Acupuncture improves fertility to assist IVF success --Research update
Acupuncture has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine as a way to treat various health conditions. In recent years, acupuncture has gained popularity in the Western world as a complementary treatment to conventional medical procedures, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF is a complex and expensive medical procedure and a common fertility treatment that involves combining eggs and sperm outside the body in a laboratory, then transferring the resulting embryo into the uterus. While IVF is a highly effective treatment for infertility, its success rate is not 100%. However, research suggests that acupuncture may help improve the success rate of IVF. When used in conjunction with IVF, acupuncture can help improve the blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, regulate hormones, and reduce stress and anxiety.
Many women who undergo IVF treatment may experience anxiety and stress, which can have a negative impact on the outcome of the treatment. Acupuncture has been found to be effective in reducing anxiety levels and promoting relaxation, which may help to improve the success rate of IVF.
Acupuncture also helps regulate the menstrual cycle and improve ovarian function, which can be beneficial for women undergoing IVF. Women who have irregular menstrual cycles or diminished ovarian function may have a harder time conceiving through IVF. Acupuncture can help improve these issues, which can improve the chances of a successful pregnancy.
A recent review of six randomized controlled trials (RCTs) from the past three years found that IVF-ET patients who received acupuncture treatment had significantly higher clinical pregnancy rates than those who did not receive acupuncture. The studies showed that acupuncture could improve the quality of embryos, increase estradiol and progesterone levels, and promote endometrial artery blood flow, all of which are important factors in successful embryo transfer.
In addition, studies have shown that acupuncture can improve the endometrial morphology and menstruation in IVF-ET patients, increase the number of ova obtained, and reduce the incidence of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). OHSS is a potentially serious complication of IVF treatment that occurs when the ovaries are overstimulated, leading to abdominal pain, bloating, and other symptoms.
A recent study on the effectiveness of acupuncture on pregnancy success rates for women undergoing IVF treatment found that three sessions of acupuncture before and after embryo transfer significantly increased clinical pregnancy, ongoing pregnancy, and live birth rates compared to a control group that did not receive acupuncture. The study also found that anxiety levels were lower in the acupuncture group compared to the control group.
Overall, acupuncture can be a helpful and valuable complementary treatment for women undergoing IVF. By improving blood flow, regulating hormones, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving ovarian function, acupuncture may help improve the chances of a successful pregnancy. While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind the beneficial effects of acupuncture on IVF outcomes, the evidence suggests that acupuncture is a promising complementary therapy for women undergoing IVF treatment.
When to start acupuncture for IVF
It is recommended to start acupuncture at least three months before beginning IVF treatment to maximize the benefits. This allows the body to become more balanced and prepared for the IVF process. However, even if a woman starts acupuncture during her IVF treatment cycle, it can still be beneficial.
Jing-yu Xu et al Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2022; 2022: 3854117.
Guven PG et al Taiwan J Obstet Gynecol. 2020 Mar;59(2):282-286. doi: 10.1016/j.tjog.2020.01.018.
How can acupuncture help with IVF success?
Approximately one in six couples face difficulty in conceiving and seek specialist fertility treatment. Several treatments are available, depending on the causes of infertility. In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is one of the most successful treatments for couples with infertility. Developed 30 years ago, IVF has helped many couples achieve pregnancy. In 2003, over 120,000 IVF treatment cycles were carried out in clinics in the USA. The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology reports that over 300,000 IVF and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) treatment cycles are performed each year in Europe. About 200,000 babies worldwide were conceived through IVF in 2000.
Despite the widespread use of IVF, the success rate of the technique remains unsatisfactory, and it is costly, lengthy, and stressful, affecting both physical and mental health. To improve the success rate of IVF and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, clinicians have turned to acupuncture. Acupuncture has become a popular choice for women undergoing IVF. A survey of fertility centers in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria to study the state of acupuncture treatments in assisted reproductive technology has shown that 40% of fertility centers offer acupuncture treatments. In these centers, standardized acupuncture points were selected, and acupuncture was performed by physician-acupuncturists.
Acupuncture assists IVF success.
Firstly, studies have shown that IVF with acupuncture support has a higher live birth rate. Recently a new review found that there were 5 studies involved 463 women who were undergoing IVF. They were given acupuncture twice a week for 2 weeks during the controlled ovarian hyperstimulation period for IVF. The pregnant rate was higher in acupuncture group than that in control group for women undergoing IVF.
Secondly, acupuncture has been found to increase embryo implantation potential for patients with infertility. A study involving 210 patients with infertility found that electroacupuncture applied before and during controlled ovarian hyperstimulation and IVF-ET increased human leukocyte antigen-G levels in serum, indicating increased embryo implantation potential.
Thirdly, acupuncture can improve egg quality. A study from Zhongguo Zhen Jiu, an acupuncture journal in China, studied 60 patients with infertility with poor ovarian response and poor ovarian reserve undergoing IVF-ET. After treatment, estrogen levels were higher, egg maturation rate, fertilization rate, good quality embryo rate, and implantation rate were all higher on the day of human chorionic gonadotropin injection. Additionally, a study investigating the effects of acupuncture on egg quality and pregnancy for patients with polycystic ovary syndrome undergoing IVF found that all fertilization rates, cleavage rates, and high-quality embryos were higher in the acupuncture group than in the control group.
Fourthly, acupuncture can help reduce stress and anxiety in women undergoing IVF. A study of 43 patients found that after four weeks of acupuncture treatment, the anxiety score for the acupuncture group was significantly lower than for the control group. Additionally, a study on the effect of acupuncture on perceived stress and pregnancy rate on the day of embryo transfer found that women who received acupuncture achieved a higher pregnancy rate and had lower stress scores both pre- and post-ET than those who did not receive acupuncture.
Finally, acupuncture can help after failed IVF. A recent study showed that acupuncture increased the pregnancy rate in women with previous failed IVF cycles. In this study, 84 patients who had at least two unsuccessful attempts of IVF cycles received acupuncture on specific days. The clinical pregnancy rate in the acupuncture group was significantly higher than in the control and sham groups.