Acupuncture treatments should preferably begin 3 months leading up to embryo transfer because ovarian follicles go through a 90-120 day development period before they mature for ovulation.
These treatments possibly increase ovarian response to IVF medications by increasing blood flow to the uterine lining and the ovaries. The treatments also relieve the effects of stress and anxiety.
A 2005 randomized trial was carried out in the IVF center of China Medical University Hospital in Taiwan found that electroacupuncture reduces uterine artery blood flow impedance in women. When blood circulation is improved, the uterus is better nourished, making it a more ideal environment for implantation.
Increasing blood circulation to the ovaries and uterus, can in turn improve the quality of the follicular fluids that nourish the developing eggs.
In a 2009 paper published in Fertility and Sterility, women going through IVF were given acupuncture to increase blood flow through the uterine arteries in the immediate weeks before egg collection. The researchers found that the women who had acupuncture showed beneficial changes in serum levels of stress hormones compared to the control group of women who did not have acupuncture. The acupuncture treatments appeared to have normalized levels of cortisol and prolactin which had been artificially depressed by the IVF drugs. This may have implications for both egg quality and implantation. In addition the pregnancy and live birth rate was significantly higher in the acupuncture group.
In addition, acupuncture plays a role in keeping your body in balance, physically and mentally. Stress is one of the main contributing factor towards infertility in modern women. It puts us into a “defense” mode by sending a message from the hypothalamus to the pituitary gland that starts the ‘flight or fight’ response. This response activates our adrenal glands to produce adrenaline, cortisol and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) which interferes with the overall balance of hormones. This can have a profound effect if you are trying to conceive.
Scientists found that those with high levels of stress hormone stop ovulating and are therefore unable to conceive. This is why it is common enough that when you go for a business trip or are having a stressful week, ovulation is actually delayed until you settle back into a less stressful routine.
Acupuncture has been known to help reduce stress levels and keep the hormones in check for natural ovulation to occur. When the body and mind are relaxed, the endocrine system can resume its work unobstructed.
While time is of essence for many women in their 30s, there are benefits to preparing the womb ahead of time too. It is recommended that you start coming in for regular treatments at least 2-3 months prior to the next IVF cycle.
- Ho M, Huang LC, Chang YY, Chen HY, Chang WC, Yang TC, Tsai HD. Electroacupuncture reduces uterine artery blood flow impedance in infertile women. Taiwan J Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Jun;48(2):148-51.
- Magarelli PC, Cridennda DK, Cohen M. Changes in serum cortisol and prolactin associated with acupuncture during controlled ovarian hyperstimulation in women undergoing in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer treatment. Fertil Steril. 2009 Dec;92(6):1870-9.