Approximately one in ten couples have difficulty conceiving, and assisted reproductive procedures are often used to achieve a successful pregnancy1. However, assisted reproductive procedures such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF), intrauterine insemination (IUI), and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), have been scientifically proven to be more effective when acupuncture is provided directly before and after embryo transfers. Acupuncture is a non-invasive, all-natural way to improve your chances of becoming pregnant with assisted reproductive procedures by up to 65%1.
Research shows that acupuncture works to improve the efficacy of IVF treatment in many ways. Acupuncture improves the function of the ovaries2,3, regulates hormone levels4, increases blood flow to the uterus5, and increases the thickness of the uterine lining5. These factors increase likelihood of embryo implantation, as well as improve overall success rates for live birth.
Acupuncture affects both the central and peripheral nervous system to decreases stress and increase beta-endorphins4, which helps to relax patients on their transfer day. Relaxation is important for preventing the uterus from contracting, which can negatively impact chances of conception. Acupuncture also strengthens the immune system, which improves the likelihood of having a successful ongoing pregnancy6.
Several studies have found that acupuncture prior to and immediately after embryo transfer significantly increases pregnancy and live birth outcomes by up to 65%1.
A meta-analysis published in the prestigious British Medical Journal was conducted on 1,366 women undergoing IVF1. The analysis concluded that pre and post embryo transfer acupuncture statistically significantly improved rates of clinical pregnancy by 65%, ongoing pregnancy by 87%, and live birth by 24%1.
A study done by Paulus et al.7 compared pregnancy rates in a total of 160 patients undergoing IVF. Acupuncture was done in eighty patients twenty-five minutes before and after embryo transfer. The clinical pregnancy rate for the acupuncture group was 42.5% as compared to the control group of 26.3%7.
Many other studies have been conducted since these that provide more information and overwhelming support for the use of acupuncture in combination with IVF and other assisted reproductive treatments.
Accessing this service
Naturopathic Doctors and Registered Acupuncturists can both provide this service, and some fertility clinics have on-site acupuncturists on their staff. We recommend that you investigate your practitioner’s licensing and educational background, as regulations can vary between each province and state.
Research shows that acupuncture done approximately 20-30 minutes after transfers provides the best results. Each pre and post acupuncture treatment lasts approximately 30 minutes, and it is most effective when the patient is in a relaxing setting. Some practitioners provide soothing music or guided meditation to accompany the acupuncture treatment.
Most practitioners will want to meet with you at least once to do an assessment and possibly an initial acupuncture treatment prior to your IVF transfer day. We recommend that you contact your fertility clinic in advance to make arrangements to bring a licensed Naturopathic Doctor or Registered Acupuncturist with you on your transfer day. Most fertility clinics are happy to accommodate this request, as it increases your chances of a successful pregnancy.
Dr. Hilary Chambers, Naturopathic Doctor
First Canadian Place
100 King Street West, Suite 5700, Toronto, ON
Royal York Massage Therapy and Osteopathy
4887 Dundas Street West, Toronto ON
1 Manheimer E et al. Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2008; 336:545.
2 Stener-Victorin E, Waldenstrom U, Andersson SA, Wikland M. Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries of infertile women with electro-acupuncture. Hum Reprod 1996;11:1314-7.
3 Chang R, Chung PH, Rosenwaks Z. Role of acupuncture in the treatment of female infertility. Fertil Steril 2002; 78: 1149-1153.
4 Chen BY. Acupuncture normalizes dysfunction of hypothalamic- pituitary-ovarian axis. Acupunct Electrother Res 1997; 22:97-108.
5 Stener-Victorin E. Reproductive Medicine: Research Projects in Acupuncture. Acupunct Med 1998; 16: 80-82.
6 Johnson D. Acupuncture prior to and at embryo transfer in an assisted conception unit – a case series. Acupunct Med 2006; 24:23-28.
7 Paulus WE, Zhang M, Strehler E, El-Danasouri I, Sterzik K. Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertil Steril 2002; 77: 721- 724.