Chinese medicine takes into consideration the overall health of the individual, as the individual after all will be the one producing the healthy eggs or sperm for the IVF process.
Ideally your acupuncturist will start treatment at least 3 months before your IVF cycle to help correct imbalances within the menstrual cycle, or to improve sperm quality or motility. It is also important to address imbalances such as digestive health, emotional disharmony, or poor sleep as these facets of health can impact on the reproductive system in Chinese medicine.
THE BENEFITS OF ACUPUNCTURE DURING IVF FOR MEN
Treatment is all about sperm quality and quantity. As previously mentioned it is important to address sperm health AT LEAST 3 months before trying to conceive due to the time it takes to grow healthy sperm. Addressing male fertility may seem more simple than female fertility as there is no monthly cycle to work around and the focus is based several months before IVF starts. It is important to remember that addressing sperm health through quantity, morphology, and motility is based on optimising Kidney Jing (the genetic material passed on to offspring). The good news for men is that once a diagnosis is made herbal formulas can be prescribed which will lessen the need for frequent acupuncture sessions.
There are a multitude of factors in daily life that can influence your swimmers, so it is important to understand the effects of healthy diet and lifestyle factors during this period. Your acupuncturist will discuss with you any areas for adjustment based on your specific pattern of health and additional relevant factors.
THE BENEFITS OF ACUPUNCTURE DURING IVF FOR WOMEN
Acupuncture treatments at this stage are focused on improving QI and blood flow to the ovaries to enhance follicle growth and quality, as well as endometrial thickness. Diet and lifestyle may be addressed to ensure the quality of blood is optimal and body tissues are nutrient rich, and that the emotional landscape is even to help make the processes of IVF as easy as possible.
The second phase of acupuncture treatment occurs between trigger and egg pickup (roughly day 11-14). This is a small window (around 36 hours) where the ovaries are triggered to mimic ovulation in preparation for collection. As this is often a more tense time, treatments are focused on relieving any stress or anxiety, or other side-effects such as insomnia, dizziness, headaches, abdominal pain, and nausea.
The third phase of acupuncture treatment occurs after egg collection (roughly day 14-16) and is aimed at reducing the effects of medication by reducing swelling and abdominal bloating. Directing energy and blood to the abdomen is also thought to promote healing, as well as prepare the endometrium for transfer of the embryo.
The next phase of the IVF cycle is embryo transfer (roughly day 19). Acupuncture treatment may be offered on the same day both before and after transfer. This depends entirely on the wellbeing of the individual, as acupuncture treatments are aimed at relaxing the patient and reducing the stress response to encourage implantation of the embryo during IVF.
The final stage is implantation. This occurs roughly 4-8 days after the embryo transfer, around the time the embryo would naturally implant in the uterus. The focus of acupuncture treatment is directing blood to the uterus to ensure there is a thick, nutrient rich lining for the embryo to attach and grow. Relaxation is also a key focus to ensure energy isn’t being unnecessarily diverted during the IVF cycle.
Another benefit of acupuncture treatment for IVF is being able to explain how the cycle is unfolding to an acupuncturist, describe if and where it is varied from past cycles, and how the individuals wellness is in general. It can be very valuable information whilst going through the IVF process. Acupuncturists can offer opinions, advice, and emotional support when partners are less available. Acupuncturists can also answer any queries you may have and guide you through the process to ensure your IVF treatment goes as smoothly as possible.
Lyttleton, J 2013, Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine, 2nd edn, Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, Edinburgh.
Maciocia, G 1998, Obstetrics & Gynecology in Chinese Medicine, Churchill Livingstone, New York.
Szmelskyj, I & Aquilina, L 2015, Acupuncture for IVF and Assisted Reproduction: An integrated approach to treatment and management, Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, Edinburgh.