How Can Acupuncture and TCM Help with IVF Success

By Dongfeng Zhou, AP, DAOM

IVF, or in vitro fertilization, can be enhanced by using acupuncture. Some studies have shown acupuncture to increase the chances of success with IVF by as much as 65%. IVF is a medical process, causing multiple eggs to mature at the same time, extracting them, and then fertilizing them in a lab. Depending on the clinic, the fertilized eggs are then grown until they reach a point such as a blastocyst, and then they can be frozen for future use or implanted in the uterus.

All of these medical interventions cause major stresses and imbalances in the female reproductive system. The rates for success decrease with maternal age as well because of egg quality or quantity. Each unsuccessful IVF cycle reduces the odds of future IVF success, so the pressure mounts with each try. Men can also have challenges with sperm motility, number, and shape.

So, how can acupuncture and herbs help IVF, and when should therapy begin in this process?

1. Acupuncture reduces stress during a time of extreme stress. The stress of IVF is financial, emotional, and physiological. Because it is such an expensive process, patients are really invested in the success of the cycle, which puts more stress on finances and even relationships. It is extremely stressful emotionally. There are so many unknowns, from how many healthy eggs will be harvested to how many embryos to implant and trying to keep hopes and dreams in check. The stress on the body is intense. The high levels of hormone medications to produce more than one egg as well as getting the uterus ready for implantation is tough on the woman’s body. Acupuncture is well-documented to relieve stress, anxiety, and regulate the mood during this challenging time.
2. Acupuncture and herbs can increase circulation to the ovaries and uterus. Increased circulation will increase the egg quality for IVF. This is even more important for a second retrieval or a maternal age over 35. And a better blood supply to the uterus increases the odds of a successful implantation. If a patient is struggling with fibroids or endometriosis, acupuncture and herbs can help clear these issues before the IVF process begins.
3. Acupuncture and herbs can help men increase their sperm production as well as motility and shape. With balanced hormones, reduced stress, and proper circulation, the odds for IVF increase with these therapies if male fertility is an issue.
4. Acupuncture and herbs can help the implantation process and avoid early miscarriage. With a relaxed uterus and reduced stress, the embryo has a better chance. Sometimes early miscarriage will occur because of a genetic problem, which even acupuncture cannot prevent. But many times, the women’s body has been through a lot and struggles to sustain the pregnancy. Acupuncture and herbs have been proven to help women stay pregnant.
5. Acupuncture and herbs can also help with morning sickness. These therapies help restore body functions such as digestion and peristalsis which sometimes stalls during early pregnancy.
6. Acupuncture and herbs can offset the side effects of IVF hormone therapies. The medications used for IVF cycles are high-powered and can cause challenging side effects. For example, some women struggle with high doses of progesterone, which makes them feel moody or gives them digestive or sleep problems. These problems can be combated with acupuncture and herbs.
When to Start Therapy
3-6 months before IVF cycle. Getting regular acupuncture and taking herbal therapy can help ready the ovaries to produce the best quality eggs. Some women even get pregnant naturally during this stage. As stated before, fibroids and endometriosis can be reduced naturally to increase the odds of implantation later.
During the IVF retrieval cycle. Acupuncture has been shown to increase the follicle size and mature the follicles faster. It is especially key a day or two before the retrieval.
Before Transfer. Acupuncture can relax the uterus to increase the odds for implantation. It is important to reduce stress hormones in the body and increase circulation to the uterus.
After Transfer. Because implantation of the embryo usually occurs within the first 5-8 days after the transfer, circulation, relaxation, and reducing stress are still key to increase the odds of success.
After a positive pregnancy test. Once the woman is officially pregnant, regular acupuncture every week or every other week can help the body adjust to changes and the continued IVF hormones such as progesterone that are taken through the 2nd or 3rd month. Also, regular acupuncture and herbs can prevent or help morning sickness as well as prevent early miscarriage.
Second and Third Trimesters. Acupuncture is wonderful for helping women’s ever-changing bodies with tendon and ligament pains, back pain, swollen hands and feet, headaches, and many other issues. Avoiding medications that may harm the baby is a bonus of using natural therapies like acupuncture or herbs. Also, if the baby is not in proper position, acupuncture and moxibustion may help the baby get ready for delivery.
Overdue Baby. Acupuncture can safely help the mother’s body get ready for labor. Sometimes acupuncture can even start the labor or contractions when the baby is overdue.
With so many ways to help increase the chances for successful IVF cycles, it is easy to see why reproductive endocrinologists often recommend acupuncture as an add-on therapy for IVF. If you are in the middle of an IVF cycle and wondering if acupuncture can still help, the answer is YES. Acupuncture and herbs at any time during this process will increase the odds of success, but the best outcomes come with continued care.
Dr. Dongfeng Zhou has experience helping women increase their IVF cycle success with acupuncture and herbal therapy. See how she might be able to help you by calling the best acupuncturist in Fort Lauderdale to set up your free consultation at Tamarac or Plantation location.