Frequently Asked Questions about Acupuncture for Fertility and IVF
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a medical treatment which involves the insertion of ultra-thin, sterile, single-use needles into specific acupuncture points on the body. These acupuncture points are located on pathways known as Channels or Meridians, where our “Qi” (vital energy) flows. These points, when needled, can regulate the way in which the body functions and can help correct any imbalances in the flow of our “Qi”. Therefore, it can help address problems that affect reproduction, as well as many other common conditions.
Can acupuncture be used to treat fertility & infertility?
Acupuncture has been used for centuries to boost male and female fertility, to prepare the body for conception and pregnancy and to treat any underlying conditions such as endometriosis, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, issues with sperm, thyroid problems and ovulation issues.
• improve the quality of the gamete, embryo and endometrium
• reduce stress
• reduce the side effects of any required medical drugs
• reduce the chance of miscarriage
• modulate the immune system
Acupuncture for fertility is always supplemented with dietary advice, nutrition advice, lifestyle advice and, often, Chinese herbs.
Can acupuncture be used with conventional medical fertility treatments?
Fertility is one of the many conditions where acupuncture and conventional medicine can work together effectively. It is perfectly safe to use acupuncture when conventional medication is prescribed for conditions such as PCOS, underactive thyroid, or medications to induce ovulation or medications prescribed for couples undergoing IVF, ICSI or IUI.
When should acupuncture treatment begin?
Generally, it is better to have more acupuncture treatments than less. Treatments can begin at any stage of a woman’s menstrual cycle and at any time for a man. The general recommendation is that the woman has acupuncture treatments once a week for four weeks and then once every two weeks for three or four* menstrual cycles (*studies have shown that higher rates of pregnancy are achieved after four menstrual cycles). If the couple are going to have IVF, ICSI or IUI, it is recommended that they prepare for at least three months beforehand by having acupuncture treatments and following dietary and lifestyle advice.
Can acupuncture provide support during IVF?
Acupuncture complements IVF and can improve the chances of its success. Once the IVF (or IUI) cycle has been started, acupuncture treatments can be of benefit to relieve stress, thicken the endometrium (uterus), improve the quality of the gamete and embryo and reduce the side effects of the drugs prescribed.
Acupuncture Pre- and Post-Embryo Transfer
There is evidence that receiving acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer, both before and after, can significantly increase the success of IVF. Trials in Germany (Paulus et al, Fertility Sterility Journal 2002 April; 77 (4) 221.4) showed that this made 42 per cent difference in conception rates.
A recent meta-analysis (Manheimer E), published by the British Medical Journal in March 2008, suggests that women undergoing IVF, who also have acupuncture on the day of the embryo transfer, have a much higher chance of conceiving than those who do not.
Researchers at the University of Southampton and Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton, UK, have found that women undergoing acupuncture at the same time as IVF increased their chances of having a baby from one in five to one in three.
The research, published on the Cochrane Library’s online database, involved looking at 13 studies comprising 2,000 women worldwide, who underwent acupuncture at the same time as a course of IVF.
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