The point of acupuncture in fertility

One in six Canadian couples who are trying to get pregnant are having trouble conceiving, a problem that has doubled since the 1990s (Health Canada Statistics). The increase in infertility can be explained by age-related issues, smoking, alcohol,  being overweight, stressful lifestyle, but often as is the case, for no discernible reason. To become pregnant many couples are turning to in vitro fertilization – or IVF.  IVF is a highly technical process that often has significant negative side effects to a woman’s body,  is emotionally stressful, and also very expensive (up to $15000 per IVF round in Alberta).

Melanie Morrill, RAc

What can couples do to maximize their odds of becoming pregnant with or without procedures like IVF? Besides eating well, stopping drinking and smoking, losing weight if overweight, and managing stress, many are using acupuncture. Acupuncture can both improve rates of conception and maintain a healthy pregnancy. Adding acupuncture before and after an IVF treatment improves conceptions rates by more than 50% compared to IVF alone.  In fact, as we will discuss in the next blog, acupuncture may eliminate the need for IVF because when done over time it improves a couple’s health and fertility.  This can save money and unnecessary medical procedures, but most importantly, this means increasing the chances of becoming pregnant.

A prospective randomized trial published in 2006 by Fertility and Sterility  found that just two acupuncture treatments, one right before and another right after an embryo transfer increased a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant 61%.  An embryo transfer is one of the final steps in IVF where the embryo is placed inside the uterus. The study had three groups. One group just had embryo transfer with no acupuncture, the second had acupuncture before and after the  embryo transfer, the last group had acupuncture before and after their embryo transfer as well as a follow up acupuncture appointment two days later. The study found that the patients who received acupuncture were more likely to become pregnant. Women who had acupuncture became pregnant between 36 and 39% of the time compared to the control sample that did not receive acupuncture who became pregnant 22-26% of the time. Patients who had a follow up acupuncture appointments two days later did not have a higher rate of pregnancy than those who only had acupuncture on the same day as their embryo transfer.

The study didn’t look into why more women were becoming pregnant with acupuncture before and after their embryo transfer, but it could have something to do acupuncture’s impact on the central nervous system and then secondarily, hormone balance. When you are trying to become pregnant you need to emphasize your parasympathetic nervous system, also known as your ‘rest and digest’ or ‘feed and breed’ system, as opposed to your sympathetic nervous system, known as the “fight or flight” system Acupuncture helps relax the body and shift the balance toward the parasympathetic which then osters the body to create a hormonal profile promoting fertility.

Acupuncture before and after embryo transfer can very significantly increase a woman’s chances of conceiving.  If you would like more information visit our website regarding fertility, call me to chat, or make an appointment with me at the Acupuncture Turning Point.