Acupuncture may be beneficial when administered immediately before or after embryo transfer. We are fortunate to have fertility acupuncturists that will provide services in our office.
Acupuncture, as a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, has been reported to be a useful adjunct in the treatment of gynecological problems. Acupuncture theory is based on the premise that there are patterns of energy flow (Qi) throughout the body, that are essential for health. There are 20 meridians intersecting at 400 acupoints, which act as converging points for electromagnetic fields. Stimulation of these points with needles has been shown to affect neuropeptides such as beta-endorphin, as well as blood levels of hormones, including FSH, LH, prolactin, and cortisol. Women who do not ovulate have been shown to respond to acupuncture treatment. Prolactin and cortisol levels in women undergoing IVF treatment mimic the natural cycle more closely in those receiving acupuncture than those who are not. Acupuncture also decreases sympathetic nervous activity, resulting in decreased blood pressure, with a stress relieving effect. This decrease in sympathetic nervous activity may also have a beneficial effect by increasing blood flow to the uterus.
For IVF, studies have shown that there may be an improvement in pregnancy rates when acupuncture is administered immediately before and after embryo transfer. In one study 80 patients treated with acupuncture in this manner were compared to 80 IVF patients who were not. There was a 42.5% clinical pregnancy rate in the treated group vs 26.3% in those who did not receive acupuncture.
It is not known if particular age groups of patients benefit more from acupuncture than others. Acupuncture may affect different people in different ways, and the age group and diagnosis group that will most benefit, is as yet undetermined. However, acupuncture does reduce stress hormone levels in many people and thus may exert a beneficial effect over time, particularly in the weeks leading up to and during infertility treatment, as well as immediately before and after embryo transfer.
Just was with female infertility issues, men have found benefit from acupuncture. Although the male anatomy is obviously very different, increasing blood flow to the pelvic area affects sperm analysis and regulate male hormonal function.
NCFMC has a relationship with two acupuncturists in the Sacramento region, each of whom has a special interest in infertility and who, in addition to providing treatment in their own offices, come to our center for on-site treatment before and after embryo transfer.