You asked and we listened! Updates from Amy for IVF patients

If you are about to start your first (or another) IVF cycle you may be wondering if acupuncture may be of benefit to the way you manage the cycle and to your outcomes?

Perhaps you are interested to know more about the research examining IVF acupuncture or maybe you are unsure when to start acupuncture and what is the best timing for treatments throughout your IVF cycle?

Some of the most common questions we hear from IVF patients are

   “When should I start acupuncture ?”

   “Does it help?”

   “Is there any research that backs up recommendations?”

Amy Forth, director of the Alexandria Acupuncture Pregnancy Clinic answers your questions about IVF acupuncture below. She covers – the research, treatment timing, the dose (number of treatments) and the frequency of treatments both before and during your IVF cycle by drawing on the most recent research findings including a 2019 Meta-analysis and a 2015 Retrospective Cohort study.

Our research-based recommendations aim to clarify:

  1. When to start acupuncture and how many sessions may be of benefit
  2.  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 transfer 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 clinical pregnancies. 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 (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 a whole systems Chinese Medicine approach (acupuncture with or without herbs, dietary and lifestyle advice), 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 IVF usual 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 a dose similar to that used in Hullender’s study whenever possible, research suggests that having anything over 3 treatments significantly improves 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 exactly should I book in?

  • Ideally come in at least 1 month before your start your IVF cycle. There may be other issues related to sleep, stress, digestion etc that we can address as well as IVF preparation.
  • Our patients usually come for bi-weekly treatment for 4 weeks prior to IVF cycle and the (roughly) 2 weeks of the medicated part of the IVF cycle.
  • Electro-acupuncture and Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) may be used during IVF stimulation and/or prior to Frozen embryo transfer.

When should I consider Embryo transfer acupuncture?

Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer has been found to show 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 (Smith 2019). 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 ideally done on same day (or within 24 hours if on same day is not possible) and on site or with minimum travel.

Is acupuncture safe in the weeks after Embryo Transfer and during pregnancy?

Acupuncture during the two week wait can be useful to reduce stress and anxiety. It also considered to be extremely safe in pregnancy when administered by a registered acupuncturist. Acupuncture treatments during your two week wait avoid any acupuncture points that are contraindicated in pregnancy.

Many patients like to continue acupuncture for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Acupuncture during pregnancy may incorporate points that are traditionally used to help manage nausea and fatigue and support early pregnancy physiology. Often patients report the experience as quite relaxing and rejuvenating.

 

How to book in for your acupuncture with us?

The Acupuncture Pregnancy Clinic has 5 locations all nearby to IVF clinics. For more information or research check out our website www.acupuncturepregnancy.com.au

You are welcome to book online here.

The Alexandria clinic (02 8372 3289) operates:

Tues and Thurs 4-8pm, Saturday 8-2pm
Pre and post embryo transfer appointments are available at other times outside of clinic hours on site at IVF A rooms.  Please call 0403 180 611 or email alexandria@acupuncturepregnancy.com.au to book out of hours appointments.

The CBD clinic (02 9299 1311) operates;

Mon and Fri 7.40am to 2pm and Tues, Weds, Thurs 12pm to 7pm.

The Westmead clinic (02 9689 1614) operates:

Mon, Tues, Weds, Thurs midday/2pm – 7 pm.  Fri 7.00am -10am, and Sat 7.40am – 2pm.

The Melbourne clinic (03 9078 5759) operates:

Mon – Fri 8am – 6pm, Sat 9am – 3pm

The Gosford clinic (0481 202 881) operates:

Tues and Thurs 9:30am – 5pm, Sat 8am -1pm

 

For further reading please see an extended version of this blog with a full list of references online here

We wish you all the best of luck with your IVF cycle and hope we can help!