Embarking on the journey to family building through IVF can be daunting, but what if there's a gentle ally to support you along the way (aside from Dandi, of course)? That’s where acupuncture comes in, a time-honored practice that’s proving to be a game-changer in improving fertility outcomes. 

Acupuncture involves inserting tiny little needles into various points on the body to help alleviate a specific symptom or ailment. I’ve practiced this form of Chinese medicine for 25 years, and I’ve witnessed firsthand the profound benefits of acupuncture in supporting IVF treatments. But beyond anecdotal evidence, studies have validated the effectiveness of acupuncture as a complementary therapy for couples undergoing IVF. 

Let's delve into the research…

Acupuncture supports baseline fertility

Acupuncture isn't just about needles—which, by the way, are way tinier than the ones you’re injecting yourself with during IVF. It's about optimizing your body's natural rhythm. A particular study published in Journal of Fertility and Sterility revealed how acupuncture can regulate menstrual cycles, improve ovarian function, and boost uterine blood flow. It's like giving your body a fertility tune-up!

Chinese medicine is more than acupuncture though. It also includes lifestyle changes, dietary advice, reproductive massage, and herbal medicine. We call this combination Whole Systems Chinese Medicine, and there’s evidence that people who use the whole system for three months before their IVF cycle have a higher percentage of live births than those who simply have acupuncture before and after embryo transfer or no acupuncture at all.

So, if time and money allow, start your acupuncture treatments at least three months before you begin IVF. If that’s not an option, doing acupuncture during your stimulation cycle is also beneficial. 

Acupuncture boosts IVF success

Acupuncture has been shown to help during transfer cycles too. The British Medical Journal examined the outcomes of various acupuncture and IVF studies and found that acupuncture administered around the time of embryo transfer significantly increased the likelihood of implantation and ongoing pregnancy.  

The thought is that by reducing uterine spasms after transfer, lowering stress levels, and promoting relaxation, acupuncture creates a harmonious environment for embryo implantation, leading to higher success rates. 

Acupuncture minimizes IVF side effects

IVF procedures can be physically and emotionally taxing, and acupuncture can help alleviate these symptoms. Studies have demonstrated that acupuncture reduces stress, anxiety, and discomfort during IVF cycles, improving the overall experience and enhancing their sense of well-being.

Acupuncture balances hormones

Hormonal imbalances can disrupt fertility plans, but acupuncture, in tandem with Western medicine and medications prescribed by your reproductive endocrinologist, can restore hormone balance. By regulating key hormones like FSH, LH, and estradiol, acupuncture optimizes ovarian function and follicular development.

Acupuncture prepares the uterus for implantation

Having an endometrial lining that’s “ready” for an embryo is crucial for implantation and a successful pregnancy. Acupuncture enhances endometrial receptivity by increasing blood flow to the uterus and improving the thickness and quality of the endometrial lining. 

So, what have we learned? Acupuncture is proven to be a valuable supplementary and holistic treatment to conventional fertility procedures like IVF; it addresses underlying imbalances that contribute to infertility and optimizes the uterus and endometrial lining, all of which are key to a healthy pregnancy. 

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