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Category Archives: IVF
American researchers have investigated the effects of acupuncture during IVF on cortisol and prolactin levels in patients undergoing the associated drug treatment. Sixty-seven women were randomised to receive either standard IVF alone or IVF plus acupuncture. Levels of cortisol and prolactin in the blood, were measured regularly during the treatment cycle. Cortisol levels in the acupuncture group were significantly higher on IVF medication days 7, 8, 9, 11, 12 & 13, compared with the control group. Prolactin levels in the acupuncture group were significantly higher on IVF medication days 5 ,6, 7 & 8, compared with the control group.
The authors of the study conclude that acupuncture appears to achieve beneficial regulation of these hormones during the medication phase of the IVF process, and a trend towards more normal fertile cycle characteristics. They add “With the data presented in this study, there does appear to be biochemical changes associated with the use of acupuncture in IVF that may explain the demonstrated improvements in reproductive outcomes. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, and while modern technology has assisted many couples to create families, we can expect even greater outcomes when both Eastern and Western medicines are combined.”
(Changes in serum cortisol & prolactin associated with acupuncture during controlled ovarian hyperstimulation in women undergoing in vitro fertilisation-embryo transfer treatment. Fertility & Sterility, December 2009.)
You may have seen the wide publicity recently given to the IVF research below, which looked at acupuncture given within one day of embryo transfer. However, research only answers the question which was asked, and if you ask about the effects of a single treatment close to transfer, then that is all you can draw conclusions on.
Based on my experience of using acupuncture for infertility, and support through the IVF process, it is my belief that success rates are even higher when women commence acupuncture treatment a minimum of three months prior to embarking on IVF. This allows us to identify from a Chinese medical perspective, any subtle causes of difficulty conceiving, and to try to correct these with treatment, usually once a week. Along with this goes some important and individually-tailored lifestyle advice as well. In the best cases, this approach can open up the possibility of a natural conception, without IVF proving necessary. Otherwise, I often feel that the same factors which have impeded natural conception to date, can continue to operate to reduce the chance of a successful IVF outcome.
An analysis of seven clinical trials in which acupuncture was used to support embryo transfer during IVF, has concluded that it improves rates of both pregnancy and live birth. American and Dutch researchers analysed results from the trials, which were all published since 2002, carried out in four western countries and included 1366 women.
They compared acupuncture given within one day of embryo transfer, with sham acupuncture and with no acupuncture at all. Women who received true acupuncture were 65% more likely to have a successful embryo transfer, and 91% more likely to have a live birth. This means that if ten women undergoing IVF, were also given acupuncture, then one additional pregnancy would result.
(Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal, 6 March 2008.)
Please see Robin’s comment above.