As Chinese Medicine becomes more popular in the west, more and more research is uncovering the relationship between acupuncture and Chinese herbs and its success in supporting in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
How does Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine help with the success of IVF?
While a specific mechanism is still uncertain among researchers, a review of a number of randomised controlled trials show promising results. The rate of pregnancy among women who received Chinese herbal medicine in conjunction with conventional medical IVF doubled compared to those who received just IVF.
Acupuncture has varied results, some studies showing a similar rate of success while others masked in their efficacy by placebo control. Within the conventional structure of a randomised controlled trial, a placebo control would help to distinguish the effects of a drug or a treatment. Sham acupuncture (where the needle is not inserted) however, has shown to produce similar results to that of the real thing, and when considering some of the more gentle forms of point stimulation, it is no surprise.
So while we are uncertain of a clear mechanism of action in acupuncture and IVF support, we understand the relationship between the treatment in reducing stress, improving uterine blood flow, regulating the period and hormones in reproduction, improving sperm quality and function and thus promoting a successful pregnancy. Patients with issues such as endometriosis or polycystic ovaries are encouraged to have acupuncture and herbs over a few months with regular assessment as preparation for conception.
Is the treatment suitable for me?
Numbers and charts aside, the best results come from women under the age of 40 who had comprehensive Chinese medical diagnosis and received acupuncture and herbs over a period of cycles before their IVF. Especially in cases where IVF had failed their pregnancy a number of times, women who implemented lifestyles changes and took a course of specific acupuncture treatments had greater success than those who just had treatment on the day of the embryo transfer. The same applies to intrauterine insemination (IUI) and regular fertilisation. We recommend a period of at least 1 month consecutive treatment as preconception. Just like you would prepare the babies room, we need to prepare the nest in which they live for the period of their life in the womb. many healthcare practitioners and fertility doctors recommend Acupuncture for their fertility patients as a useful adjacent to other treatment.
What does the treatment involve?
Each acupuncture treatment and prescribed herbs are different depending on the presentation of the individual. In general however, several points on the body will be stimulated by inserting sterilised, hair-thin, single use prepackaged needles, and then left for a period of 15-30minutes. On occasion, moxibustion and electro-acupuncture is used. Moxibustion is the practice of utilising the warmth omitted from burning herbal extracts to further stimulate the points. Electro-acupuncture involves a small device which is connected to the needles in order to send a small current into the body, similar to a tens machine. If you are sensitive to needles, acupressure with the combination of moxibustion can also produce great results.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Our acupuncturist Hugh uses very fine needles which are gently inserted with minimal discomfort. Most people will feel a very mild sting or dull ache where the needle is put for just a moment. Although it might seem scary, acupuncture is in fact very relaxing and our patients usually leave the room very relaxed.
How do I make an appointment?
You can make an appointment with our fertility specialist acupuncturist Hugh Hayward by calling Brisbane Natural Health on 07 3367 0337.