Enhancing IVF Success Rates with acupuncture
ART (Assisted Reproduction Technology-IUI, IVF, ICSI, FET etc) has advanced at extraordinary speed in the last two decades and offers many infertile couples their only chance for achieving a family. Due to the relatively low success rate of IVF per cycle, as well as high emotional and financial costs associated with IVF, many patients have turned to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to enhance the success of IVF treatment. Among CAMs acupuncture is a frequently used, safe, low cost adjuvant treatment.
There have been several studies investigating the use of acupuncture to improve the outcome of IVF. In May 2006, the journal Fertility and Sterility published two studies showing significantly increased pregnancy rates for women receiving acupuncture treatments in conjunction with the embryo transfer stage of in vitro fertilization.
A reviewing study by Manheimer et al (BMJ, 2008), in which seven trials with 1366 women undergoing in vitro fertilisation were included in the meta-analyse, concluded that evidence suggests that acupuncture given with embryo transfer improves rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing IVF.
The potential mechanisms for its effects on fertility might be:
Mediating the release of neurotransmitters, which may in turn stimulate secretion of gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH), thereby influencing the menstrual cycle ovulation, and fertility.
Stimulate blood flow to the uterus by inhibiting uterine central sympathetic nerve activity.
Stimulate the production of endogenous opioids, which may inhibit the central nervous system and the biological stress response.For successful implantation we need a good quality of gamete, as well as receptive and nourishing endomentrium. By improving the quality of eggs and sperm, improving the reproductive system’s (ovaries and uterus) blood flow and balancing hormone levels, counteracting the stress that often accompanies infertility acupuncture gives you the best chance of achieving and maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
It also has been demonstrated that acupuncture reduces uterine contractility, so relaxing the uterus to set up a better environment for implantation.
When should I start treatment?
Clinical reality means that we should look at combining what Western and Chinese medicine can offer either in preparing women for IVF cycles, or helping then recover from IVF cycles. Protocols for IVF are complex, involving multiple phases with specific physiological aims. Correspondingly, acupuncture treatments before, during, and after IVF need to be carefully considered in relation to the biomedical aspects that are being manipulated.
When to start to support IVF depends on lots of factors. Your age, any reason for infertility, any previous successful/failed IVF cycles, any gynaecology disorders, any autoimmune disorders, high FSH, low AMH, poor response, or over stimulation, poor uterine blood flow, or implantation failure, etc, are all needed to be considered.
Success Stories (Patients age in stories is at the time when they conceived)
BFP with Assisted Fertility treatments-IUI/IVF/ICSI/FET/Donor
C, 35, unexplained infertility, first IVF, twins
C had been trying to conceive for 2 years and had acupuncture before. Her AMH was 2.7. She took the herbs as well as having acupuncture to give a best try for natural conception. Five months later her first IVF appointment with NHS came through and it worked straightaway! After the positive test she experienced some awful cramping, slight spotting and lower back ache, which frightened her as her mother had a miscarriage at 16 weeks and a stillbirth at 24 weeks. She was happy to take herbs to safeguard the pregnancy. 7 weeks scan showed it was twins! She continued with small dose of herbs till 20 weeks and acupuncture till 32 weeks when she wasn't able to drive anymore. Considering it was twin pregnancy and being on her feet all day as a teacher, she had coped very well. She developed some pelvic girdle pain around 20 weeks which was relieved by acupuncture. However when she went to the hospital at 37 weeks to be induced they found a blood clot in her leg. The most beautiful and healthy twin girls were born by c section, weighed 6lb9oz and 6lb4oz. When she brought the girls to see me I was very touched. "You have given me something I have wished for the whole of my life.. Thank you."
A, 37, first IVF, twins
This is what A says in her testimonial-
I had treatment with acupuncture and Chinese herbs which resulted in a successful first IVF cycle - I have just given birth to twin boys. I had an extremely healthy pregnancy and very healthy birth weights for my babies. My overall health has also improved as a result - I have always suffered from eczema which has now drastically improved. Ying supported my body through my fertility journey and was an extremely positive presence. Thank you!
