How can acupuncture support my IVF cycle?
One busy area of my practice is supporting patients for assisted conception. This is often IVF ( in vitro fertilisation) or assisted reproduction, this can vary from a natural cycle or frozen embryo transfer (FET) with many variations thrown in depending on which clinic a couple is attending.
Why should I consider acupuncture for IVF/ Assisted conception, FET or a natural cycle?
Here is some research collected by the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC)
- Regulating fertility hormones - stress and other factors can disrupt the function of the hypothalamic pituitary-ovarian axis (HPOA).
- Acupuncture promotes the release of beta-endorphin in the brain, which regulates gonadatrophin releasing hormone from the hypothalamus, follicle stimulating hormone from the pituitary gland, and oestrogen and progesterone levels from the ovary (Anderson 2007).
- Increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs (Ho 2009, Anderson 2007), which can improve the thickness of the endometrial lining, so increasing the chances of embryo implantation.
- Increasing egg production (Jin 2009) and improving oocyte quality (Chen 2009), which could increase the chance of fertilisation.
- Enhancing luteal function (Huang 2009)
- Regulating follicle stimulation hormone-receptor expression (Jin 2009). Normalising cortisol and prolactin levels on IVF medication days (Magarelli 2008); Reducing stress (Anderson 2007)
- Promoting embryo implantation (Liu 2008).
Should your male partner consider acupuncture? If the answer is no, you might want read on...
A 2010 BAcC (British Acupuncture Council) survey found acupuncturists in the United Kingdom where 7.5 times more likely to see sub fertile female patients than sub fertile male patients. In many cases where the sub fertility is confirmed to be due to a male factor, it is still the female partner who comes for acupuncture. Generally, in two out of three couples I treat, there is likely to be a male related subfertilty cause, either alone or in combination with a female factor.
*Some issues which may cause subfertilty in males are: cryptorchidism (13%), varicocele (10%), congenital abnormality of he vas deferens (4%) and endocrine abnormality (2%). Other medical causes can be congenital anatomical abnormalities, infections, cancer treatments, scarring from STD’s, injury, surgery, vasectomy or vasectomy reversal, impotence or erectile dysfunction, as well as some medications.
Lifestyle factors that can impact sperm quality are: heavy use of alcohol, recreational drug use, being overweight, smoking, exposure to environmental toxins & heat, occupational factors, poor diet, lack of exercise, stress and older paternal age.
This may remind us, there is a real importantance for both female and male partners to attend acupuncture treatment to enhance their investment and journey during this time.
* I Szmelskyj & L Aquilina, Acupuncture for IVF and Assisted Reproduction, Churchill Livingstone