Every acupuncture treatment plan will be customized to address the individualized patient’s needs. One theme that is common throughout the different scenarios depicted below is the need to begin acupuncture before the month of assisted reproductive therapy. Eggs begin their maturation 90 days before they are chosen for ovulation so it is during that 3 months when their health can be affected. It is highly advisable to have a consultation 2-3 months before an IVF or medicated cycle so that diet, lifestyle and exercise changes can be made in advance and the body may create a foundation for a healthier, more balanced state of fertility.
Acupuncture can be used as a natural approach to fertility without the use of western medical interventions. An acupuncture treatment plan will be designed after an initial consultation. A normal course of treatment will span 3-6 months and will focus on correcting any ovulatory imbalances or reproductive issues such as cysts, fibroids or endometriosis. Herbal medicines are generally used to assist with this process. It is preferable to treat both partners, as most fertility issues are not found in just the male or just the female within the couple. Male fertility issues such as low count, low motility or poor morphology can be treated through diet and lifestyle modifications as well as regular acupuncture to balance hormones and boost fertility.
Acupuncture before and during the medication phase of IVF This treatment schedule is based on protocols used in clinical trials which demonstrate increased blood supply to uterus and ovaries (reference) and a beneficial regulation of hormones which may be important to follicle development and implantation (reference). A significant increase in pregnancy rates was reported in these trials also.
Schedule: 2 treatments per week for 4 weeks (optimal) plus treatment at time of embryo transfer.
Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer These treatments are based on protocols used in clinical trials which showed that an increase in pregnancy rates in some groups of women (those for whom the expected pregnancy rate is 30% or less.
a) before or after transfer - one treatment
b) before and after transfer - two treatments
Treatment the day before or the day of the embryo transfer to eliminate fallopian tube and uterine contractions and promote general relaxation. On-site treatment at the fertility clinic both before and after the embryo transfer has been shown in a study to improve success rates by 40%. These treatments were designed for a study and it is not necessarily true that the acupuncture must be directly before and after transfer to have the desired effect. The benefits of acupuncture last for many hours and days beyond the treatment time and sessions the day before or the day of appear to be just as beneficial. We can discuss what the best choice is for your case.
Acupuncture at any phase of the IVF cycle Acupuncture can be used to manage any side effects you might experience and reduce anxiety. These treatment protocols are based on the clinical experience of many acupuncturists and their patients. Reduced fatigue, moodiness, abdomen swelling and discomfort and other side effects are reported by many women using acupuncture during their IVF cycle. In addition women report greater relaxation and control of anxiety (reference). The acupuncture treatment will be different for each patient and depends on your symptoms. These treatments can be combined with Schedule 2 above.
Schedule: 1 - 2 treatments per week as needed
Acupuncture after egg collection IVF patients are recommended to have an acupuncture treatment after egg collection, to reduce any local tissue trauma or bleeding, and help prepare a calm environment for the arrival of an embryo. This treatment can be combined with Schedule 2 or 3 above.
Schedule: 1 treatment just after the procedure itself or within the following 2 days.
Acupuncture after egg collection These treatments are similar to those used in schedule 2, designed to increase blood flow to uterus and improve implantation and pregnancy rates.
Schedule: 2 treatments per week for 2 - 4 weeks before embryo transfer plus treatment on day of transfer
Preparing for labour Acupuncture treatment applied in the 4 weeks before the due date for delivery has been shown to reduce medical induction and emergency caesarian rates. It also has been shown to encourage cervical ripening and shorten labour time.
Schedule: 1 treatment per week from week 36 of pregnancy
Acupuncture for poor sperm morphology and motility These treatments are based on protocols used in clinical trials which demonstrate increase in sperm motility and decrease in abnormal forms after a course of acupuncture (reference).
Schedule: 2 treatments per week in the 5 - 6 weeks prior to IVF
Acupuncture for TESE (testicular sperm extraction) candidates These treatments are based on protocols used in clinical trials which investigated men whose semen had no sperm and would require testicular biopsy as part of the IVF procedures. This trial showed that production of sperm, easily detectable in the semen, occurred in half of the men treated with acupuncture. These sperm could then be used in IVF/ICSI cycles and TESE avoided (reference).
Schedule: 2 treatments per week in the 5 - 6 weeks prior to IVF
Acupuncture on day of sperm donation Sometimes the pressure to produce a sperm sample on the day of egg collection can be significant enough to cause a problem. Acupuncture reduces anxiety and can increase blood flow to the genital area.
Schedule: 1 treatment before sperm donation
If you have had a number of failed IVF cycles you may wish to consider the use of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to enhance reproductive health before you attempt IVF again. Or if the end of the IVF road has been reached, Chinese medicine may provide you with another way of treating infertility.
Some of you might choose to try a TCM approach to infertility treatment from the beginning and save IVF for last. This approach is appropriate if you have intact fallopian tubes and the sperm are healthy (unless treatment for sperm is also sought).
A specialist experienced in Chinese medicine and infertility will make a detailed diagnosis and will formulate the appropriate treatment plan.
* We acknowledge that some acupuncture clinics charge more than us for certain treatments; however, we do not find any reason to charge more for fertility patients than for regular patients. There are no magic acu-points for fertility. We practice with our hearts and advocate listening carefully to our patients needs to discover a precise course of treatment.