If you feel anxious when trying to conceive, you’re not alone. A lot of people experience anxiety and stress when it comes to fertility treatments like IVF. It’s common to feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster, and that can take a toll on your body and mind. And eventually you may stop noticing those tense shoulders, increased heart rate and shallow breathing.

Apart from the physical harm, infertility stress may affect your life and relationship so much so that you may stop trying to have a family. In fact, the most common reason why patients discontinue IVF is the psychological burden.  Despite studies showing stress reduces your chances of conception, unfortunately, IVF clinics don’t always offer the support you need to manage that stress. Yes, they do offer a couple of counselling sessions, but stress management mostly falls on already exhausted patients.

 

What can you do to manage your IVF and infertility stress and anxiety?

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Picture this: a lovely couple nervously sits in front of me during their first fertility acupuncture consultation. They want to know how acupuncture can help with male factor infertility.

Due to the male factor infertility diagnosis, the couple had already gone through three cycles of IVF with ICSI, recommended by a reproductive endocrinologist. Sadly, none of these cycles resulted in viable embryos. The gentleman’s eyes fill with tears as he shares his story.

He says, “I’m super healthy! I don’t smoke, drink or eat junk food, I work out regularly. Still… Nothing. We’re willing to try anything at this point.”.

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Can IVF acupuncture improve live birth rates, aka take home babies?

Despite 20 years of vigorous IVF research, further studies are coming in. When you browse our website you will find IVF studies showing acupuncture group had higher numbers of pregnancies or live births. There are also studies that show no effect on pregnancy rates showing other benefits, like improved embryo quality or better blood flow in the uterus or reduced stress. Sometimes it may seem like it is bit hard to draw clear conclusions on IVF acupuncture. This is partly due to study methodology and partially due to the variety of protocols used – not all reproductive acupuncture is effective.

If you think that fertility acupuncture evidence is somewhat confusing, here is a study to clear things up.

Our ABORM colleague, Dr Lee Hullender Rubin dissected the current evidence in her recent study. She analysed the two latest and most rigorous systematic reviews and meta-analyses resulting in an insightful overview.

Here it is, a summary on how this time-tested therapy can help during your next IVF, based on data from 1980 women.

The summary of the current evidence on how acupuncture influences IVF outcomes

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Are you labelled as a poor IVF responder? Is there a way you can up your chances of making a baby? You know there are not many options. Can acupuncture help?

IVF is the numbers game. The important part of IVF is for your ovaries to safely produce as many follicles as possible. And poor IVF responders’ ovaries, as the name suggests, don’t grow many follicles. This means these IVF cycles are often cancelled. If you are lucky you may end up with a couple of oocytes. Furthermore, those eggs are less likely to turn into embryos.

The poor ovarian response (POR) is a diagnosis no one wants when trying to conceive. IVF clinics can’t do much to help you respond better. There are several IVF protocols you can try, but unfortunately, they are seldom successful.

So, what does poor IVF response diagnosis mean? Let’s take it apart.

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This recent study has found that acupuncture may be effective in improving pregnancy success rates for women undergoing IVF. And the difference is striking. 63.9% of women in the acupuncture group had the positive pregnancy hormone HCG test. While, IVF only group that number was 33.3%. Furthermore, women who had acupuncture had a higher clinical pregnancy, ongoing pregnancy and live birth rate. Not to mention women who had this natural treatment had significantly lower anxiety.

The study was a randomized controlled trial. It involved 72 women undergoing IVF who were either assigned to a group that received acupuncture or a control group that did not receive acupuncture.

Chart by Visualizer

Effectiveness of acupuncture on pregnancy success rates for women undergoing in vitro fertilization: A randomized controlled trial

Pinar Gursoy Guven 1, Yasemin Cayir 2, Bunyamin Borekci 3
Affiliations collapse
Affiliations
1Ataturk University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, Erzurum, Turkey.
2Ataturk University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, Erzurum, Turkey. Electronic address: dryasemincayir@yahoo.com.
3Ataturk University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Erzurum, Turkey.
PMID: 32127151 DOI: 10.1016/j.tjog.2020.01.018
Free article
Abstract
Objective: To investigate the effect of acupuncture on pregnancy success rates applied before and after embryo transfer (ET) among women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Materials and methods: In this randomized controlled trial, 72 infertile women undergoing IVF were randomized to acupuncture (AG; n = 36) and control group (CG; n = 36). Three sessions of acupuncture were applied to AG, the first was one week before ET, the second was 30 min before ET, and the third was 30 min after ET. CG received no acupuncture. The primary outcome was pregnancy success rate (Beta-HCG level, clinical pregnancy, ongoing pregnancy, live birth). Secondary outcome was anxiety level (STAI-1 state anxiety scale). Beta-HCG levels were assessed for conception 12 days after ET. Additionally, STAI-1 state anxiety scale was administered 30 min before and after ET to measure anxiety levels in both groups.

