Acupuncture Treatments for IVF cycle
Here’s a disclaimer. Everyone is unique and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based upon the tenet of uniqueness. That said, the most common question we get at Pulling Down the Moon is about a “typical” treatment plan. So, with the caveat that your situation is unique and your practitioner will tailor treatment to suit your needs, here’s a good solid overview of what a typical fertility acupuncture treatment plan looks like.
In your acupuncturist’s ideal world, starting acupuncture treatments at least three months prior to an IVF cycle would provide an optimal preparatory period. During this prep period we will focus generally on your overall health (adjusting lifestyle and dietary practices that lead to imbalance) and specifically on the maturation of the egg.
In the prep period we recommend acupuncture treatments once or twice a week, depending on the amount of time you have before you start your ART cycle. E.g. If you allow yourself about three months before starting IVF, acupuncture treatments once a week will be sufficient until IVF stimulation begins. If you are starting during the birth control phase, about 3-4 weeks prior to IVF stimulation, twice a week until the stimulation is optimal.
Once IVF stimulation begins, you should have at least three to four acupuncture treatments between the first you start you FSH (Gonal-F, Follistim, etc) injections and egg retrieval, based upon your progress. If your response to the stimulation is too fast or too slow, or if you are developing too many or too few follicles, you may benefit from more frequent acupuncture treatments. In rare cases, people may benefit most from daily treatment.
After the egg retrieval it recommended that you have an acupuncture treatment with in a day or two to minimize the bloating, distention, and cramps that can come with egg retrieval. The retrieval is an invasive procedure and acupuncture is very helpful to speed recovery and prepare the uterus for implantation.
On or around the day of embryo transfer, research suggests that two treatments, one before and one after the embryo transfer significantly increase pregnancy rates. We also suggest treatment at least once during the two week wait period to help calm anxiety and promote implantation.
Hopefully at this point you will have a positive pregnancy test. In this case, we recommend acupuncture once a week until the end of the first trimester. If there are any symptoms associated with pregnancy such as morning sickness, bleeding, or pain, you may need to be seen more frequently.
If your IVF cycle is using a donor egg we recommend one acupuncture treatment per week until embryo transfer with the goal of preparing the uterus for implantation. Acupuncture before/after transfer and follow-up treatment is the same as that described above.
Acupuncture Treatments during IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) Cycle
The treatment plan for IUI is similar to that of the IVF cycle, including the preparation period and treatment during stimulation (whether it’s natural, clomid or FSH)
You should have one acupuncture treatment before or after IUI and follow-up treatment as described above.
What’s Good for the Gander: Male preparation
Regardless of the cause of infertility, the science of TCM would recommend that the male partner be treated as well.
It takes about ninety days for sperm to reach maturity. Males with no known pathology should be treated on a weekly basis until sperm is collected for use, preferably beginning at least three months prior to the planned cycle.
For males with known issues, we suggest they start acupuncture treatment as early as possible. Research has shown improvements in all sperm parameters (count, motility, and morphology).
If possible, the male partner should try to have an acupuncture treatment a day before sperm donation.
Beth Heller, MS
Pulling Down the Moon, Inc.