Preparing for IVF with Acupuncture

The following stages will give you an idea of the timings when combining acupuncture with IVF and the objective of each acupuncture treatment at each stage. The treatment schedule is based on protocols used in clinical trials which demonstrate increased blood supply to the uterus and ovaries.  The emphasis is placed on enhancing the function of the uterine environment.  This in turn will benefit the regulation of hormones which may be important for follicle development and implantation.

STAGE 1 ~ Acupuncture Before and During the Medication Phase of IVF

Many women choose to start their acupuncture prior to an IVF cycle and this could be anywhere from 1 to 3 months.  Research shows that acupuncture on the day of the embryo transfer significantly increases the success of IVF.  However, preparatory treatments before the IVF cycle can increase the success even further.  The objective at this stage is to regulate the menstrual cycle, lower FSH levels, enhance hormone levels and regulate ovulation.

Treatments: 2 treatments a week for 4 weeks (optimal) plus treatment at time of embryo transfer

 STAGE 2 ~ Down Regulation Phase 

During this phase the medication given is to suppress the woman’s natural hormones and effectively puts the menstrual cycle on hold.   Acupuncture treatments may be used at this stage to reduce the potential side effects of down regulation such as headaches, hot flushes, insomnia, vaginal dryness and emotional stability.  This treatment can be used for both the long and short protocol.

Treatment: Once a week for two weeks

STAGE 3 ~ Stimulation Phase

The next stage is a course of ovarian stimulation involving injections.  The purpose is to grow several follicles rather than the single follicle that is usually produced each month.  The course of injections is usually for 11 – 13 days.  Acupuncture at this stage does not significantly add to the number of follicles but improving the quality of the follicles.  Acupuncture can also be used for distension and pain in the lower abdomen, breast tenderness and emotional stability.  Additional treatments can be scheduled for specific issues such as thin endometrium.

Treatments: Once or twice during this phase

hCG Phase (Optional)

The clinic will monitor your progress throughout the drug treatment through vaginal ultrasound scans and, possibly, blood tests. Between 34 and 38 hours before your eggs are due to be collected you will be given a hormone injection to help your eggs mature. This is likely to be human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG).  Acupuncture during this stage can help with anxiety, nausea, dizziness, headaches and abdominal distention/pain

Treatment: One treatment (optional)

STAGE 3 ~  Embryo Transfer 

These treatments are based on protocols used in clinical trials which showed an increase in pregnancy rates in some groups of women.  A study in 1992 found that conception rates with acupuncture rose to 42.5% compared to a non acupuncture control group of 26.5% (Paulus et al., 2002).

Treatment: Two treatments before and after transfer (within 48 hours).

Acupuncture after egg collection. 

It is recommended to have an acupuncture treatment in the days after egg collection as the treatment will help to reduce any local tissue trauma or bleeding, and help prepare a calm environment for the arrival of an embryo.

TREATMENT: 1 Treatment within the 2-3 days following egg collection.

Acupuncture before the pregnancy test

Many IVF patients find the “two week wait” the hardest part (even when its only 10 days!). Acupuncture is used during this time to help keep the mind calm.

Treatment: 1 or 2 treatments between the time of embryo transfer and the pregnancy test.

Paulus, Fertility and Sterility Vol: 77, No. 4, APRIL 2002