Fertility Acupuncture for IVF, ICSI, IUI and Natural Fertility Cycles

Fertility Acupuncture for Patients in Ottawa, ON Canada

Fertility acupuncture is an adjunctive natural treatment option to support the treatment of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), and Intracytoplasmic Injection (ICSI, and Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). Fertility acupuncture in Ottawa, ON Canada continues to gain attention in the public and scientific community as strong research has supported its application in improving positive outcomes while reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. It is also important to note, that fertility acupuncture has a strong safety profile with a low-risk for adverse effects from treatment provided by a trained professional in fertility treatments.

How Does Fertility Acupuncture Support IVF/ICSI/IUI and Natural Cycles?

  1. Supports development of follicles: the use of specific acupuncture protocols has been shown to help support the development and growth of follicles during fertility treatments. It does this by improving the production of FSH from the brain as a reflex to increased beta endorphins in the central nervous system from the acupuncture.

  2. Improves blood circulation to the Ovaries and Uterus: the increased blood flow to the reproductive organs helps to provide more nutrient rich blood to the organs and help improve the removal of metabolic waste products. It also helps to support improved uterine lining health and quality as a result of the improved blood flow.

  3. Reduces muscle spasms of the Uterus: fertility acupuncture has a relaxing effect on smooth muscle, especially the smooth muscle of the uterus. By helping to decrease uterine spasms this may help provide an optimal environment to support implantation and reduce the risk of expulsion a healthy embryo.

  4. Balances Hormone Production in the Body: the acupuncture increases the production of specific hormones from the brain, which has a downstream effect and improves the production of estrogen and progesterone from the ovary. This helps to support the uterine lining health, follicle development, embryo implantation, and reduced cortisol (stress hormone).

Main Treatment Periods during IVF/ICSI/IUI

There are 4 main phases of the assisted fertility treatments that seem to be the most important to receive fertility acupuncture treatments.

  • Prior to starting IVF/ICSI/IUI or during Natural Cycles: acupuncture during this phase is helpful in supporting optimal hormone balance 

  • Controlled Ovarian Hyperstimulation Phase: The COH phase is when medications are taken, usually by subcutaneous injection, to stimulate the growth of follicles to obtain the maximum size and quantity of eggs for the retrieval. Acupuncture during this period helps to support follicle growth and development, reduces stress hormones, helps you relax, and improves blood flow to the uterus and ovaries.

  • Day of Transfer: Fertility acupuncture on the day of transfer helps to reduce spasms of the uterine muscle and improves blood flow to the uterus to support a comfortable environment for the embryo to implant.

  • Implantation Phase: fertility acupuncture during the implantation phase (usually twice in the 10 days after embryo transfer) help to reduce uterine spasms, improve blood flow to the uterus, and provide a comfortable environment for the embryo to implant.

Recent Updates in Research:

 

Fertility acupuncture was first studied in the late 90’s to see if it could help to reduce pain associated with oocyte retrieval during an IVF procedure. It was later studied to see if an increase in pregnancy rates was observed by using fertility acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer (immediately before and after the transfer). While the original protocol showed promise, larger and better quality studies have since shown that the acupuncture on the day of transfer not improve pregnancy rates during IVF.

 

Newer research coming out of China, Austria, Italy, and the U.S.A tested newer protocols and at different phases of the IVF cycle to see if this improved the success rate for IVF transfers. So far, the results have been promising. By including more frequent acupuncture treatments leading up to the transfer and combining it with acupuncture treatments on the day of transfer (as in the original research) plus a few days after the research (called the Implantation Phase) showed a significant improvement in success rates with IVF. The protocols also looked at using different acupoints (location where acupuncture needle is inserted) and also looked at including different styles of acupuncture. 

 

For example, the use of laser acupuncture has largely shown little to no improvement in success rates. The use of electroacupuncture, however, has been shown to improve success rates significantly over regular (dry) acupuncture. This is hypothesized to be a result of improved blood flow and a greater impact on hormone balance from the electroacupuncture protocols. So it is important when you are receiving fertility acupuncture you work with a practitioner that is educated and experienced in newer protocols and methods of fertility acupuncture. 

 

Who does Fertility Acupuncture Benefit the Most?

 

There are specific cases where including fertility acupuncture can significantly improve the chances of conception. One condition where fertility acupuncture is especially beneficial is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), as it helps to improve ovulatory function, can support blood flow to the uterus (as blood flow to the uterus in PCOS may be suboptimal), and can help with follicle growth.

 

Patients that have a low baseline success rate see the greatest improvement in chances of success. For example, if you have had multiple unsuccessful attempts with IUI or IVF, then your chances of a positive outcome with the next cycle is much lower than your chances the first time around. However, with the use of fertility acupuncture, this subgroup of patients sees the most significant improvement in chances of conceiving with a fertility cycle. 

 

On average, the increase in success rates is about 1/3. The latest scientific review looking over data from over a decade was published recently in Australia and confirmed this number in their research paper as well. This translates to a 10% increase in success rates if your baseline success rate is, for example, 30% with an IVF.

This article is in no way a replacement for medical advice or medical care, it is advised that anyone concerned about their Health should speak with their Naturopathic Doctor.

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