In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture is known for its therapeutic effects in fertility, and it is widely used as an adjunctive therapy during Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) — ranging from preconception to fertility treatment support. Specifically, acupuncture is used during an IVF cycle, IUI cycle, Oocyte Retrieval, Timed Intercourse, Frozen Embryo Transfers, and overall preconception care.
Recent research indicates that the benefits of acupuncture can vary, depending on the duration of treatment: short term or long term. Short term treatment is when the patient receives acupuncture during an IVF cycle, whereas long term treatment involves patients undergoing acupuncture treatments even before their IVF cycle (known as preconception care).
The Benefits of Fertility Acupuncture
In short term treatment, the benefits of acupuncture include: improved blood circulation to the uterus and ovaries, lowered stress levels and relaxation, and amelioration of side effects from the IVF medications (for example: abdominal bloating and discomfort, fluid retention, headaches and mood swings).
In long term treatment, patients notice benefits when receiving acupuncture a couple months prior to an IVF cycle, during an IVF cycle and into the pregnancy. When acupuncture is received with the right treatment frequency and duration, it can induce regular ovulation by modulating the sympathetic nervous system, endocrine system, and neuroendocrine system. These treatments can also be beneficial for pre-existing conditions, such as: endometriosis, PCOS, adhesions, ovarian cysts, or fibroids. Acupuncture also work synergistically with biomedical prescriptions.
Whether short or long term treatment, one of the most significant benefits of acupuncture is its influence on the central nervous system. For instance, acupuncture given before and after an embryo transfer has been shown to decrease urinary adrenaline and noradrenaline. We also see lower serum levels of cortisol when acupuncture is given during gonadotropin stimulation in an IVF cycle. Overall, we see a decrease in the concentration of stress hormones in the body and a feeling of greater relaxation and stress reduction. These benefits translate into increased clinical pregnancy rates and live birth rates in women undergoing IVF.
Acupuncture During Preconception and Beyond
At Conceive Health, our acupuncture treatments follow the four phases of the menstrual cycle: follicular, ovulatory, luteal and menstruations phases. During each phase we use different combinations of acupuncture points with the overall goal of regulating the sympathetic nervous system, endocrine system, and neuroendocrine system.
- Bowsher, David. Mechanisms of Acupuncture, In Medical Acupuncture: A Western Scientific Approach. Eds. Jacqueline Filshie and Adrian White, Churchill Livingstone London, 1998, Chapter 6, pp.69-82.
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