Acupuncture & Fertility
Let's start with the basics - acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine in which thin needles are inserted to specific points of the body. It is most often used for pain relief, but it is also used for a wide range of other conditions.
When we first decided to do IVF we gave ourselves a few months to prepare. Mentally, financially and we wanted to try just one last thing. Acupuncture.
There have lots of studies looking specifically at how the use of acupuncture impacts fertility treatment outcomes. Studies found that in many cases, acupuncture has clearly improved success rates. There is evidence that the more acupuncture a patient receives, the more benefit it offers.
Although we did see a small increase in Alec's numbers after a couple months of acupuncture (which is the minimum amount of time to see results) our doctor told us that it looks to be just the average fluctuation that happens from cycle to cycle (yes, men have cycles too).
Now that we are moving on to just preparing our bodies for IVF, rather than trying to fix them, there are different points we have been focusing on.
There are so many ways acupuncture can impact your IVF success and with everything we are putting into this, we want to do it right the first time!
1. Acupuncture improves blood flow: One of the first orders of business in supporting reproduction is to ensure your reproductive organs are receiving adequate nourishment. Stress and/or aging can lead to a decline in blood flow to the uterus and ovaries. Acupuncture can increase blood flow by slowing down the nervous system (central sympathetic nervous system) which then causes the blood vessels to dilate. When the vessels dilate, they release a flood of nutrient dense blood to the ovaries and uterus. Increased ovarian blood flow may help with response to fertility medications. Increased uterine blood flow ensures a thick uterine lining and sets up an ideal environment for implantation. Better response, better eggs, better lining.
2. Acupuncture reduces stress: Undergoing fertility treatments is extremely stressful. For both husband and wife. It is a common reason for stopping treatment altogether. Acupuncture can help reduce the stress. Research shows that when needles are placed in the skin, the body releases its own natural pain killers (endorphins). Endorphins are responsible for the relaxed feeling one gets after a session. It causes your muscles to relax, your breathing to slow, and your mind to calm.
3. Acupuncture improves your odds of having a baby with IVF: The ultimate goal at the end of all this is to have a healthy mother and baby and to give yourself the best chance of success. Even though we have great odds with IVF it is still only a 65%-85% chance that our cycle will result in a live birth. A study looked at five years of data on women who did IVF alone and compared that with women who added acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer and women who had acupuncture during their IVF cycles, around 13 to 15 sessions. The women who added more acupuncture sessions were twice as likely to have a baby compared to women who did IVF alone, and 60% more likely when compared with women who just had two acupuncture treatments on the day of embryo transfer. Acupuncture helped their IVF outcomes.
There are so many other ways acupuncture can be beneficial for you even if you are not dealing with infertility. Alec has the worst back pain, often shooting down his legs after a long day of work, and weekly treatments have really mellowed out the pain and allow him to sleep through the night!
On top of physical fixes, we have used points to help with my moods, anxiety, and depression which I really think has helped me so much while riding this rollercoaster of hormones.
If you are interested in acupuncture - infertility related or not - I highly reccomend you see Sharon at Health and Beauty Acupuncture. She is full of knowledge and kindness. She also specializes in fertility healing which was a big selling point for us.