One of the most common enquires a clinic will receive is whether or not acupuncture can assist in the IVF process. There are a lot things to consider and even more variables that can effect the overall outcome and this article will explore a few of these factors.
First off, Chinese medicine (Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine) has been used for centuries to assist with fertility. There is already much research on the topic of fertility assistance and acupuncture showing promising results and much more research emerging constantly. But why is it an ancient form of medicine can still be useful in these times of modern technology?
Quite simply it is because a Chinese medicine practitioner approaches the problem from a different framework of medicine. The terms used may be foreign to the uninitiated but here is a quick run down of what is happening.
To see why a patient is suffering from sub fertility it is of key import to observe that all phases of the cycle are working as required. If we break down the cycle into four stages and compare them to the terminology used in Chinese medicine we arrive at:
Period (Bleed) – Yin Phase
Post Bleed/Pre-ovulation – Yin into Yang Phase
Ovulation – Yang Phase
Post ovulation/Pre-menstrual – Yang into Yin Phase
This can be broken down further into estrogen being yin and progesterone being yang however to keep it simple, results can be obtained as the framework of medicine differs but still aligns with the biomedical understanding.
Now on the topic of Acupuncture and IVF. A big question most people ask is whether acupuncture will ensure the success of IVF. Sadly no as IVF is not an exact science however the use of acupuncture can be employed to improve the statistical odds of success. This all depends on things such the base health, lifestyle and constitution of a patient and the frequency of treatment.
For example if a patient were to be attempting IVF but they maintain an unhealthy lifestyle, poor diet and suffer from recurring illness, the overall success of the IVF procedure may not be what they were hoping for. It is a two front battle to be fought by both the practitioner and the patient.
Frequency of treatment is another big factor. If a patient lives a good lifestyle (not stressed) and has a good diet then getting acupuncture once a week should be fine. For those that lead a more demanding lifestyle, twice a week is optimal. The treatments themselves should start several months prior to the IVF procedure beginning as this allows the body time to properly regulate.
On the day of transfer a patient should get acupuncture done 2 hours prior to the transfer and within 2 hours after the transfer to improve the acceptance rate and retention rate respectively. Most IVF clinics have an acupuncture on staff and the protocol is a standard one used by all clinics.
Herbal medicine is another question that comes up with IVF. It is generally safe to take Chinese herbal medicine during the time you undertake the procedure however most IVF clinics are uncomfortable with their patient taking herbs as they are unable to predict the herb drug interaction. It is best to stick with acupuncture during the IVF period however it is worthwhile considering the use of herbs prior to beginning the IVF procedure.
In summary, the use of acupuncture and Chinese herbs can enhance fertility as the framework of medicine is different but still aligns with the biomedical counterpart. Using acupuncture as an adjunct support to IVF can help improve the success rates depending on lifestyle, diet, constitution and frequency of treatments however there is no guarantee of success in either realm as IVF is not an exact science.