Acupuncture and IVF (in vitro fertilization) are commonly combined by patients undergoing fertility treatments. Even though acupuncture is not a traditional medical treatment, the two treatments are believed to work together to enable a woman to become pregnant. Below is an explanation of the two procedures and information about the impact the procedures have on pregnancy rates.
Acupuncture is a procedure whereby extremely thin needles are inserted underneath a patient’s skin at certain trigger points in the body. The procedure is not painful, but is regulated by state health departments. Acupuncturists, therefore, must be licensed by the state in which they practice.
Acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow to reproductive areas, decrease stress, regulate hormone production and detoxify the body. As each of these benefits can be the cause of infertility if they are not operating properly, acupuncture has been identified as helping an infertile individual. Acupuncture has minimal side effects, including irritation at the insertion site.
Acupuncture most likely will not cause a woman to become pregnant. Instead, it is intended to assist the body to rebalance itself.
In Vitro Fertilization Explained
In Vitro Fertilization is a medical procedure whereby the egg and sperm from donors are combined outside of the recipient’s uterus. The donor of the egg can also be the recipient, or one or both donors could be anonymous or contracted to be a donor. The fertilized egg is then permitted to grow into a small embryo a few cells large before being implanted in the recipient. The fertilized egg can be reinserted either directly into the recipient’s uterus or into her fallopian tube. If inserted into the fallopian tube, the egg is expected to travel the length of the tube to the uterus and implant itself into the uterine wall.
Combining In Vitro Fertilization and Acupuncture
There is no impediment to combining in vitro fertilization with acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture may, in fact, be beneficial in preparing the recipient’s body for receiving the embryo. There is, however, no guarantee that a woman will become pregnant after undergoing either procedure. As always, prior to beginning any fertility treatments in addition to those prescribed by your specialist, speak with your doctor.
Acupuncture and IVF Pregnancy Rates
Patients undergoing acupuncture at the same time as IVF treatments have been shown to have double the likelihood of becoming pregnant. Specifically, IVF patients that did not undergo acupuncture had a 20% pregnancy rate while those who did had a 40% pregnancy rate. However, these studies were performed on a small group of patients who were not experiencing hormone imbalances. Because of this, they may not be reliable.
Other than the statistics cited above, there has been very little research on the relationship between IVF and acupuncture. Because of this, it has not been determined whether acupuncture treatments can, in fact, assist a woman in becoming pregnant. As there are little side effects to the procedure, however, many physicians may see no problem with combining the two treatments.