Acupuncture and to some extent herbal medicine are increasingly being used to assist and improve IVF treatment. While being a traditional therapy, this is one of the best examples of how it can be adapted to new situations. Also it shows how closely and successfully western and eastern medicine can work together.
The success rates for IVF conception to occur are usually between 20-30% depending on the clinic. In a recent study in Germany, a 26%success rate was achieved for women receiving no acupuncture, while a 43% success rate was achieved by those receiving acupuncture. Studies in China and America have achieved similar results. While there have been no European studies, Chinese reports suggest this percentage can be further increased by up to 40-60% with the use of Chinese herbal medicine.
The procedure we follow is:
Preparation treatment for IVF can begin several months prior but even 1 month before can make a difference to the fertilisation and treatment at the time can improve implantation success.
We first treat the patient as a case of infertility, make the assessment and try to improve and regulate the menstrual cycle if necessary (eg reduce pain, pms signs or regulate length) and then attempt to nourish the uterus and make the eggs, endometrium and cervical mucus better and stronger.
Then as the IVF approaches, we nourish the uterus and ovaries in order that more good quality follicles can be extracted.
During IVF if possible, we then tend to see people as soon as possible prior to embryo transfer and as soon as possible after. We see people before, to try to invigorate blood flow in the local area in order to make the body more receptive to the embryo. After the transfer, we try to stabilise the hormone level to keep the embryo safe. This also calms and relaxes the uterus so that it does not reject the egg.
After conception has been achieved, we continue with acupuncture and sometimes herbal medicine to reduce the increased risk of miscarriage that occurs with IVF induced pregnancies.
In addition to treating the female partner, we would always advise checking the male partner as good quality, free flowing sperm does make a large impact on the chances of success. Whether you are attempting IVF or ICSI, there is a lot that can be done to help the process.