 25 minutes before and after ET.
Luteal Phase (the long awaited two week wait!) – Acupuncture during this phase may help improve implantation and clinical pregnancy rates as well as lower stress hormone and normalize levels of cortisol. During this period one may experience high anxiety levels. This can fluctuate greatly!
Luteal Phase Treatment Plan: It is recommended that acupuncture be administered 2 times from the day of embryo transfer to the pregnancy test date. One treatment is best during the implantation window (4 to 8 days after ET), and the second treatment is scheduled between the 1st treatment and pregnancy test date. At this point acupuncture aims to aid in implantation and prevent miscarriage.
To summarize: The main role of the assisted reproductive fertility acupuncturist is to offer a complimentary adjunctive therapy (acupuncture) for patients in preparation for, during, and after ART treatments to enhance positive outcomes. In addition to providing acupuncture treatment, we are trained to understand all aspects of the various ART treatments, their indications and success rates; specialized techniques and why they are used; pharmaceutical drugs, their actio: ns and side effects; and the significance and interpretation of embryo grading.
What should I expect during my first session?
During the first session, there will be an initial consultation with a health history intake form to fill out and an examination in accordance to Traditional East Asian Medicine theory. In addition, please bring any western diagnostic tests performed by your attending fertility doctor, and the proposed IVF planned schedule. Your practitioner will go over all your options with you and set up an acupuncture treatment plan that will support every phase of the ART/IVF journey. Estimate approximately 60-90 minutes to allow time for the first session.
Micro-fine needles are then inserted into acu-points on the body along the “channels” (some people refer to them as meridian flows) to treat patterns of imbalance that often equate to the underlying causes of subfertility (i.e., tubal pathology, ovulatory disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome, thyroid disease, endometriosis, unexplained subfertility, and regulation of the menstrual cycle, etc.).
One can also benefit from stress relief and a delightfully good “feel-good” treatment. Treatments are painless and relaxing and take approximately 45 minutes long. You may even fall asleep!
And, of course, ALL acupuncture “needles” are compliant with the law and are “sterilized and disposable” for one time use only.
We are happy to announce our professional collaboration
with the Institue of Life conveniently located inside IASO Hospital in Marousi, Greece.