Results: The mean age was 30.9 ± 3.7 years. Positive Beta HCG was detected in 63.9% (n = 23) of the AG and 33.3% (n = 12) of CG (p = 0.009). Clinical pregnancy, ongoing pregnancy, and live birth rates were higher in AG (p < 0.05). There was no difference between the groups concerning anxiety scores before ET (p > 0.05). The mean STAI-1 score was decreasing from 57.3 ± 9.8 to 28.8 ± 3.3 in AG, while it was decreasing from 57.0 ± 8.0 to 41,1 ± 6,8 in CG after ET (p < 0.000).

Conclusions: It was observed that three sessions of acupuncture before and after ET significantly increased the pregnancy rates in women with unexplained infertility. It was also found that acupuncture significantly reduced anxiety levels that occurred before ET.

Keywords: Acupuncture; Embryo transfer; Infertility; In vitro fertilization; Pregnancy.

Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.

Can fertility acupuncture help with depression? It may sound like a strange idea, but the two may be more connected than you think. Let’s have a closer look.

Relax and it will happen, they say. Does your stress contribute to infertility or does the emotional rollercoaster of not being able to conceive lead to stress and depression? Stress and infertility – a classic Catch-22?

Many couples dealing with infertility experience increased levels of anxiety and depression, which can put a strain on their relationship and even affect their ability to conceive. Dealing with infertility causes significant distress.

Unmanaged depression can have a negative effect on a couple’s relationship.  It can affect the libido in both partners, and it even has a toll on sperm quality.  No surprise that men diagnosed with major depression are less likely to conceive a child. And women with severe symptoms have 38 per cent fewer conceptions each month.

So what can you do to address this? Are there any safe treatment options?

Many studies have explored and showed the negative effects of antidepressants on pregnancy and on health of a developing baby. We are not yet certain how these drugs affect fertility.

For instance, women undergoing medical treatment for depression are more likely to miscarry. The same study links the use of antidepressants and male infertility.  If you are in a position to choose, discuss non-pharmaceutical treatment with your doctor. For those looking for a safe and effective alternative, fertility acupuncture may be worth considering.

How to overcome your depression naturally when trying for a baby

There are a few effective non-drug interventions. We recommend a combination of

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Get your garden ready for your little seed! You may have heard that you need to prepare the soil before planting, and the same goes for getting your body ready for pregnancy. The uterine lining (endometrium) is where your future baby will attach, get nutrition, and grow. Furthermore, a healthy uterine lining can help reduce the risk of early miscarriage.

So, what’s the key to fertile soil for the baby? The ideal endometrial lining before the implantation should be about 8mm in thick and have a good blood circulation. Ideally, it will have a three-layer pattern, which it can be seen on the ultrasound. Women with better blood circulation in the endometrium have more live births with IVF.

Developing embryo relies on endometrial lining for nutrients until at least the tenth week of pregnancy. Uterine linings also regulates placental growth and differentiation.

However, treatments that optimise your endometrium are limited, and we don’t yet know of any lifestyle interventions that are proven to help. That’s where acupuncture comes in.

Why you should try acupuncture

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In this post, we’ll discuss the article published in JAMA “The Effects of Acupuncture vs Sham Acupuncture on Live Birth Rates Among Women Undergoing In Vitro Fertilization” (1).

I know, these comments may include technical jargon, which may be hard to understand for a lay person. This post is mostly for healthcare providers helping them understand this particular study.

This new study questions acupuncture’s effects on IVF pregnancy outcomes, but when you peruse the paper carefully the validity of it comes into the red zone for several reasons: Read more

Our patients often ask how acupuncture boosts fertility.

One of the ways is by reducing inflammation in the reproductive system.

I recently came across this little study showing acupuncture’s anti-inflammatory effects for pelvic inflammatory disease.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is acute inflammation in your reproductive organs.  It is a complication often caused by STIs, like chlamydia or gonorrhea. With a recent rise in reported STIs cases in New Zealand, there is an increased risk of women developing the pelvic inflammatory disease.

