Improving IVF Success Rates Through Acupuncture

Whatever your reasons for electing to try IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), you probably didn’t start out with visions of blood tests, ultrasounds, and daily self-administered shots as part of your future child’s conception story. Most couples don’t arrive at IVF until they exhausted all other options after years of grappling with infertility. The quest to have a child can feel like being on a never-ending and demoralizing emotional rollercoaster, and this is where many couples are coming from as they begin the process of IVF. To make matters worse, IVF is overwhelmingly expensive, time-consuming, and can, itself, be an emotional rollercoaster.

So no matter what your story, it is a given that you desperately want your IVF cycle to be successful and are probably looking to do whatever you can to make that happen. Beyond choosing the best IVF clinic in Boulder and building good lifestyle habits (healthy diet, adequate sleep, moderate exercise, etc.), what more can you do?

Acupuncture & IVF

A number of research studies demonstrate that acupuncture improves fertility parameters and boosts pregnancy rates. For example, a landmark research study in 2002 followed 160 IVF participants and showed that patients who received acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer had a 42.5% pregnancy rate (judged by ultrasound at 6 weeks’ gestation) as compared to a 26.3% pregnancy rate among the control group who did not receive acupuncture (1).

In fact, the research on acupuncture is so compelling that many IVF doctors encourage their patients to get acupuncture treatment and many IVF clinics even offer on-site acupuncture for the day of embryo transfer.

How Acupuncture Helps Improve Your Chances of Getting Pregnant

Acupuncture enhances fertility and supports the IVF process because it:

  • Increases ovarian and uterine blood flow
  • Regulates hormone balance
  • Lowers cortisol levels
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Calms the central nervous system
  • Soothes stress and anxiety
  • Alleviates side effects caused by the IVF medications

As a result of these wide-ranging effects, acupuncture has the unique ability to benefit egg quality, support the development of a robust endometrial lining, and aid in embryo implantation while simultaneously fostering a state of emotional, physical, and mental well-being.

How to Schedule Your Fertility Acupuncture Treatments

Your exact recommended treatment schedule will vary according to your individual case, but there are general guidelines that more or less fit most situations:

Egg Retrieval Preparation

  • 8 weeks prior to egg retrieval: begin weekly acupuncture
  • Approximately 2 weeks prior to egg retrieval (during ovarian stimulation): begin twice-weekly acupuncture
  • 3-5 days after egg retrieval: recovery treatment

Frozen Embryo Transfer

  • 8 weeks prior to FET: begin weekly acupuncture (for a total of 8 pre-FET sessions)
  • Alternatively: 4 weeks prior to FET: begin twice-weekly acupuncture (for a total of 8 pre-FET sessions)
  • Day of FET: Acupuncture pre- and post-FET. The FET treatments are ideally performed on-site at your IVF clinic.

Acupuncture to Support the Pregnancy

In the event of a positive pregnancy test (congratulations!), we recommend maintaining a regular schedule of treatments through the first trimester to help support your pregnancy through those vulnerable first few months.

Our recommended pregnancy acupuncture treatment schedule is as follows:

  • First Trimester: weekly acupuncture. Regular acupuncture during your first trimester will continue to facilitate optimal uterine blood flow, which is important for placental and fetal development. This is also the period of pregnancy when many women experience nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and anxiety, and fortunately acupuncture can help alleviate all of these symptoms.
  • Second Trimester: monthly acupuncture or as needed. Once you arrive at your second trimester, your pregnancy will be well established and frequency of acupuncture treatment can be reduced as long as you aren’t experiencing any pregnancy complications. We recommend switching to monthly maintenance treatments as long as you are feeling energetic and symptom-free.
  • Third Trimester: weekly or bi-weekly acupuncture starting at Week 32. Pregnancy Acupuncture treatments are effective for encouraging breech babies to move into the proper position, alleviating pelvic and low back pain, reducing swelling and carpal tunnel pain, and generally preparing the body for labor.

One Day at a Time

If the IVF process seems daunting, you are not alone, but it’s important not to let yourself get swallowed up by overwhelm. You can absolutely do this, and you can make the process easier on yourself by letting go of the weight of the whole process and instead focusing on one day at a time. Do maintain your regular self-care practices, and if you don’t already have any, now is the perfect time to create some. Yoga, meditation, nature walks, and warm foot soaks are some of our patients’ favorites.

Along the way, we hope you will take advantage of the immense power of acupuncture to support you in reaching those goals, and we are here as a resource should you have questions or wish to schedule a course of treatments. And, above all, we wish you the best with your fertility journey and sincerely hope that you complete the IVF process having created the family you desire.

Visit one of our two clinics to serve you: Acupuncture in Boulder | Acupuncture in Longmont

References:
Wolfgang, E. P., Zhang, M., Strehler, E., El-Danasouri, I., Sterzik, K. (2002) Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertility and Sterility. 77(4), 721-724.

