Are you or someone you know experiencing fertility challenges? Chances are you have answered with a resounding ‘YES’ as 8-10% of the population in its reproductive years are experiencing infertility. Of that percentage, thousands seek Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), including In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), in their journey to have a baby. Unfortunately, IVF success rates are low and the majority of IVF cycles do not result in pregnancy. However, clinical studies demonstrate increased success rates when IVF and acupuncture are combined. If you are considering or currently using IVF, read on to find out how you can maximize your fertility and improve your chances for a healthy and happy pregnancy.
Addressing the Cause of Infertility
There are a variety of reasons why you may be experiencing fertility challenges. The causes of female infertility fall into four (4) main categories. 1) Abnormalities in egg production; 2) Structural abnormalities leading to obstruction of transport of the sperm, egg, or embryo through the fallopian tube; 3) Abnormalities in the implantation process; 4) Other factors including, but not limited to, emotional and psychological factors, nutrition (e.g. gluten intolerance), cigarette smoking, alcohol and caffeine intake, and borderline hormonal imbalances. Acupuncture positively influences these contributing factors, helping you achieve physical and emotional balance. It is important to recognize that male factors are just as often responsible for a diagnosis of infertility as female factors. Thus, both partners are highly encouraged to seek treatment.
The IVF Process
Undergoing IVF is a grueling process requiring careful coordination and timing. Women must attend many early morning appointments at the IVF clinic (often on a daily basis), take synthetic hormones, receive repeated injections, have frequent blood tests, and ultrasound monitoring. Combine this with the emotional and financial stresses of the procedures, and it can be a very overwhelming experience. Despite the best efforts of all parties involved, preliminary results from 23 IVF Centres in Canada in 2003, as reported by the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, suggest you can anticipate an overall birth rate of only 31% per cycle started, or a 69% failure rate. If you are a woman over thirty-five your chances of achieving pregnancy with IVF are even lower. However, the good news is that several studies support the role for acupuncture in improving IVF success rates. Incorporating acupuncture into your wellness plan maximizes the financial and personal commitment you make in using fertility treatments.
How Does Acupuncture Work to Improve Fertility and IVF Success?
Acupuncture increases blood flow to the testes, ovaries, and uterus, an essential component in using acupuncture specifically during the pre- and post-transfer stages of IVF. It regulates both female and male hormones and works to downregulate stress hormones (which when elevated, negatively impact your fertility).
What Do the Studies Say?
The British Medical Journal recently released an analysis of several large, randomized, and controlled trials on the combination of acupuncture and IVF. The women received acupuncture twenty five minutes before and twenty five minutes after an embryo transfer and were compared to a control group of women receiving no acupuncture or sham acupuncture. In the first study of women, the clinical pregnancy rate in the acupuncture group was 42.5% versus 26.3% in the non-acupuncture group. A second similar study involving 225 women (average age 34 years) demonstrated that the group receiving acupuncture had significantly higher implantation rates, clinical pregnancy rates, and ongoing pregnancy rates versus the sham acupuncture group. The women in both studies received benefit after only two short treatments. However, it is recommended to begin acupuncture at least 3 months in advance of fertility treatments to properly prepare the body and further improve upon the above success rates.
Despite its use over thousands of years in the Eastern World, acupuncture is now gaining popularity in the West in treating many health problems, and fertility is no exception. These studies suggest that acupuncture can improve the outcome of IVF without any health risks or side effects. No adverse events were associated with the acupuncture interventions. The above mentioned studies were conducted in a well controlled environment, using a standard protocol for each participant. Remember, you are an individual with a unique set of lifestyle and nutritional requirements and deserve a personalized treatment plan created specifically for you and your body. Work with your health care practitioner to create a treatment plan that will best prepare you and your body for the wonderous role of being a parent.
Copyright © 2008 Carly Wendler