Women who integrated acupuncture with IVF treatments are 65% more likely to become pregnant, according to a study recorded in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2008.
If you recall from my previous article on acupuncture and Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), chances of conception increased by about 26% when IUI was combined with acupuncture treatments. The average success rate for IUI ranges from 10-20% in one cycle, with women under the age of 35 having greater success than women older than 35.
In comparison, with IVF, pregnancy was achieved in an average of 29.4% of all cycles, according to studies conducted by the CDC. The percentage of cycles that resulted in live births was 22.4% on average. Like IUI, success rates were higher in younger women.
There are many factors affecting pregnancy, including the health of the partners and/or donors of the egg and/or sperm and the reason for infertility. Now, consider that the average cost of a single IVF treatment is $12,400. Also consider that acupuncture can help with many of the factors affecting pregnancy. Why wouldn’t you utilize acupuncture to increase your rate of success by 65%?
What Is In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF)?
When an egg and sperm are combined manually in a sterile environment in a laboratory dish, this is the process of fertilization via IVF. When the egg and sperm successfully unite and begin to grow, then an embryo transfer takes place. The embryo is transferred into the uterus by a professionally trained doctor.
IVF is an option when couples have issues like endometriosis, problems with the fallopian tubes or uterus, low sperm count, inability of sperm to survive in the cervical mucus, problems with ovulation, or an unexplained fertility problem. It is often prescribed after other methods have been attempted, like fertility drugs and IUI. However, many couples are opting to go straight to IVF to increase their chances of success sooner, especially if the female is over the age of 35.
With IVF, doctors prescribe a strict regimen of hormones to produce multiple eggs. Timing of the cycle is critical to the success of egg production, retrieval and transfer. It’s imperative the female is available at certain times of the month for the required procedures and blood tests, etc. It’s a very involved process. My suggestion is that if you choose to take this route, find a fertility doctor and staff in which you feel very confident and comfortable. You’ll be spending a lot of time with those professionals, and your trust in them will make the process much less stressful. I give you the same advice when you add your acupuncturist to your fertility team.
Just the Facts
Some specific benefits of using acupuncture with IVF reported by the BMJ and the reproductive journal, Fertility and Sterility:
- Acupuncture can increase the success rate of IVF.
- Acupuncture can increase the number of viable pregnancies when used with IVF.
- With acupuncture, there was a reduction in nausea and muscle pain associated with IVF and pregnancy without the use of drugs that might harm the growing fetus.
- Of 160 women, 80 received two, 25-minute acupuncture treatments – one 25 minutes prior to having fertilized embryos transferred into their uterus and one directly afterwards. The other 80 received no acupuncture treatment with the transfers. In the acupuncture group, there were 34 pregnancies, while only 21 pregnancies in the IVF alone group. Fertility and Sterility, April 2002.
Other ways acupuncture helps boost the chances of a successful pregnancy:
- Acupuncture can boost fertility by helping your body function more efficiently. It boosts your immune system and your circulation. When your body functions more efficiently, it allows other treatments, like IVF, to work more efficiently.
- Also noted in the 2002 study, acupuncture increases the production of endorphins, the body’s natural “feel good” chemical, which also plays a role in regulating the menstrual cycle.
- Acupuncture can help stimulate egg production in women who don’t wish to use fertility medications. However, it generally stimulates the body’s natural process of the growth and release of one egg, while IVF allows for the production of multiple eggs.
- Acupuncture may also help when the lining of the uterus is too weak to maintain a pregnancy.
The bottom line is that acupuncture (sometimes with the help of Chinese medicinal herbs) helps the body function as efficiently as possible within your unique lifestyle. I often suggest modifications to some of those lifestyle habits to further increase your chances of success. Acupuncture works! But, how it works for you is going to be different than how it works for everyone else. And, it may not work exactly when or how you expect or want it to. You are unique. Your lifestyle is unique. Your exercise and nutrition habits are unique. Your fertility circumstances are unique. As your acupuncturist, I need to take all of your unique characteristics, current and historical, into account, and develop a treatment plan specific to you. I always keep in my mind and heart that the real success is a happy, healthy baby with a happy, healthy mom and dad to love and cherish him and/or her. When you’re ready, I’m ready.
Read more about how acupuncture increases fertility and healthy pregnancies and how acupuncture increases IUI success
Sources: WebMD, “The Ancient Art of Infertility Treatment”, British Medical Journal, CDC, American Society of Reproductive Medicine, Journal of Fertility and Sterility