Pathway to Pregnancy, Part III: Postpartum & the 4th Trimester

by Julie Johnson, L.Ac.

 

In this final installment of our series, The Path to Parenthood, we will discuss the POSTPARTUM period with a focus on self-care for mamas.

So. You are having a baby!

Your approaching due date brings with it much anticipation and excitement. The to-do list is bursting with supplies to buy (Diapers! Breast pump! Baby Bjorn!) and tasks to complete (Paint nursery! Hang mobile! Decorate with butterflies/dinosaurs/giraffes/something adorable!)

For many new parents, the nesting instinct comes on strong: Let’s make sure that we have everything we need to meet our little one’s needs and welcome him/her into the world. It’s fun and easy to focus on these details, because the fun part of having a baby is, well, the baby!

 What may not make it on to your to-do list, however, are preparations for postpartum self-care that go beyond enlisting Grandma for baby-sitting help or asking your best friend to bring over a few meals in the early weeks.

Read More

The Path to Parenthood, Part 2: Pregnancy

Welcome to the 2nd installment of our Path to Parenthood series!

by Kandace Cahill, DAOM, L.Ac., FABORM

This entry covers PREGNANCY, the good, the bad, the not-so-pretty. For many women, particularly those who visit our clinic, the long-awaited positive pregnancy test heralds a time of major achievement, one that often comes after a long and arduous path of ART. It is the quintessential, highly coveted, brass ring. However, it is rarely accompanied by the magical “Ahhhhh” feeling of accomplished relaxation that women expect to have at the moment the little pee strip turns +. On the contrary…this is a time of heightened anxiety, and sometimes fear, that after all the work—the ovulation tests, the morning temperatures, the oh-so-romantic “timed intercourse” (or even more romantic, the hot date with the fertility clinic), avoiding alcohol, avoiding caffeine, avoiding hot baths, and chocolate, and just about everything else that brings pleasure—that after all of this, it might not take.

And when is the magical time when you can let your breath out and trust that all is well?

And isn’t pregnancy a time when so many things can go wrong, too?

Where IS the magic of pregnancy, anyway? Read More

The Path to Parenthood, Part 1: FERTILITY

by Kandace Cahill, DAOM, L.Ac, FABORM

Welcome to our first installment of The Path to Parenthood—a collection of three special articles related to the most important times around mamahood: fertility, pregnancy and postpartum. In each of these short articles, we’re going to delve into these topics and talk about why Chinese medicine is an indispensable tool for improving outcomes, as well as answering many questions, dispelling myths and creating new awareness around self-care.

Our first topic is FERTILITY, which makes up a large percentage of what we treat at WWA. This is obviously the cornerstone of parenthood, as fertility challenges dictate our ability to create the families we desire. Unfortunately, these challenges are becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide and assisted reproduction (such as IVF) has become BIG BUSINESS.

Read More

Treating Fertility with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

Treating Fertility with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
Treating Fertility with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine has become a common therapy in treating infertility, and it is for good reason.

A recent podcast interview on Everyday Acupuncture explains why. In this episode, Dr Lorne Brown, an acupuncturist in Vancouver, BC and the creator of the “Acubalance Fertility Diet”, discusses the many aspects of health that relate to fertility. As Dr. Brown highlights, Chinese medicine looks at the body as a whole and can help couples conceive by addressing the root cause of infertility, which improves the “take-home baby” rate. In other words, the healthier the mom, the healthier the child.
In this podcast, Dr. Brown explains the specifics of how acupuncture can improve fertility. 4 key areas are discussed:
  1. Acupuncture can help increase blood flow to the uterus and ovaries. In order to have this effect, most research suggests treatment twice a week for at least 4 weeks.
  2. Acupuncture helps reduce stress hormones. When we are stressed, our bodies revert to the “fight or flight” mode. During “fight or flight”, the body shifts into survival mode, and less energy is available for making babies.
  3. Acupuncture helps balance hormones. Many women don’t realize that an egg takes nearly 3 months to fully mature. In order to get the best quality egg, a woman should be treated for at least 3 months prior to natural conception, IUI, or IVF.
  4. Studies have shown that acupuncture increases live birth rates when used with IVF.
Dr. Brown stresses the importance of “nourishing the soil before planting the seed”.  Chinese Medicine’s unique approach to viewing the body as a whole allows trained acupuncturists to see where imbalances lie and then treat the root of these imbalances. As a result, fertility improves and many other symptoms may improve as well, from digestive issues to mood and sleep quality.
Click here  to listen to the full podcast.
Article by Stephanie Duininck, L.Ac., Well Woman Acupuncture Education Outreach

Woman On The Verge

I am incredibly lucky. And I feel humbled and grateful for that fortuitousness, for being blessed with work that I love. Every day I go to the office and help women find themselves. I’m not saying that I do the finding. I simply shine the light. And often what they find shimmering in that space is fearsome in its power. I see women in the process of becoming.

