Acupuncture and IVF: Does it Improve Success?

Dr. Geoffrey Sher - December 8, 2021
Acupuncture and IVF:  Does it Improve Success?

 

Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles into the skin along so called meridians (energy channels). It has been used in China for centuries to regulate and treat many health disorders including ailments involving the female reproductive system.

When I visited China back in 1987, I actually witnessed a Cesarean birth being performed without sedation, pain killers or anesthesia… using only acupuncture. The mother lay there relaxed, conversing with the surgeon and nurses while the surgery was being performed. It was truly quite amazing. So, I need no convincing that this complimentary treatment actually works when used for the right indications.

There has been a growing fascination and interest in the “mystical” power of acupuncture and other forms of Chinese medicine over the last few decades. It should therefore come as no surprise that such treatments have also been used to try to enhance fertility potential and improve IVF outcome.

So,……does acupuncture actually improve IVF outcome? Well, those who support its use as a complementary treatment for IVF claim that it works by improving blood flow to the woman’s reproductive organs and thereby can improve follicle development, egg quality and embryo implantation. But what are the true facts in this regard? Does acupuncture actually enhance reproductive blood flow as has been asserted and if so, does treatment actually improve results? Well, what we do know, based on ultrasound studies, is that acupuncture can indeed enhance uterine blood flow. But convincing evidence that it improves ovarian blood flow is lacking.

A few years ago, it was reported that that acupuncture administered around the time of embryo transfer improves embryo implantation potential and thus IVF success. However, Its use during stimulation with fertility drugs has not yielded evidence that it improves ovarian follicle growth, egg quality or endometrial thickening.

In all fairness… the use of acupuncture in IVF remains controversial. However, it is definitely not harmful and most women so treated, swear by it. So, for the nay-sayers, what can be said with certainty is that at the very least acupuncture has a “feel good” aspect to it and, evokes a psychological benefit that should not be discounted.

In conclusion…..We do offer SFS patients access to in-house/onsite acupuncture. But we only recommend that it be administered surrounding the time of embryo transfer, preferably on the prior, the day of or the day following embryo transfer. However, we caution them intensively not to have exaggerated expectations regarding the role that this complementary therapy might play in enhancing IVF outcome.


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