It’s concerning as you may not realise you have PID.  Symptoms may be mild, or you may not feel any difference at all.  However, if you have symptoms like

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How many acupuncture treatments do you need to improve IVF outcomes?

Our own analysis of IVF acupuncture studies has shown that the treatment protocol for IVF patients needs to take into account your specific situation.

Furthermore, the results can be significantly improved when we use the comprehensive approach of TCM diagnosis and make use of both acupuncture and herbal medicines 3+ months leading to IVF. And our colleagues who did their research agree. Furthermore, below is a study published this month suggesting that three acupuncture sessions around the day of embryo transfer are insufficient intervention.

There are situations where you will not have enough notice, or you will learn about acupuncture late in the IVF process. It may be not too late. You can still benefit from a shorter course of treatment. As an example, studies have shown that when done correctly, even four acupuncture sessions can improve uterine blood flow. If you’re willing to benefit from this treatment, please get in touch with us as early as possible. If you started IVF and you feel like it’s too late don’t worry. There are still ways how we may help improve your chances of success. When we apply the correct approach, we can make a difference even after you’ve started IVF.

If your fertility is on the rapid decline because of your age, or other factors, delaying IVF to boost your fertility may not be wise. We take every aspect of your reproductive and general health into consideration. During your initial appointment, we discuss all options with you so you can choose.

We’ve prepared a lecture on the strategies of designing optimal individualised acupuncture protocol. This lecture soon will be available via a leading continuing medical education provider shortly.

Get in touch if you’re interested to learn about the optimal protocol for IVF Acupuncture.

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Dealing with unexplained infertility can be incredibly challenging, especially because you don’t know the reason behind your struggles to conceive.

While lifestyle changes, timed intercourse, and medical treatments like Clomiphene citrate, intrauterine insemination (IUI), or in vitro fertilization (IVF) are commonly recommended by your general practitioner or reproductive endocrinologist, there may be other options to explore. In recent years, acupuncture has become an increasingly popular complementary treatment for couples experiencing unexplained infertility. Here we will analyse the reasons why acupuncture maybe your best option.

What role does acupuncture play in treating unexplained infertility?

At our clinic, we have seen firsthand the benefits and positive results that reproductive acupuncture can bring to couples struggling to conceive. In fact, we have witnessed some patients who had previously tried other treatments for for many years, conceive naturally under our care.

However, acupuncture research is underfunded and methodologically/technically challenging, therefore there are only a few research papers that specifically explore unexplained infertility.

So understandably, I was excited to see a paper that took on the challenge and shed light on acupuncture’s potential for unexplained infertility.

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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.

How many acupuncture sessions do you need to have a significant impact on stress?

Is it realistic to think that a single acupuncture session can reduce the cumulative effects of stress that has happened over a longer period, say 3-6 months?

A recent study led by Dr Sutton explored this question. 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 further explore if acupuncture dose has an impact on pregnancy rates.

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When you decide to have a family, you want to get pregnant fast. How can you speed up your fertility journey? Does it feel like you have tried everything? But have you?

Recently I found a fertility acupuncture study from Australia, which has some good tips.

What we know about fertility acupuncture mostly comes from the studies about IVF. In contrast to IVF research, general reproductive acupuncture studies are hard to come by. While we see many IVF patients, about 50% of our couples are trying to conceive naturally, in the privacy of their homes. So studies discussing Chinese Medicine treatment for fertility without IVF are interesting to us and our switched-on patients.

Can you actually get pregnant faster without IVF?

This Australian study explored the effect of acupuncture on fertility awareness and regularity of your cycle. But what they actually discovered will surprise you.

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In this study, researchers investigated how acupuncture influenced ovarian reserve in women who had low ovarian reserve or “very few eggs left”. They used a kind of acupuncture with no needles, where very gentle electric impulses are used to stimulate acupuncture points. This study has shown improved the hormone levels including Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH). AMH test is a test often used by IVF clinics to estimate response to the IVF drugs. Researchers observed increased number of eggs collected with IVF. The embryo quality was also improved. Consequently, women who had acupuncture had better IVF pregnancy outcomes.

The study was published in The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research.

Are you interested in learning how your fertility can be optimised with acupuncture?  Contact Dr Vitalis Acupuncture Auckland.

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How does reproductive acupuncture compares to the medication at improving ovulation?

One of the causes of anovulation is luteinised unruptured follicle syndrome (LUFS).

LUFS affects 5%-10% of healthy women and 25%-43% of women with infertility. This syndrome is more common among women diagnosed with endometriosis.

Most commonly LUFS is diagnosed during a series of ultrasound scans.

