Fertility Acupuncture and IVF

Is fertility acupuncture the secret to IVF success?

We've been combining fertility acupuncture and IVF since 2006, when there was only 1 hospital in the area doing IVF. Now, we have 3 hospitals in Providence and many more in Boston and Hartford specializing in IVF. Acupuncture is a powerful adjunctive therapy that you can add to your IVF cycle and studies show that it does definitely increase success rates. 

How can you increase your chances of IVF success? Acupuncture helps with IVF because is helps support the body in ways that are important during an IVF cycle. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce the production of stress hormones that can interfere with the development of follicles. Secondly, acupuncture helps improve blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, which can help with follicle development, as well as a healthy uterine lining. 

The calming effects of acupuncture should not be discounted. If the brain and the emotions are calm during a cycle, this allows for better hormonal signaling, which is paramount for a successful IVF cycle. The brain and the ovaries have a spiraling communication loop and if the pituitary gland and hypothalamus are not distracted with stress hormones, they can focus on their communication with the ovaries.

When should you do acupuncture during your IVF cycle?

If you can swing it, the best practice is to start getting regular acupuncture treatments before the IVF cycle begins. IVF is a little like a marathon with the down regulation and the stimulatory drugs. Remember you're doing the work of up to 30 cycles in just one IVF cycle! You want to prepare your body beforehand if at all possible.

Ideally, we like to help our patients prepare for 1-3 months before their IVF cycle. We recommend weekly treatments during this preparatory period. Also, in our clinic acupuncture is one part of our holistic fertility program. With our IVF patients we also do dietary therapy, lifestyle counseling, as well as nutritional supplementation. 

We are all about preconception care in our clinic. We believe that the more nourished and balanced your body is with a healthy diet, key lifestyle practices and targeted nutritional supplementation, the better your chances are to get pregnant with your first IVF cycle.

Fertility, IVF and Acupuncture
What does your doctor think of adding acupuncture to the mix?

Many reproductive endocrinologists are paying attention to the statistics and referring their patients to acupuncturists these days. However, maybe your doctor doesn't read these studies and is old school in her thinking. Yes, there are still doctors that will tell their patients that there is no scientific proof that acupuncture works. 

It's a silly thing in the 21st century that some medical doctors still feel that they need to protect their turf. If you have a doctor like this, don't worry. You are not alone. Probably half of our patients come on their own without the blessing of their doctors and many of them do get pregnant.  In an ideal world, we would all get along and work collaboratively. 

In some cases medical doctors are meeting us halfway and working hard on the behalf of their patients. More and more doctors are opening up to the wonders of acupuncture. On the west coast and in NYC, it's very common to have reproductive endocrinologists sending their patients to acupuncturists. In New England, we're a little behind, but catching up. Phoenix Fertility Center has a good relationship with a handful of these doctors and we look forward to collaborating more in the future.

Should you focus on IVF and acupuncture timing?

Most of the studies that have come out on the effects of acupuncture on IVF success rates have followed a set protocol. This protocol has involved an acupuncture treatment before retrieval and then again after transfer. The most famous study was done by Paulus and in this study they found that 42.5% of the acupuncture group got pregnant, where as only 23.6% of the non-acupuncture group got pregnant.

We take a kind of logical approach to the timing question. If acupuncture is helpful in the moment; in the middle of the cycle. Shouldn't it be helpful to really prepare the body for the IVF cycle and therefore boost our chances of success? Well, in our clinic, we have definitely found this to be the case.

Many of our patients first come to us because they are trying naturally to get pregnant. We work with women anywhere from a few months to a year to prepare their bodies for pregnancy. Sometimes when we're not successful naturally, women move on to Clomid, medicated IUIs or IVF. Keep in mind that many of these patients worked with us for up to a year or more nurturing and nourishing their bodies.

We have our best IVF success with these patients. They are usually the healthiest that they have been in years. Many patients lose weight and feel younger and more vibrant on our program. The #1 side effect of our holistic fertility program is a palpable feeling of wellbeing. Our patients just feel good. That's what they tell us. So, when they do move on to IVF, they often get pregnant on their first cycle, as long as there weren't other major issues contributing to poor egg quality, uterine function or subpar sperm quality.

So what's the secret to acupuncture and IVF success?

I believe the true secret to acupuncture and IVF success lies in preparation. It may not be a sexy quick fix, but with 15 years of experience as an acupuncturist, I've found that small incremental steps are what yield success. The body can not be transformed overnight. It just doesn't work that way.

If we've reached the point, where we need some assistance from medication to produce viable follicles, it stands to reason that our bodies didn't reach this point overnight. Therefore, it might take a little preparation to get the body ready for a successful IVF cycle. I encourage you to plan ahead and make an appointment with us before you start your IVF cycle. Even a few weeks is better than no preparation at all. 

Once you come to Phoenix Fertility Center, you will immediately feel like you've entered a space of understanding. We know you've been through a lot and you're giving it your all to get pregnant. We take our role as your acupuncturist very seriously and we're on board with you 100%. We are fully invested in your wellbeing and we do everything in our power to increase your potential for IVF success.

If you have any questions at all, please send us a message below. We're happy to help in any way we can. We look forward to joining your team and supporting you through your next IVF cycle.