M, 35, PCOS, first Clomid cycle, twins
M had been TTC for two years before she came to see me. She has underactive thyroid and history of anaemia. She has irregular periods with AMH 52.8. She was having acupuncture and taking herbs for a few months before she started her first Clomifene cycle combined with Metformin. It worked straightaway- she conceived with twins! M had an extremely healthy pregnancy. A healthy baby girl 4lb7oz and baby boy 5lb1oz were born by C section at around 37 weeks. She looked well when I saw her two weeks after the birth.
J, 37, unexplained infertility, first IVF
J's first IVF cycle started in March 2014. 23 eggs were collected, 14 were fertilised, and all of them went into blastocysts. One was transferred, another 7 top blastocysts were frozen. 7.5 week scan saw one strong heart beat. J had a very healthy pregnancy with some acupuncture visits. Baby girl Molly arrived 5 days after the due date, weighed 8 pounds 1 ounce. Very swift labour.
C, 37, IVF after 2 failed ones ten years ago
C had two IVFs on the NHS ten years ago but both failed. This time 8 eggs were collected, 7 fertilised and 4 frozen, which was much better response than ten years ago (6 and 4 eggs in previos cycles). 7 weeks scan showed twin pregnancy but one was 3mm smaller. 10 weeks scan showed only one was left. C continued with acupuncture and she had a very health pregnancy. She gave birth to a baby girl at 41 weeks, "she weighs 7lb6oz and as cute as a button. Feeding and sleeping well. Thank you for helping us on this journey and playing a part in her safe arrival". "Couldn't have done it without you. Thank you. We are so happy... I truly believe acupuncutre has made it possible".
J, 38, FET
J's first fresh ICSI cycle and frozen cycle had both failed. Her case was complicated by hypertension which developed during her first ICSI cycle, which was due to her kidney damage from 10 years on Mesalazine for her ulcerative Colitis. Her blood pressure went out of control during the first frozen cycle and the cycle had to be abandoned. When she came to me three months before her second frozen cycle, she was on Labetalol 100mg twice a day and Methyldopa 250mg three times a day for her hypertension. Imuran (immunosuppressant) 100mg for her Ulcerative Colitis.
Two months after acupuncture her blood test showed kidney function was back to normal and kidney scan showed improvement. She had positive test on day11 post FET. BP stayed normal during the treatment. 6.5 week scan showed one strong heart beat. She completely came off her blood pressure medication during her pregnancy and was only on 50 mg Imuran. Shame she didn't continue with her acupuncture in the third trimester and her UC flared up hence back on Prednisolone. And then her blood pressure went up. J had to be induced at 36 weeks. A healthy baby girl Elizabeth arrived and J is now trying to come off her medication.
N, 31, ovarian cancer, first IVF
N had a right salpingo-oophorectomy and left partial oophorectomy with a third of ovary left. Her FSH was 10.6, AMH 6.6, ultrasound showed 3 antral follicles on the left ovary. Her first IVF worked straightaway. 7 eggs were collected. All of them were fertilised. 5 went into blastocysts and all were Grade 5 (top grade). One was transferred and 3 blastocysts were frozen. Extremely good result. 7.5 week scan saw one strong heart beat. Baby girl was born at full term.
G, 40, IVF, endometriosis
G has Lupus like condition with anti phospholipid antibodies, endometriosis. Antral follicle count suggested a reduced ovarian reserve. First IVF ended in miscarriage at 5 weeks. She came to me during her second IVF cycle on day 9 of her stimulation. She was getting worried as her day 8 scan showed four small follicles. Size of all follicles almost doubled on Day 13 scan. 4 eggs were collected and 3 embryos were transferred. Positive test. She was on Clexane 20mg twice a day. She had some spotting on and off. Week 7 scan showed 2 babies! She had more spotting and the 12 week scan showed only one left. It is a pity that G stopped her acupuncture from the second trimester. Baby girl Thea was born (induced) at 37.5 weeks due to the slow growth, weighed 2.39kg. It would have been a much better outcome if she had continued with acupuncture.
C, 37, 3rd IVF
C had been ttc for over 15 years. They tried two IVFs 10 years ago but both failed. She conceive naturally 2 years ago but miscarried at 10weeks. She came to me 4 months beofre she her 3rd IVF cycle. She had 8 eggs retrieved, which was better than her previous two cycles( 6 and 4 eggs), 7 fertilised, 2 embryos transferred and 4 frozen! Two weeks later she had positive test. "Couldn't have done it without you. Thank you. We are so happy... I truly believe acupuncutre has made it possible". 7 weeks scan showed twin pregnancy but one was 3mm smaller. 10 weeks scan showed only one was left. C continued with acupuncture and she had a very health pregnancy. She gave birth to a baby girl at 41 weeks, "she weighs 7lb6oz and as cute as a button. Feeding and sleeping well. Thank you for helping us on this journey and playing a part in her safe arrival".
