Acupuncture for IVF/FET

When initial fertility measures have not resulted in a successful pregnancy, many women will consider undergoing an IVF (in vitro fertilization) cycle. During IVF, medications stimulate several ovarian follicles to develop rather than just one. The resulting eggs are retrieved and fertilized in a lab. Embryos which develop normally after fertilization can then be transferred into the uterus for implantation.

IVF is an expensive procedure with varying rates of success. For women under 35 years old, the live birth rate from IVF can be as high as 45%, but drops to as low as 4% for women over 42. In addition, side effects from the medications used are uncomfortable for many women.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are an excellent complement to a planned IVF cycle. A 2015 study* compared live birth rates in three groups: women undergoing IVF only, women undergoing IVF with 1 acupuncture treatment on the day of embryo transfer, and women undergoing IVF as well as receiving acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments.

For the purposes of the study, this third group received what the study authors called “Whole Systems Traditional Chinese Medicine” (WS-TCM), defined as 11-12 acupuncture treatments in the 2-3 months leading up to embryo transfer, and 1 treatment on the day of transfer, with additional dietary/lifestyle recommendations.

The study authors found that the IVF-only group had a live birth rate of 48.2%. With 1 treatment on transfer day, the rate rose slightly to 50.8%. However, for the group receiving WS-TCM treatments, the live birth rate rose to 61.3%, a 13-point increase in success.

These study results reflect what we have seen over many years of treating women at TCRA: regular acupuncture in the months before IVF, in addition to one treatment within 24 hours of embryo transfer, is often very beneficial at helping women achieve and maintain a healthy pregnancy. We find that Chinese medicine helps with the following:

  • Improving blood flow to developing follicles (follicles develop a blood supply a few months prior to ovulation, so nourishing them during this early phase is critical)

  • Improving blood flow to the uterus, thus increasing the quality of the uterine lining and helping with successful embryo implantation

  • Lowering stress: high levels of stress hormones such as cortisol have been shown to have a negative effect on fertility by influencing the HPO (hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian) axis.

  • Reducing the side effects of IVF medications

If you are considering an IVF cycle, contact the fertility specialists at TCRA today to find out more about how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help you achieve success!
*Hullender Rubin, L.E., Opsahl, M., Wiemer, K., Mist, S., and Caughey, A. (2015).


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