Fertility Talk: IVF and Acupuncture

Elyn Cone

Going outside of the box and embracing acupuncture just might raise your chances of getting pregnant.

Being a planner can be an amazing quality. You know what is going to happen when, and there is no getting around it. Except sometimes life just doesn’t pan out the way you intend. Especially when it comes to bringing a new little one into it. There are factors like the health of your reproductive system, stress levels, and age that are barriers you thought would never be an issue.

We’ve heard countless stories from beautiful friends and peers whose roads to being a mom were long and hard, so the issue of fertility is one that we hope to tackle more as time goes on.

After hearing many success stories from friends who introduced acupuncture into their fertility regimen–particularly combining acupuncture with IVF treatments–we decided to sit down with Dr. John Zhang, founder and director of New Hope Fertility Center, and Christina Burns, the founder of Geneseed Acupuncture, to discuss why the two can often have more success when combined.

Here’s what they had to say:

For people that are hesitant about trying acupuncture during pregnancy, what might convince them?

Most of the data available suggest that acupuncture is safe in pregnancy. We do however encourage the person to do their research and be comfortable with their acupuncturist. Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years on pregnant women and can be very helpful in maintaining the pregnancy as well as relieving many types of discomfort that arise during pregnancy (i.e. nausea, reflux, sciatica, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, etc.). There are many doctors of Chinese medicine that specialize in gynecology and obstetrics and are therefore well-versed in how to treat a pregnant woman. With these practitioners, you can expect maximum benefit.

How much more successful is IVF when paired with acupuncture?

Acupuncture has been shown in numerous studies to double the success rates when used in conjunction with IVF.

How does acupuncture help in conjunction with IVF treatments?

Acupuncture helps reproductive health and fertility by circulating vital energy and blood to the organs. It can help improve the response to medication or mitigate the side effects of certain medications, and it can reduce the stress associated with IVF (which may have a negative impact on fertility). Acupuncture can also relax the walls of the uterus and increase receptor sites for the embryo, enhance the thickness of the uterine lining, etc.

By using acupuncture, fertility should increase as fresh blood circulates in the pelvic area and ovaries, and helps strengthen the body holistically. So acupuncture promotes natural fertility and helps IVF as well.

How can acupuncture help with fertility on its own?

Acupuncture for fertility often focuses on regulating the menstrual cycle and balancing the reproductive system to create a fertile environment and enhance fertility chances. It balances hormones, helps resolve issues relating to ovulation or anovulation, and enhances the uterine lining.

Acupuncture can also help reduce autoimmune issues related to infertility or recurrent miscarriage, lower stress levels (as cortisol may interfere with hormonal balance), and adjust the length of the menstrual cycle, for better development of follicles in the follicular phase and ensuring adequate progesterone levels in the luteal phase. Finally, it can lessen the inflammation associated with endometriosis and treat insulin resistance (which may affect ovulation and/or general fertility).

How soon into the IVF process should you begin acupuncture?

As soon as possible! Preparation beforehand is preferred. Ideally one would start 3-6 months prior, however, you can still get great benefits from starting during the cycle.

How often should treatments be done?

Treatment protocols vary depending on the individual. Your acupuncturist will create a treatment plan for you. But typically, patients see their acupuncturist 1-2 times per week, with special considerations given to the timing during an IVF cycle.

Are there any dangers in getting acupuncture done during pregnancy?

Like all procedures, there are always potential risks, but it is very unlikely that acupuncture would cause any harm during pregnancy. Acupuncture stimulates your body’s ability to heal and balance and does not force it to do anything it would not do naturally.

The most important thing is ensuring that the acupuncturist is qualified, experienced, and knowledgeable in treating pregnant patients. It’s preferable to have one who is specialized in women’s health and definitely someone who is licensed by the state where you live. Always ask for proof of licensure and references from patients when selecting a practitioner. Also, ask them about their experience in treating pregnant women. If it seems limited, then it is advisable to find someone else.

Is there a certain kind of diet that would create a trifecta with acupuncture and IVF?

Diet is case-specific depending on the individual. But in general, it is best to avoid foods that tend to aggravate hormonal balance such as fried foods, sugar, gluten, alcohol, non-organic foods, farmed fish, low-fat dairy, and caffeine. Further considerations are made according to the patient’s case, so it’s best to consult a qualified practitioner.

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