In women with LUFS, the dominant follicle will grow bigger than usual (up to 4 centimeters). The follicle will undergo the luteinisation process, but it will not rupture during the midcycle to release the mature egg. Progesterone levels will increase as if you have ovulated. Your endometrium will undergo premenstrual changes. In other words, you won’t be able to see any difference in your period. The menstrual flow will be no different from a healthy menstrual cycle. But, obviously, if the egg is not released, and if you have LUFS it is not, pregnancy cannot happen.

There is a clear explanation of why some women get LUFS.  The main treatment for it is ovulation induction with hCG hormonal injection or Clomiphene. These treatments are a risk of hyperstimulation syndrome and other side-effects.

Does acupuncture offer a treatment alternative to anovulation?

A recent literature review on acupuncture’s effect on LUFS has been published in the Journal Of Acupuncture and Tuina Science. And if offers a safe and effective alternative. Read more

hyperprolactinemia-prolactinoma

 

Hyperprolactinemia can be a significant obstacle for women trying to get pregnant, and reproductive acupuncture may be one way to address the condition in some women. Previous research has shown that acupuncture influences prolactin levels in women undergoing IVF. We have studies showing acupuncture can reduce prolactin levels (auricular acupuncture using NADA protocol).

This study is interesting because the researchers were looking at natural conception rates, and women who had acupuncture treatment showed a significant difference – they were more fertile. Acupuncture plus standard treatment resulted in 43% pregnancy rate vs 20% of standard treatment alone. Bromocriptine has some nasty side-effects, including dizziness, nausea, confusion, even hallucinations and uncontrolled body movement. Women undergoing acupuncture treatment had a much better response to the drug but also had fewer side-effects.

Obviously, this is a small study; and further research looking into hyperprolactinemia and acupuncture are needed. The abstract of the study is below.

 

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Impact of whole systems traditional Chinese medicine on in-vitro fertilization outcomes.

Hullender Rubin LE, Opsahl MS, Wiemer KE, Mist SD, Caughey AB.

Abstract

Patients undergoing IVF may receive either acupuncture or whole-systems traditional Chinese medicine (WS-TCM) as an adjuvant IVF treatment.

WS-TCM is a complex intervention that can include acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, dietary, lifestyle recommendations.

n this retrospective cohort study, 1231 IVF patient records were reviewed to assess the effect of adjuvant WS-TCM on IVF outcomes compared among three groups: IVF with no additional treatment; IVF and elective acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer; or IVF and elective WS-TCM. The primary outcome was live birth.

Of 1069 non-donor cycles, WS-TCM was associated with greater odds of live birth compared with IVF alone (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 2.09; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.36 to 3.21), or embryo transfer with acupuncture only (AOR 1.62; 95% CI 1.04 to 2.52).

Of 162 donor cycles, WS-TCM was associated with increased live births compared with all groups (odds ratio [OR] 3.72; 95% CI 1.05 to 13.24, unadjusted) or embryo transfer with acupuncture only (OR 4.09; 95% CI: 1.02 to 16.38, unadjusted).

Overall, IVF with adjuvant WS-TCM was associated with greater odds of live birth in donor and non-donor cycles. These results should be taken cautiously as more rigorous research is needed.

 

Can acupuncture help 35+ year old pregnant women reduce pregnancy risks?

Women of this age, are a high risk for developing stillbirth and fetal growth restriction among other complications.

This study, published in Journal of Physiology, researchers from the University of Manchester, UK concluded that the blood flow to placenta may be the reason for increased risks. Acupuncture increases the blood flow to uterus. Use acupuncture in pregnancy as a preventative measure to reduce the risks for the developing baby.

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Obstetricia-Gynecologica-pcos-amh

Acupuncture helps to normalise both ovarian volume and AMH in PCOS patients. These changes are beneficial for fertility.

Both acupuncture and exercise help to normalise overactive sympathetic nervous system in PCOS patients. Acupuncture, however, is much more effective.  Furthermore, as shown by this study, exercise has no effect on AMH nor ovarian volume.

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PCOS insulin resistance acupuncture

PCOS can improve with acupuncture treatment. More research looks into the mechanism of it. One of the lead researchers in PCOS and acupuncture Dr Elisabet Stener-Victorin from Sweden has long suspected that acupuncture may play a role in regulating blood glucose levels and helping with insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is one of the features of PCOS. This study put the theory to test.

The study revealed acupuncture increases whole-body glucose uptake during and after stimulation in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.  See the abstract and a full text of the study below.

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