Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) and Acupuncture

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome affects women taking hormone medications such as human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) and human menopausal gonadotrophin (hmG) to stimulate the development of eggs in the ovaries. This may occur in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF), ovulation induction or intrauterine insemination.

The use of such hormones in your system may lead to ovarian hyperstimulation, in which your ovaries become swollen and painful. A small number of women may develop severe OHSS, which can cause rapid weight gain, abdominal pain, vomiting and shortness of breath.

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is a serious complication to expect during the IVF cycle. Any patient undergoing artificial induction of ovulation is at risk of developing OHSS, although some are more at risk than others. The symptoms usually begin four to five days after the egg collection. While up to 33% of women experience the mild forms of OHSS, 3-8% has reported severe OHSS. Despite significant advances in assisted reproductive technology over the years, there are always at-risk responders.

Acupuncture can help eliminate the symptoms of mild OHSS or relieve the discomfort in the severe cases. According to a study done by Nanjing Medical University in 2016, it concluded that electroacupuncture may provide a simple and effective method for the prevention and treatment of OHSS. The results indicate that electroacupuncture can modulate endocrine hormone secretion and affect the secretion of inflammatory cytokines and vascular endothelial growth factor, and thus prevent the progress of OHSS. In another study conducted in 2014, 53 out of 109 women undergoing IVF/ICSI were assigned to electroacupuncture during the cycle. Compared with the non-acupuncture group, the occurrence of OHSS and the canceling rate of transplant cycles were significantly lower in the acupuncture group.

Acupuncture is usually recommended after egg collection to help recovery from anesthetic, local tissue trauma, and most importantly, the prevention of OHSS. The timing and number of acupuncture treatments will vary between women and their individual conditions to best support their recovery before embryo transfer.


  1. Hong YL, Tan Y, Yin YY, Zou YJ, Guo YH, Nie XW. Effect of electro-acupuncture on clinical outcomes and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome in in vitro fertilization and embryo transplantation. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2014 Nov;34(11):1292-6.
  2. Chen L, Sun HX, Xia YB, Sui LC, Zhou J, Huang X, Zhou JW, Shao YD, Shen T, Sun Q, Liang YJ, Yao B. Electroacupuncture decreases the progression of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome in a rat model. Reprod Biomed Online. 2016 May;32(5):538-44.


Posted by Soma Clinic

Informational content on this website was created by Soma Clinic, which provides natural and hands-on support for women going through IVF cycles, as well as other related therapies for women's reproductive health.