S, 40, 3rd IVF
S had two failed IVFs ten years ago with previous partner. She had laparoscopy to remove some endometriosis then. She came to me inspired by the book “The infertility Cure”, which was written by Dr Randine Lewis, who cured her own infertility with Chinese medicine and then studied and now practicing Chinese medicine. She was drinking the decoction religiously and attended acupuncture once to twice per month. After six months they moved onto IVF due to her partner’s wish. It worked straightaway. S had a healthy pregnancy; she swam twice a week. Shame she missed her treatment since 30 weeks due to various reasons. She messaged to say a healthy baby boy Edward was born by emergency c section, 7lb7oz, both were well. 3 years later a friend of hers came to me and told me that S had another baby boy throught natural conception soon after the first!
V, 32, ICSI
She had one failed ICSI when she was over stimulated and one failed FET. She started the second fresh ICSI on a different protocol, which suited her. 9 eggs were collected, 7 were fertilised, 2 top quality blastocysts, one was transferred. It worked this time. She gave birth to a little boy Fergus in June 2014, weighed 5lb 2oz. "Dear Ying, Thank you for all your help & support over the past few years. We finally have our beautiful baby boy Fergus & we couldn’t be happier. I will send some photos through soon." Love V&L
18 months later, she wrote to me to tell me that her son was doing well and they were expecting another baby soon. It was through natural conception, which was an absolute miracle based on the extreme poor sperm quality. She came back to me at week33, 32 week's scan showed below average. After one seesion of acupuncture, 37 week's scan showed baby was 61b14. She delivered a baby girl through a natural birth at 39 weeks, weight 61b12oz.
J, 40, IVF
J had 8 years subfertility, age related ovarian decline (AMH 5), BMI 37.1. She hadn't been working since a serious car injury. She came to me after her first failed IVF cycle. Considering her age and the fact that she started her second IVF only 6 weeks after her first one, the end positive result was a bit of a surprise. Her second IVF started in May 2013. 17 eggs were collected, 8 were fertilised. Baby boy Robert was born from planned C-section at 39.5 weeks in February 2014, weighed 11 pounds 4 ounces.
D, 40, IVF
In 2008 I helped her with conceiving her second child, which didn't take long (the first month). She came back in September 2010 trying for the third. AMH then was 3.12. This time it had turned out to be a hard one. She tried Clomid, two failed IUI cycles. But she was determined so was I. In October 2012 she finally conceived through the first cycle of IVF. I didn't see her through her pregnancy due to distance. She developed Placenta previa at 34 weeks and admitted to hospital as it turned out to be a major previa so there was a high risk of sudden haemorrhage in the last 6 weeks. She was fortunate not to have a single problem. A most cute baby boy William was born by elective c-section in July 2013, weighing 6lb 4oz. "The section itself couldn't have been more straightforward either despite the risk of hysterectomy and bowel/bladder repair with this condition. I've been lucky on so many levels! Huge Thank You and congratulations to you for all your perseverance."
6 months later I heard from her to say "William is the most adorable baby we have met. He is so happy and content, sleeps though, smiles, chats and giggles at everyone and hardly cries, being easily placated when he does."
F, 28, Polycystic ovaries, male factor and ICSI
When F went for a scan 3 months after having acupuncture and herbs, they couldn't see any cysts on her ovaries anymore. She had 21 eggs collected, 18 injected, 12 fertilised, 1 put back in and 2 frozen. She had uneventful pregnancy and gave birth to health big girl exactly at 40 weeks! "weighing 8lb12oz. It was more painful than i expected but I coped better than I thought I would."
L, 55, IVF with donor egg
J reached her menopause at 50 when she got married. Luckily her second IVF with donor egg(New York) had worked. It wasn't an easy pregnancy but she was incredibly positive. A health baby girl Grace was born through planned c-section, weighed 5lb6oz. Breast feeding was going well. "Have never felt joy and happiness like this in my life. We are in bubble of euphoria and I do feel like my world is complete."