IVF Acupuncture research can be a little confusing, as much of the research has focused on the treatment applied only at the time of embryo transfer. There has been quite a journey with IVF acupuncture research and while the initial studies looked at embryo transfer acupuncture, more recent research now suggests higher dose acupuncture prior to and during the IVF cycle may be of most benefit. Here we clarify what research suggests in terms of IVF Acupuncture to optimise psychological and physiological benefits. We have put together recommendations on the acupuncture treatments that may help optimise your IVF cycle by drawing on the most recent research findings (including a 2019 Meta-analysis, 2018 randomized controlled trials and 2016 Retrospective Cohort study).
Our research-based recommendations aim to clarify:
- When to start acupuncture and how many sessions may be of benefit
- Considerations surrounding Embryo Transfer Acupuncture and acupuncture in the wait between embryo transfer and pregnancy blood test.
- When to start acupuncture and how many sessions may be of benefit?
The evidence indicates that if you are going to use acupuncture it may be advisable for to have it before and during the stimulation phase of the IVF cycle. It is useful for women to consider acupuncture treatment in the menstrual cycles before their IVF cycle, or before a frozen embryo cycle to improve the uterine lining. Also……. according to the research, dose matters.
The most recent Meta-analysis showed there is a relationship between the acupuncture treatment dose and pregnancy rate. Higher dose acupuncture before embryo transfer showed a significant benefit and increased pregnancy rate. In studies where more than three treatments were performed, the clinical pregnancy rate significantly improved (N=8 / n=1595, RR 1.50, 95% CI 1.18–1.90, P=0.001) (Smith 2019).
One study by Hullender in 2015 showed that acupuncture administered to IVF patients at a dose of 9-12 treatments prior to embryo transfer is associated with more live births. Hullender analysed the outcomes of more than a thousand IVF cycles and found that women who used Chinese Medicine (acupuncture with or without herbs), had a higher live birth rate than those doing IVF alone. The proportion of live births was 61.3% in the Chinese Medicine group and 48.2% in the usual IVF care group and 50.8% in the group having acupuncture only on day of embryo transfer.
A whole systems approach is the approach we take at the Acupuncture Pregnancy clinics. While we recommend large dose acupuncture (9-12 treatments) when possible to optimise results, research suggests that even 3 or more treatments significantly improve likelihood of clinical pregnancy. We are happy to work with you where you are, and with whatever is possible and/or manageable for you.
When should I book in?
- Ideally come in 1- 3 months before your start your IVF cycle.
- We recommend bi-weekly treatment for 4 weeks prior to IVF cycle and 2 weeks during stimulation cycle.
- Electro Acupuncture and Low Level Laser Therapy LLLT may be used during IVF stimulation and/or prior to Frozen embryo transfer.
- Embryo transfer acupuncture considerations
Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer has significant benefit for women who have increased stress levels or who have had multiple previous IVF cycles, or where there was a low baseline pregnancy rate expectation (Smith 2018). Continuing this approach in the two-week wait is also helpful for these women to manage IVF-related stress and anxiety.
Embryo Transfer acupuncture is best be done on same day (or within 24 hours if on same day is not possible) and on site or with minimum travel. For this reason, The Acupuncture Pregnancy clinics are located adjacent to, or near IVF clinics for convenient and timely appointments.
We have highly qualified AHPRA-registered Chinese Medicine Practitioners dedicated to reproductive health, women’s health and pregnancy care ready to support you!
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