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Acupuncture as an Adjunct to IVF
It has been proposed by many that acupuncture could positively impact the results of in vitro fertilization (IVF). The mechanisms proposed for this effect are several.
How Acupuncture Can Help
As demonstrated in several studies, acupuncture affects the levels of pituitary and ovarian hormones. Other studies show that it may help improve blood flow to the uterus, which might improve implantation.
Another explanation attractive to me is that acupuncture may "relax" the uterus at the time of embryo transfer. Several studies have demonstrated uterine contractions and that these contractions can expel transferred IVF embryos. If these contractions were reduced by acupuncture, then that could improve IVF pregnancy rates.
Reducing stress and improving the general health and wellness of an individual undergoing IVF was scientifically demonstrated to improve our IVF success rates. If acupuncture is able to achieve some reduction in stress and/or some improvement in patient wellness, then statistically it should improve the likelihood of achieving a pregnancy.
There are claims that acupuncture will help patients respond better to stimulation medication, get more eggs or even healthier eggs, and get higher pregnancy rates. Many women with diminished ovarian reserve and a high FSH level or history of miscarriages have been promised that acupuncture can cure these problems. The challenge has been to objectively prove these claims with scientific studies.
Acupuncture with IVF
Thus far, there have been a few studies examining the use of acupuncture as an adjunctive therapy to IVF. A relatively new study, published in 2008, combined the results of many smaller studies and concluded that one additional live birth would be obtained for every 10 IVF embryo transfers performed when acupuncture was added to the therapeutic regimen.
As the medical director of an IVF program, I encourage my patients to do acupuncture as an adjunct to IVF, along with our mind body program to improve their success with treatment.