In modern medicine, IVF has helped millions of couples in achieving their parenting dreams, however the pregnancy success rate remains low, about 35 percent for women ages 35 to 40, and about 20 percent for those ages 40 and older. More and more patients are turning to alternative medicine for help, and the management of infertility using acupuncture has become an expanding area of practice.
Chinese culture has used acupuncture for thousands of years to treat a variety of medical conditions, including infertility. Theory is based mainly on human meridians, where the most important life force “Qi” exists. Stimulation on the specific acupuncture points seek to regulate and release the flow of the body’s vital energy “Qi”, thereby improve the blood flow and stimulate the organ function in order to restore an internal balance.
A successful IVF pregnancy depends on a variety of factors, including the age of the couple, sperm and egg quality, endometrial lining etc. Recent research had found acupuncture a useful technique in combination with other western medical treatment to improve the fertility rate. In ladies, acupuncture works to stimulate egg production. Points are selected to relax the body and improve the blood perfusion to woman’s reproductive organ, which will improve the follicle development and enhance egg quality; and good perfusion to endometrial lining will help with implantation. In men, points are selected to restore and improve the kidney function, which is linked closely to male reproductive system, thereby improve the blood flow, regain better sperm quality and improve the sperm count.
Acupuncture for IVF session done before and after embryo transfer had shown an increase in pregnancy successful rate, however different cases need to be managed differently. IVF is not only about implantation. In the whole IVF process, both embryo’s quality and successful implantation carries the same weight. For certain patients, especially those with low ovarian reserve or advanced age, treatment should start as early as possible, i.e. preparing the body for IVF is important.
Talking about treatment, acupuncture is not only about needles. Electrotherapy, heat therapy, moxibustion in combination with acupuncture would always give a better result. Electro-acupuncture is a form of acupuncture where a small electric current is passed between pairs of needles. With the current, stimulation will be consistent and stronger, and with the frequency and intensity of the impulse being delivered, it’s especially helpful in Qi stagnant cases. Heat therapy like heating lamp or moxibustion are also commonly used in conjunction with acupuncture to warm the regions and meridian points. These will improve the local or general blood circulation which will induce a smoother flow of Qi and blood, warm the meridians, especially effective for “cold” or “yang deficiency” body constitution.
As a complementary form of fertility treatment, acupuncture is better accepted than herbs as there are no known contraindications with modern medicine. Moreover, acupuncture acts as a “stabilizer” during the IVF process to restore internal balance, helping patients to improve their physical and emotional wellness, enabling them to go through the journey with greater confidence.