Acupuncture helps improve IVF success rates for the same reason it helps improve the reproductive response in those who conceive naturally. Recent research has verified that acupuncture has the following effects:
- balances hormones
- improves blood flow (and therefore response) to the ovaries
- reduces the physiologic response to stress
- improves uterine receptivity to embryo implantation
It is important to note, however, that each of the items addressed have cumulative effects over time. Thus, having one or two acupuncture treatments before retrieval or after transfer are not going to make a substantial difference in outcome. It takes at least one to two months to make lasting improvements in ovarian blood flow. The process of folliculogenesis (where egg quality is determined) lasts three months. When the menstrual cycle has been irregular or hormonal imbalances have been present for months or years, it takes a few months to restore hormonal balance so egg quality can be optimized. Although acupuncture can reduce uterine reactivity immediately, it takes much longer to induce changes when immunologic issues are present. Chinese medicine is individualized to each person and their specific patterns of imbalance. Acupuncture is merely one tool we utilize. Others are herbal prescriptions, meditative movement exercises, diet, nutritional supplements, and helping restore mental and emotional harmony. I encourage patients who are planning an IVF to begin treatments with Chinese medicine at least three months before their IVF is scheduled to optimize their chances. Once you have a healthy routine going, you can continue treatments with TCM for morning sickness, miscarriage prevention, and routine care throughout your pregnancy.