Acupuncture for Infertility: IUI & IVF Support

Modern medicine has made many great advancements in the treatment of infertility and has given couples a chance when previously there was none. Unfortunately, they are not exactly the most pleasant procedures to undergo between the hormones, bloodwork and injections. To add to all this, the success rates are usually only moderate at best. Recent research has shown that Acupuncture can greatly enhance the success of these procedures including Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI), In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), and IVF with Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI).

Excerpt from CBS’s Health Watch Report on Acupuncture & IVF Research:

Fertility treatments are traditionally long, complicated and expensive. But this new study says acupuncture is doing wonders helping women conceive. Old City acupuncturist Steven Mavros has a wall full of success stories. It’s covered with pictures of babies. He said they were conceived with the help of acupuncture. “We know it helps boost blood flow into the lower abdomen and into the uterus and the ovaries,” said Mavros. He said acupuncture also helps regulate menstrual cycles to improve fertility.

CBS Interview with Stephanie Stahl

Steve Mavros interview by CBS on Acupuncture and Infertility in 2008

The new study, that covered 1,300 women, found acupuncture improves the odds of conception by 65 percent when done before IVF fertility treatments. “It’s not a magic bullet. The IVF is doing most of the work. The acupuncture just seems to make it better,” said Mavros.

Most of Acupuncture’s benefits will specifically increase the response and success of all forms of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). Studies have focused on how Acupuncture can increase the blood flow in the uterus and ovaries creating a more suitable and fertile environment for mature follicles to both develop and implant. Additionally, treating the man at the same time will allow them to provide better samples with better counts, and motility/morphology rates.

How does Acupuncture integrate with IVF?

Research over the past few years has shown tremendous benefit to how Acupuncture can greatly increase the success rates of IVF and IVF with ICSI. It all started when a German study was published in Fertility & Sterility, a well respected infertility journal that included over 150 women undergoing IVF. The study showed conclusively that the use of Acupuncture before and after fertilized embryo transfer (42.5% success rate) had a significantly higher success rate than a normal transfer without Acupuncture (26.3% success rate). In the years since that study, similar ones have been done in Denmark, Colorado and China and all have shown not only this approximate 15-20% boost in pregnancy rates, but that it lasts all the way through the pregnancy.

That was just with one treatment before and after IVF transfer. Leading up to the transfer, other research has shown, Acupuncture produces a greater number of follicles in poor responders, greater blood flow to the uterus improving the endometrial lining, and reduces stress and tension (often shown to decrease fertility). Put this all together and Acupuncture can change a long shot procedure into a likely success.

What does this mean for you if you are going through IVF?

It means more hope, fewer cycles, and a shorter wait for what you most desire: a beautiful healthy baby. All forms of ART are draining; financially, physically and emotionally. All that work and all that investment and all you get is a single roll of the dice. We know that Acupuncture is not the magic bullet, but we also know that with Acupuncture your odds of success will go up greatly, and that’s all that most couples need to hear to realize how invaluable a tool it can be.

When should I start Acupuncture for my upcoming IVF cycle?

Most patients require a series of ongoing treatments over a month or two to gain all the benefits Acupuncture can provide. The recommended treatment schedule is based upon your individual case and can vary. In many cases, we recommend that you start Acupuncture treatment 1 – 2 months prior to the commencement of the IVF cycle to ensure you get the most out of it. As the embryo transfer gets closer, the frequency of visits may increase.

Do you perform the transfer protocol in the studies at my clinic?

Since the study’s publication, Steven Mavros, L.OM. has pioneered bringing Acupuncture to every major clinic in the Philadelphia area from as far north as Abington to as far south as Newark, Delaware. We currently serve: Penn Fertility, Main Line Fertility, RMA of Philadelphia, Shady Grove, Fertility and Gyn Associates, Society Hill Reproductive, Abington Reproductive, South Jersey IVF, Delaware Valley IVF and Reproductive Associates of Delaware. Each clinic has generously allowed us to use their facilities during the day of the transfer. When the day of the transfer arrives, one of our practitioners will meet you at the clinic and work with the IVF nurses and doctors to time the treatment correctly. Based on the most recent research and our own protocols developed over 15 years, we do a single unique treatment immediately before the embryo transfer. Not only does it help increase your chance of success, but the Acupuncture will help relax and calm you during a very stressful procedure. After the transfer day, it’s advised to receive a follow up Acupuncture session in the office 5-8 days post transfer as this has also been shown to help boost success rates.

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