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.
There are no strict criteria for POR diagnosis. But you are more likely to have poor IVF outcomes when you are:
- 40 years old +,
- your IVF cycle has failed before,
- you had an abnormal ovarian reserve test (antral follicle count less than 5-7 follicles or AMH <0.5-1.1 ng/ml or your FSH levels are high for your age).
There is no established treatment for POR. How can acupuncture help with this? Ovarian blood flow circulation reduces with age. Diminished circulation in ovaries may predict poor ovarian response. By improving blood flow, acupuncture may optimise the ovarian response. Furthermore, previous studies pointed out that women with poor IVF prognosis benefit from acupuncture.
In 2020 systematic review from Korea, looked if acupuncture improved IVF clinical pregnancy rates for women with POR.
From eight databases, researchers selected 3 randomised controlled trials. Women participating in the studies diminished ovarian reserve diagnosis and were getting ready for IVF.
Women in two trials had electro-acupuncture for three menstrual cycles before starting IVF. Control groups were on a waitlist. It’s important to understand that fertility acupuncture takes time. We can’t expect your ovaries to change in a week. So it’s good to see studies that represent our clinical practice.
What is the conclusion of this review? This study suggests that acupuncture may improve clinical pregnancy rates for women with POR. It is interesting that AMH, antral follicle count and the number of retrieved oocytes improved for women who had acupuncture. It sounds like ovaries became a bit rejuvenated by acupuncture. And, of course, we need more data to explore this further, but the results are encouraging. This safe and natural treatment may help your IVF succeed, especially if you’re a poor ovarian responder.
Acupuncture for in vitro fertilization in women with a poor ovarian response: a systematic review
SoobinJang, Kyeong HanKim, Ji HeeJun, SooseongYou
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imr.2020.02.003 READ FULL PAPER
Poor ovarian response (POR) is one reason for infertility. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is frequently used to help achieve pregnancy, and performing acupuncture before IVF may promote ovulation and reduce egg retrieval pain. The purpose of this systematic review was to evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture on clinical pregnancy rates (CPR) after IVF in women with POR.
Eight electronic databases were searched in January 2020, and reference lists of retrieved articles and previous review articles were hand-searched. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) using any type of acupuncture for women with POR undergoing IVF were considered. The risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane risk of bias standards.
Three RCTs were included in this review. CPR and the number of retrieved oocytes were measured in two studies, while the values of anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) and antral follicle count (AFC) were only reported in one study. In two studies, CPR was higher in the intervention group than the control group [37.8 % vs 24.3 %]. We did not conduct a meta-analysis, as there was a high level of heterogeneity in interventions among the included trials.
This study suggests that acupuncture may improve CPR, AMH, AFC and the number of retrieved oocytes in women with POR undergoing IVF. However, it is difficult to conclude that acupuncture is more effective than conventional treatment. Additionally, more clinical trials are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture on CPR and other outcomes of POR.