Acupuncture is a very effective supporting treatment for women undergoing IVF (in vitro fertilization), making the process more comfortable, less stressful, and increasing odds for success. Some studies show more than double the chances of conception for couples utilizing acupuncture alongside IVF. Acupuncture should be scheduled carefully to have the best chance of success. In Eastern medicine, each person is treated individually, so recommendations may vary depending on your health and history.
Before an IVF Cycle
I recommend a woman start weekly acupuncture sessions 3 months before starting an IVF cycle. For women with complex or especially challenging health situations, 6 months would be even better. During this time, we focus on general health and wellbeing, increasing a woman’s reserves, and fine-tuning circulation. Starting treatment prior to fertility medications also opens up the possibility of utilizing herbal medicine alongside acupuncture, which can be vital for some people.
During the priming phase we will continue weekly acupuncture. For most cycles, women take medications to temporarily suppress the ovaries in preparation for stimulation. This phase is typically around a month long. We may continue with herbs during this phase depending on the woman’s condition and the medications being used at this time. For clients who are just getting started with acupuncture at this point, I recommend sessions twice per week.
While using medications to stimulate the growth of eggs in the ovaries, continue with weekly or twice weekly acupuncture. This phase can vary in length from cycle to cycle and will be monitored closely.
1-2 days Prior to Retrieval
Once ovarian follicles are at the correct stage and size, you will be given a trigger to complete egg maturation in preparation for retrieval. Acupuncture within the day or two prior to retrieval can help with the eggs final maturation.
Between Retrieval and Embryo Transfer
After eggs have been retrieved you may have some cramping and discomfort from the procedure. At this time, acupuncture is focused on relaxing the uterus, increasing circulation, and preparing the body for embryo transfer. We will schedule one acupuncture session during the 3-5 days between egg retrieval and embryo transfer.
After Embryo Transfer
Studies have shown that acupuncture just before or after an embryo transfer will increase the odds of a successful pregnancy. As transfer procedures are typically scheduled for the early morning, I will most often aim to schedule acupuncture later the same day or the following day, with a second session 3-4 days later. After embryo transfer and through the end of the 1st trimester, we will continue with weekly acupuncture to support a healthy pregnancy.