How Can Acupuncture Help Your IVF Treatment?
If you and your partner have been undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF), we know that it is an emotionally and physically taxing process. More than 9 million babies have been born globally using assisted reproductive technologies like IVF – but that doesn’t make the process any easier for those experiencing it.
Most women undergoing IVF are looking for other ways to increase their chances of conceiving, as well as strategies to make the process more positive and enjoyable. That’s why many women turn to acupuncture to aid their conception efforts.
Acupuncture is a form of complementary medicine that involves inserting small, sterile, stainless steel needles into specific points of the body to stimulate natural processes. It has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to help treat inflammation, pain, and even infertility.
Today, acupuncture serves as a popular supplement to IVF treatments. Our team at Solis has performed acupuncture services on many women trying to conceive, and we’re happy to play a part in their conception journey.
But how can acupuncture potentially help with IVF treatments? Let’s dive into it.
What Exactly Is Acupuncture?
As we stated, acupuncture uses fine needles inserted at strategic parts of the body to stimulate energy flow, increase microcirculation, reduce inflammation, affect neurotransmitters, and promote healing processes. The treatment itself generally takes 20-30 minutes, with a subsequent “acu-nap” lasting another 30. The number of needles used depends on the person’s needs.
The thought of sticking tiny needles into your body might not sound enjoyable, but trained acupuncturists know how to make the experience soothing. Many will also pair the use of acupuncture needles with manual therapies such as gua sha, cupping, or electrical stimulation. Most patients report that their acupuncture sessions feel more like a trip to the spa than a trip to the doctor’s offices. The vast majority of acupuncture patients report that acupuncture actually feels good!
The World Health Organization recognizes that acupuncture can be used to effectively treat over 100 common clinical disorders, including reproductive-related problems such as…
- Stress & anxiety
- Irregular or painful menstruation
- Hormonal imbalances
- Sexual dysfunctions
Generally, acupuncture is considered a safe and effective complementary therapy for many medical treatments, including in vitro fertilization. Many IVF clinics even offer acupuncture services as a supplemental part of their treatment plans.
The Benefits of Acupuncture During IVF
1. Decreases Stress
Stress takes its toll on the body in several ways. Headaches, fatigue, and heart-related issues are all common symptoms associated with the inability to relax. In a 2001 study, researchers in California even established a link between stress and low fertility rates.
These researchers found that a woman’s stress negatively influenced the number of eggs fertilized. Conversely, women who were optimistic about becoming pregnant showed an increase in the number of fertilized eggs.
Another study established a direct relationship between stress and IVF procedures, concluding that women with lower anxiety levels on the day before oocyte retrieval had higher pregnancy rates.
How does acupuncture help with stress?
Acupuncture is known for its ability to release endorphins, the hormones that help the body balance stress and anxiety levels. When the tiny needles are inserted into your body, it sends a message to the brain to release pain-relief hormones known to alleviate stress. The procedure also causes your muscles to relax, your breathing to slow, and your mind to calm.
At Solis, the acupuncture process isn’t all that different from a meditation session. In fact, many of our clients compare our acupuncture treatment sessions to be the most relaxing part of their week. When you’re in a dimly lit treatment room with blankets, no external distractions, and soft music playing in the background, it’s easy to lower your stress levels.
Don’t just take our word for acupuncture’s effects on stress. Results from another study on stress, acupuncture, and IVF procedures found that 64.7% of women who went through an acupuncture regimen went on to get pregnant, compared to the 42.5% of women who didn’t.
2. Balances Hormones
Hormonal imbalances are a leading cause of infertility, according to a large body of research. As most women know, hormones control the menstrual cycle. For pregnancy to occur, hormones must trigger the growth of an egg within an ovary, signal the release of the egg into the fallopian tube, and regulate the thickening of the uterine lining for implantation.
Any imbalance of hormones can cause these processes to fail, thus impacting the chances of pregnancy taking hold. For an IVF procedure to succeed, these hormones must be accurately balanced.
So, how does acupuncture help?
According to the core practices of acupuncture, many medical ailments stem from imbalances that block blood flow, hormones, and chemical messengers in the body. When needles are inserted into these specific blocked points, they release the blockages and help facilitate blood flow.
After a few acupuncture sessions, it’s normal for women to experience improvements in menstrual cycles, reduction in pain and cramping, reduced hot flushes and night sweats, as well as the balancing and regulation of hormones.
Clinical studies have also found that acupuncture helps treat symptoms of PCOS caused by hormonal issues. Another study indicates that acupuncture can help with fertility issues by promoting healthy sex hormone levels.
3. Supports Immune System Function
For pregnancy to occur, mothers need a robust immune system. If they suffer from an autoimmune disease, for example, their bodies may be unable to differentiate between a foreign invader and tissues that don’t pose a threat.
This can result in inflammation in the body that prevents ovulation. A balanced immune system, on the other hand, helps the uterus both accept and nurture the embryo, increasing the chances of conception and a healthy pregnancy. This is especially true when women undergo in vitro fertilization.
What does acupuncture have to do with immunity?
Acupuncture for IVF may help the body resist disease and strengthen women’s immune systems. The insertion of needles in specific points of the body increases red and white blood cell counts and T-cell counts. This enhances cellular immunity in patients with immune-related illnesses.
Researchers say these acupuncture effects on the immune system can be seen up to 72 hours after a single session, lasting for a month after the last treatment.
Keeping your immunity up isn’t just important before starting to conceive or using IVF. It’s equally vital to avoid illnesses during pregnancy. Some studies have shown that pregnant women are more susceptible to viral illnesses like malaria.
Acupuncture for IVF can help by triggering the immune system into creating a strong line of defense against any pathogens that might be introduced to your body. Since acupuncture is known to have minimal side effects, it can be performed at every stage of the IVF process to boost pregnancy success – even post-conception.
4. Improves Blood Flow
A woman’s reproductive organs need adequate nourishment when undergoing an IVF procedure. However, factors like stress levels and age can lead to a decline in blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, making conception less likely.
Strong blood flow and sufficient estrogen levels are essential to growing a thick endometrial lining, which is critical for the success of an in vitro fertilization procedure. While exercise and stress reduction assist in improving this blood flow, more women than ever are also starting to see the benefits of acupuncture.
When the needles are inserted into your body, they can slow down the nervous system, which dilates the constricted blood vessels that inhibit blood flow. This process increases nutrient distribution and blood flow to the uterus and the ovaries and helps grow a thicker endometrial lining.
Some studies indicate that acupuncture increases blood circulation by stimulating the production of Nitric Oxide in the body. NO is a key regulator of local blood circulation; thus, greater quantities of NO lead to greater blood flow and circulation.
By providing a steady stream of oxygen-rich blood flow to your reproductive organs, you can keep your egg cells healthy, improving both egg quality and quantity.
Interested in Trying Acupuncture for Conception?
Although there is no surefire solution to battling infertility, there are many things women can do to increase their chances of conception and regulate their bodily processes. If you’ve been going through IVF or even trying to conceive without any medical treatment, acupuncture can be a great supplemental aid.
Solis Acupuncture provides services to help with a wide range of health challenges, including problems with conception, hormone imbalances, and fertility.
Our acupuncturists are licensed, experienced, and highly professional. We always use sterile, stainless steel needles that are disposed of after their first use. When you book a session with us, you can trust it will be a safe, enjoyable experience.