Acupuncture and IVF
Mechanisms of acupuncture Q&A
How does acupuncture help relieve side effects?
One of the things you hear a lot about in acupuncture circles is qi and blood flow. One of the mechanisms behind the effectiveness of acupuncture is its capacity to promote the circulation of blood and fluids which has the effect of reducing tissue swelling and inflammation. And movement of the qi reduces pain and discomfort. Thus IVF side effects like abdomen pain and swelling, headaches and breast soreness can be quickly relieved. Regulating the movement of qi levels out moods swings and reduces fatigue.
How does acupuncture work to increase pregnancy rates in IVF patients?
This is something we want to discover too. Many doctors think that the acupuncture performed at the time of transfer reduces any uterine contractions which might cause an embryo to be expelled or inhibit an embryo from successfully implanting. Some studies support this theory but others do not. The acupuncture points used after the embryo transfer are points which we know have a moderating effect on the immune system, and this may prevent rejection of embryos in some women. It may be also be the case that a certain type of patient benefits from acupuncture and others don’t. This would explain the variability in the trial results to date. More research is needed to determine the mechanism at work.
Other preliminary studies have shown that a series of acupuncture treatments in the weeks before egg collection, have a beneficial regulatory effect on the serum levels of stress hormones of women taking IVF drugs. We don’t yet know whether the beneficial impact is on follicle development or on embryo implantation, but women who received acupuncture in these trials had greater pregnancy rates than those who did not (reference).
Will you be doing any research at the acupuncture IVF support clinic to determine how acupuncture increases IVF success rates?
It is very important to us to not only provide a service which might improve the experience and outcome of IVF patients but also to try and find out exactly how this is achieved.
Collaborations with universities and research institutions are underway. Clinical trials are planned for 2009.
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