How many acupuncture sessions will reduce your IVF stress?

Stress affects your fertility. We can’t ignore this fact any longer.

Furthermore, long-term stress can reduce your IVF success. UK scientists measured cortisol levels in women undergoing IVF. They took samples of hair and saliva. Hair sampling allows analysis of cortisol over the preceding 3–6 months. While saliva sample shows immediate stress levels. Results were eye-opening. Women exposed to chronic stress were 27% less likely to conceive with IVF.

Is it realistic to think that one acupuncture session can reduce the stress that has accumulated in 3-6 months?

A recent study led by Dr Sutton looked for the answer. They compared a month of regular acupuncture with one session on the day of embryo transfer. Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer is often recommended by reproductive endocrinologists.

To no surprise women who had several acupuncture sessions felt more relaxed. Unfortunately, researchers didn’t look if acupuncture dose has an impact on pregnancy rates.

One thing for sure, this study shows that number of acupuncture sessions matters for IVF stress. Furthermore, stress makes women quit IVF to early. That’s another reason what makes this acupuncture study so relevant. Psychological pressure is the number one reason why women stop ART treatments before achieving the dream of a baby.

We recommend starting early with acupuncture either you try naturally or IVF. Reduced stress could be one of the mechanisms how acupuncture may improve your IVF success rates. It may help you to complete your family sooner.

A Comparison of Stress Levels in Women Undergoing Single Versus Multiple Acupuncture Session Prior to Embryo Transfer

C. Sutton, MD, S. Pentland, Dr. TCM, J. Roberts, MD


Stress associated with the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF) has well recognized effects on outcomes of these treatments [1-4]. Acupuncture is one of several stress-lowering treatments that has been studied for the improvement of IVF outcomes. Stress is difficult to quantify and various tests range from standardized questionnaires, to endocrine assays as biomarkers of stress [5,6]. In this study, we employed a validated questionnaire, the perceived stress scale (PSS), to quantify stress [7].

The objective of this study was to compare stress on the day of embryo transfer (ET) for IVF in women undergoing single versus multiple acupuncture session prior to IVF.

Materials and Methods
This retrospective cohort study included 87 women undergoing IVF at a private fertility clinic. Women were divided into three groups: one session of acupuncture on the ET day (n=32), >1 month of acupuncture at a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) reproductive clinic prior to ET (n=20), and >1 month of acupuncture at a non-reproductive acupuncture clinic prior to ET (n=35). All women completed PSS on the ET day. PSS scores were then compared using the two-tailed T-test and the one-way ANOVA with post-hoc analyses using the Bonferroni criterion for significance.

Stress appeared to be lower for women receiving >1 month of acupuncture at the TCM reproductive clinic versus those with acupuncture on the ET day only, with a PSS of 13.4 versus 19.3 (p=0.001), 95% CIs [11.1,15.6] and [17.4,21.2], respectively. There was no significant difference between women receiving > 1 month of acupuncture from the non-reproductive based acupuncture clinic and those receiving acupuncture on the ET day only, with a PSS of 17.6 versus 19.3 (p=0.60), 95% CIs [15.6,19.6] and [17.4,21.2], respectively. When all women from the reproductive and non-reproductive acupuncture clinic were combined, stress was significantly lower when compared to those undergoing acupuncture on the ET day only, with a PSS of 16.1 vs. 19.3 (p=0.011), 95% CI [-5.75, -0.76].

Stress remains significantly elevated for women undergoing only one session of acupuncture on the ET day. However, when undergoing multiple acupuncture sessions, stress scores were significantly lower. As demonstrated by a dose-dependent effect, acupuncture appears to be a promising stress-lowering tool for women undergoing IVF. Further research will require a comparison of IVF outcomes with and without acupuncture.

Financial Support


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2.Klonoff-Cohen H., Chu E., Natarajan L., Sieber W. (2001) A prospective study of stress among women undergoing in vitro fertilization or gamete intrafallopian transfer. Fertil Steril 76: 675–87.
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7.“Perceived Stress Scale.” by Sheldon Cohen. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.