Acupuncture is a form of medicine, which originated in the East. Nowadays is it practised all around the world in Western societies to treat a variety of ailments. Acupuncture and fertility are a common combination and specifically, acupuncture can be used to treat and support patients undergoing IVF or ICSI. At Oxted Acupuncture, I regularly treat patients during IVF or ICSI and I focus on different aspects of each individual’s fertility journey. For me, it’s vital to approach each person as a unique patient and I tailor the treatment to their specific needs.
Acupuncture and fertility
Acupuncture is based on Meridian Theory, which determines areas of the body that may be blocked, undernourished or imbalanced. Some of these meridians flow directly through the pelvic basin and therefore, an imbalance can potentially affect fertility. This may be due to reduced blood flow to the uterus, either caused by lack of nourishment or too much tension causing ‘Stasis’. Temperature imbalance can also be affected and ‘Cold uterus’ is a cause of fertility issues in Chinese Medicine.
Protocol Cycles, acupuncture and fertility
If you are undergoing a long protocol cycle, you will ‘Down Reg.’ This means your body will enter temporary menopause using drugs such as Buserelin or Synarel. Depending on your underlying pathology, you may feel fine or you may be one of the number of women who suffer from night sweats, mood swings and a vicious thirst. Acupuncture may help to alleviate some of these symptoms, the same way it would for women undergoing natural menopause.
The ovarian stimulation phase
Next comes the ovarian stimulation phase when drugs such as Gonal F or Menopur are used to stimulate follicle recruitment. Science has shown that when oxygenated blood flows freely to the pelvic basin, the whole area benefits including the ovaries. If you have a poor response to these drugs and your follicles are struggling, studies show that acupuncture can increase the blood supply to the ovaries and improve IVF outcomes.
The Paulus Protocol
When it comes to egg transfer, the optimal thickness of the uterine lining for healthy implantation is between 9-15mm. Acupuncture may contribute to a thicker, more blood-rich lining which in turn may help implantation of the embryo. One particular study identified the ‘Paulus protocol’, a selection of acupuncture points to be used in the 24 hour window before egg transfer and again within 24 hours after the transfer. This protocol significantly increased pregnancy rates when undertaken within the time frames around egg transfer. Therefore, many fertility acupuncturists recommend and use this protocol regularly as part of their approach to acupuncture and fertility.
My approach to IVF and ICSI patients
Even though each patient will be different, I approach my patients with some key principles to ensure they get the best out of acupuncture treatment. I focus on counteracting any adverse effects of IVF drugs and treating each patient according to their diagnosis and rectifying their underlying pathology. It is also important to support all patients emotionally.
Alongside the scientifically proven benefits to having acupuncture alongside your IVF or ICSI is the added benefit of relaxation. Patients lay down during acupuncture and hopefully, during the session, they can relax their body and mind. Many patients like to listen to relaxing music or a guided meditation which will help to lower cortisol levels and de-stress. If a patient can remain in a relaxed and calm state this is a positive aspect of acupuncture which can be beneficial during fertility treatment.
Acupuncture is frequently used for fertility and during IVF or ICSI treatments. It can be used to treat the symptoms of down-regulation and may help increase the blood supply to the ovaries. It may also aid the thickening of the uterine lining and promote relaxation and lower cortisol levels. Acupuncture can increase the success of fertility treatments and is something to consider if you are embarking on IVF or ICSI.