Acupuncture to prepare for frozen embryo transfer

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Many IVF clinics like to transfer embryos into a natural environment. Embryos that have been frozen and successfully thawed are transferred back into a uterus in its natural state at exactly the right time for implantation. Using electro-stimulation on acupuncture points on the abdomen in the months and weeks before the transfer, has been shown to improve the structure of the uterine lining, and significantly enhance the implantation and pregnancy rate.

Schedule; 1-2 treatments per week in the 2-3 cycles before frozen embryo transfer

Preparing to conceive – a healthy diet

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There is much information and misinformation about what constitutes a good preconception diet. From a Chinese medicine point of view the middle road is usually the healthiest where moderation of some foods is recommended and a good balance of healthy and fresh fruits and vegetables with adequate protein is encouraged. A TCM practitioner takes into account the different constitution and situation of each individual before dietary advice is given.

A properly functioning digestive system is an important focus of treatment, so that nutrients are absorbed and utilised well. If there are any digestive issues such as bloating, bowel disorders, reflux, cravings or low appetite these can be addressed with acupuncture.

Schedule; Acupuncture once a week if there are digestive symptoms, until symptoms improve.

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Preparing to conceive – weight loss

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A little bit of weight loss goes a long way to improving fertility. Losing 5 kg is a manageable target for most and you can start now. Just moving your metabolism a little bit in the direction of burning off fat stores, can stimulate ovarian activity, improve egg and sperm quality and increase fertility.

Acupuncture can be used to help reduce your appetite and improve your metabolism to promote weight loss. An analysis of your constitution and the reasons for your weight gain by an experienced acupuncturist will lead to an individualised treatment plan designed to maximise weight loss.  We use gentle electro acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to reduce waist circumference and abdominal obesity. Acupuncture can reduce the level of specific hormones which affect appetite and metabolism.
Using acupuncture points on the ear stimulates the auricular branch of the vagal nerve and raises serotonin levels, both of which increase tone in the smooth muscle of the stomach, thus suppressing appetite.

Schedule; Acupuncture 1 – 3 times per week for 1 – 3 months before IVF, or until goal weight is achieved or until you conceive.

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Preparing to conceive – egg quality

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The environment that eggs occupy during their lengthy maturation process in the ovary has an impact on what shape they are in before meeting a sperm (with or without an IVF embryologist in attendance).  They need a good blood supply, the right nutrients, the right hormone signals and the capacity to supply enough energy to the embryo.

This has important implications, particularly for eggs that are coming from slightly older ovaries (and possibly for eggs coming from women with PCOS or endometriosis). While no treatment can turn back the clock, or change the DNA, acupuncture and herbs can be used in an attempt to rejuvenate some oocyte characteristics by improving delivery of  nutrition to the developing egg and enhancing its capacity to make energy thus increasing its chance of making a viable embryo.

Schedule; Acupuncture once a week, Chinese herbs twice a day for 3 – 6 months

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Preparing to conceive – sperm quality

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Many clinical trials in several countries have demonstrated the benefit of acupuncture to sperm quality (references). This is particularly the case where there is low motility or high numbers of abnormal forms.  Acupuncture is applied to the abdomen and the lower legs according to research protocols and your individual constitution. Mild electroacupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow through the small blood vessels of the testes, improving delivery of nutrients to developing sperm and promoting optimal sperm vitality. Thus acupuncture can be used as part of a pre-conception programme even where there is a normal semen analysis.

Schedule: Acupuncture 1 – 2 times per week for 5 – 10 weeks (10 – 15 treatments in total).
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Acupuncture during the first few weeks of pregnancy

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Acupuncture has been demonstrated to have significant immune-modulating effects. This effect may be important in reducing the risk of rejection by the mother’s immune system in the early days as the embryo implants and a pregnancy is established.

In addition regular monitoring of the pulse (a TCM diagnostic technique) and regular treatment with acupuncture designed to reduce anxiety offers you important and reassuring support during these first few weeks of pregnancy. Clinical trials have shown that regular monitoring and reassurance reduces miscarriage rates. Studies in China have shown that Chinese herbs can reduce the incidence of miscarriage in early pregnancy after IVF.

Schedule: 1 treatment per week until week 12 of pregnancy.

Acupuncture before and during the medication phase of IVF

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This treatment schedule is based on protocols used in clinical trials which demonstrate increased blood supply to uterus and ovaries (reference) and a beneficial regulation of hormones which may be important to follicle development and implantation (reference). Recent analyses of the benefit of IVF patients receiving acupuncture have shown that patients who have treatment before and during the stimulation and implantation phases benefit more than those that have acupuncture only on the day of embryo transfer (reference)
Schedule: 2 treatments per week for 4 weeks (optimal) plus treatment at time of embryo transfer.

Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer (including frozen embryo transfer)

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These treatments are based on protocols used in clinical trials which showed that an increase in pregnancy rates in some groups of women (those for whom the expected pregnancy rate is 30% or less). (You can find the references for these trials here)
Schedule:    a – before or after transfer …… one treatment
                      b – before and after transfer …… two treatments 

Acupuncture at any phase of the IVF cycle

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Acupuncture can be used to manage any side effects you might experience and reduce anxiety. These treatment protocols are based on the clinical experience of many acupuncturists and their patients. Reduced fatigue, moodiness, abdomen swelling and discomfort and other side effects are reported by many women using acupuncture during their IVF cycle. In addition women report greater relaxation and control of anxiety (reference). The acupuncture treatment will be different for each patient and depends on your symptoms. These treatments can be combined with Schedule 2 above.
Schedule: 1-2 treatments per week as needed.

Acupuncture after egg collection

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IVF patients are recommended to have an acupuncture treatment the day or two after egg collection, to reduce any local tissue trauma or bleeding, and help prepare a calm environment for the arrival of an embryo. This treatment can be combined with Schedule 2 or 3 above.

Schedule: 1 treatment just after the procedure itself or within the following couple of days.