Acupuncture for In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
Assisted reproduction technology (ART) has rapidly gained acceptance by all those for whom conception has been difficult to achieve. Recent advances in IVF means that couples using this approach have a clinical pregnancy rate of 36% and a viable pregnancy rate of 29% per embryo transfer.
The procedure for IVF is as follows: The woman’s ovaries are stimulated with drugs to produce a number of ripe eggs which are then collected by a needle inserted through her vaginal wall. These eggs are placed in a Petri dish and mixed with a sperm sample, provided whilst the eggs are being collected. The eggs are monitored over five days and then one or two embryos will be returned to the uterus.
Jansen (1997) 1 explains that IVF treatment is more likely to be successful if there is a clear reason for infertility, providing that the treatment corrects the problem properly and does not, through side effects (of drugs or surgery) interfere with any other aspect of reproduction.
IVF and TCM
A TCM practitioner will take into account the Western diagnosis given to explain infertility, which provides him or her with some details about the disorder and may indicate prognosis. However, the treatment offered is planned on the basis of an entirely different system of diagnosis which is based on Chinese Medical diagnostic principles.
In treating patients undergoing IVF, the practitioner will work with the patient to balance her body. For example, much attention is given to the detail of the menstrual cycle; its regularity, variability and flow. This is a key diagnostic tool in measuring the progress of treatment. In some cases the woman may need to reflect on her diet, stress levels or general health. Diet and lifestyle play a key role in the treatment of fertility problems and TCM can support her throughout this process.
Where there is no obvious cause of infertility, TCM is able to diagnose and treat the underlying causes which are preventing conception.
Is Acupuncture Helpful in the treatment of Infertility?
There is considerable research into the effectiveness of TCM in assisting orthodox fertility treatments. Paulus et al (2002)2, in a prospective randomised study, showed that women treated with acupuncture had a 42.5% success rate as against a 26.3% success rate for the control group. Further research published in 2006 by Westergaard et al3 indicates that acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome.
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1 Jansen, R P S (1997) Getting pregnant Sydney, Allen and Unwin
2 Paulus, W E., Zhang, M, Strehler, E., El-Danasouri, I., Sterzk, K (2002) ‘Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy’ Fertility and Sterilty vol 7, no 44 pp 721-724
3 Westergaard, L G., Mao, Q., Krogslund, M., Sandrini, S, Lenz, S, Grinsted, J (2006) ‘Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomised trial’ Fertility and Sterility, Vol 85, no 5, pp1341-1346
If you are interested in reading more about Traditional Chinese Medicine, or its relationship with IVF treatment, the following titles are available to purchase from our clinic:
Acupuncture & IVF: Increase IVF Success by 40-60% by Lifang Liang, Blue Poppy Press, 2004.
Chinese Medicine by Duo Gao, Carlton Books, 2004.