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The Role of Acupuncture in Enhancing IVF Success

Infertility, defined as the inability to achieve pregnancy after a year of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse, affects approximately 15% of couples globally. While in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a widely utilized therapeutic option, its success rate is not guaranteed. Acupuncture emerges as a promising adjunct during the IVF process, leveraging its potential to activate nerve fibers, modulate neuroendocrine factors, enhance blood flow, and address immune factors, thereby contributing to increased IVF success rates.

Mechanisms of Acupuncture in IVF:

Modulating Neuroendocrine Factors: Acupuncture plays a crucial role in improving female infertility by modulating the hypothalamic–pituitary–ovarian (HPO) axis, regulating estrogen levels, and increasing ß-endorphins. This modulation corrects endocrine imbalances and stimulates ovulation, particularly beneficial for women with anovulatory infertility.

Increasing Blood Flow to the Uterus and Ovaries: Acupuncture enhances blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, improving endometrial and follicular receptivity. This process aids in repairing the endometrial lining, enhancing oocyte quality, and reducing uterine contractility, ultimately increasing pregnancy rates in IVF patients.

Modulating Immune Factors: Acupuncture modulates the immune system, specifically influencing T-helper cells crucial for pregnancy. Dysregulation of T-helper cells can lead to pregnancy failure, and acupuncture has been shown to increase both local and systemic T-helper cells, thereby elevating pregnancy rates.

Reducing Stress and Anxiety: Psychological well-being significantly impacts IVF success, and acupuncture proves effective in reducing stress and anxiety. By modulating neuropeptides, increasing ß-endorphin production, suppressing sympathetic nerves, and influencing the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis, acupuncture positively impacts the physiological response to stress during the IVF process.

Recent Research on Acupuncture and IVF:

Acupuncture for Poor Ovarian Response (POR): In cases of poor ovarian response, acupuncture has demonstrated significant benefits. A study evaluating the effectiveness of acupuncture in women with POR undergoing IVF showed a higher clinical pregnancy rate (CPR) of 37.8% in the acupuncture group compared to 24.3% in the control group. This suggests that acupuncture may enhance CPR, AMH, AFC, and the number of retrieved oocytes in POR patients undergoing IVF.

Acupuncture Combined with Medication for POR Patients: Another study focused on the clinical effect of acupuncture combined with medication for POR patients undergoing IVF. The combined treatment resulted in reduced FSH, LH, and E2 levels, increased AMH and ovary AFC, lower Gn dosage and administration days, higher serum E2 levels on the trigger day, and a significantly larger number of high-quality embryos.

Acupuncture for Unexplained Infertility: Research on women with unexplained infertility undergoing IVF revealed that acupuncture, administered before and after embryo transfer, significantly increased clinical pregnancy, ongoing pregnancy, and live birth rates compared to the control group. Additionally, anxiety levels were notably lower in the acupuncture group.

Acupuncture, with its multifaceted impact on neuroendocrine, circulatory, and immune systems, emerges as a valuable complementary therapy to enhance IVF success rates. Current research underscores its potential in addressing specific challenges such as poor ovarian response and unexplained infertility, providing a holistic approach to optimizing fertility outcomes during IVF procedures.

References

Djaali W Med Acupunct. 2019 Dec 1;31(6):361-365. doi: 10.1089/acu.2019.1394. Epub 2019 Dec 13.

Guven PG et al Taiwan J Obstet Gynecol. 2020 Mar;59(2):282-286. doi: 10.1016/j.tjog.2020.01.018.

Dong XLet al Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 2019 Aug 25;44(8):599-604. doi: 10.13702/j.1000-0607.180779.

Jang S et al Integr Med Res. 2020 Jun;9(2) Epub 2020 Feb 27.

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