You see, my practice is devoted to helping women find balance. Hormonal balance, emotional balance, the balance between work and rest, between self and family. Often what brings women through my doors is that they are off kilter. The teeter-totter has swung too far in one direction and they are either dangling in mid-air or stuck on the ground, unsure of how to proceed.

When I reflect on who these women are, I find a pattern emerging. Each and every one of them—in this state of imbalance—is a woman on the verge of deep, inner change. They are the adolescent women, struggling with PMS; the women moving into motherhood, seeking hormonal support for fertility challenges; new mothers whose bodies have become vessels for birth and sustenance; and aging women who are neither new mothers nor menopausal, but somewhere in between, grappling with their changing hormones and the milieu of physical and emotional symptoms that accompany that transitional time period.

These women are all on the precipice of leaving what is known and moving into the waiting arms of the void. They are in the process of becoming the maiden, or changing from maiden to mother, from mother to crone. They are on the verge of utter transformation as they embrace new rhythms in their bodies and newly defined roles for living and being in the world.

o-LEAP-OF-FAITH-facebook

When women find themselves at this precipice, it can cause deep unrest, inner turmoil and maybe even the occasional desire to run screaming out of her own skin. But why is transformation so painful for us? I believe it is because, as women, we are inherently rhythmic creatures and any disruption to our internal rhythms can feel like seismic activity on a grand scale. We spend the large majority of our lives in a rhythmic coming and going of hormones. After adolescence, we become a living cycle, at one with the moon, always in a state of waxing or waning, that becomes our very state of existence. It is not even that we identify with our rhythms—we become them. And so when they are in this state of transformation, the balance is lost and it leaves us feeling unsure of who we are and where we fit within our own bodies. It can leave us feeling as though we inhabit an alien body, our internal compass broken and spinning wildly out of control.

Add to this that we are already out of balance with our human rhythms: we no longer rise and sleep with the sun, nor do we follow the dictates of the seasons as our predecessors did. We are a world of do-ers and workers and the very pace of our existence has sped up exponentially in an alarmingly short period of time. Our world is fast, fast, fast and we are in a constant battle to keep up. But it is more than our bodies were designed to do and our inner rhythms simply cannot keep the pace. We have forgotten how to BE. And this skews our ability to come into a new way of being.

What is there to do?

Chinese medicine can help, as restoring internal balance is the very premise of our practice. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are a valuable resource throughout a woman’s life, helping with countless maladies from the common cold to digestive upset. But during times of transition, Chinese medicine is an indispensible ally, smoothing the edges and bringing a renewed sense of structure to one’s changing hormones and emotions. I can personally attest to its power during my own feminine transitions, both as I struggled with fertility and during my transition into menopause. Each time, I found that regular treatment with acupuncture and herbs brought an inner shift that I did not experience with other health modalities.

tree pose on beach at sunset

But equally, if not more, important is the need to honor one’s own rhythms and reach for balance. Sensing that resting point on one’s own teeter-totter is key; and when you find yourself flailing or falling, seek within yourself for what will bring balance to that moment. Ask yourself the following questions (and be willing to hear the answers):

  • Are you tired? If so, how can you bring more rest to your life? I strongly recommend being to bed by 10:30 pm at the latest, as many hormonal functions occur during sleep and begin after 11 pm.
  • Are you overextended or working too many hours? If so, what would prioritizing your time look like? Consider scheduling time in your day that is just for you, or time spent with your children or spouse. When you look back on your life, those will be the moments that count, not the hours spent glued to your computer monitor or hunched over financial reports.
  • Are you depressed or apathetic? If so, how can foster joy in this moment? One exercise is to practice gratitude. List 10 things you are grateful for right now and say “Thank You” after each one.
  • Are you anxious or scattered? If so, how can you tap into your inner well of calm? The breath is an excellent way to get in the here and now. Music is also nice. I like to combine the two, listening to calming music while also watching my breath—this helps me breathe more deeply (it should extend your diaphragm, not your chest), which always helps me let go of anxious, fearful or worrisome thoughts.

To tap deeply into your human rhythms, I highly recommend the book, Rhythms of Change. It is concisely written, poignant in its message and relevant to our busy lives. The author helps us learn practical ways of regulating our own internal rhythms in accord with those of nature so that we can come back to an aligned sense of self. It is powerful in its simplicity and is a modern-day must read. I love this book! Rhythms of Change Mary Saunders

Finally, in the midst of a busy, work-centered, “yang” world, be willing to acknowledge your “yin” feminine self, along with the waxing and waning of your own rhythms. Embracing the coming and going of your own tides will help you leap through life’s transitions occur more gracefully.

~Kandace Cahill, DAOM, L.Ac., FABORM