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  • Writer's pictureDr Alexandra

Acupuncture & IVF

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

This has been popping up a lot lately, so if you have queries about acupuncture and IVF check this post out and get in touch if you need ❤️

What does the research say about acupuncture & IVF success rates?

  • One study (1) shows that acupuncture 25min before transfer significantly increased IVF outcomes. However when acupuncture was repeated 25min after (as well as before) did not improve outcomes further.

  • Another meta-analysis (2) found that acupuncture is effective at increasing pregnancy by 34%. In those with previously failed cycles, acupuncture in addition to IVF increased the likelihood of pregnancy by 60% and of live births by 42%.

  • Acupuncture may improve pregnancy rates in women with poor ovarian response (4).

  • Some studies also find that there may be no effects. More studies are required.

It’s important to remember that like IVF, acupuncture is not a guarantee of pregnancy. We do what we can to support and enhance success rates.

How many sessions are recommended?

  • Essentially, the more the better. One study showed that approximately 11 sessions of acupuncture was associated with increased odds of live birth compared to acupuncture on the day of transfer alone.

  • More than 3 acupuncture treatments during a cycle increased clinical pregnancy rates by 50-60% (2).

  • 9-12 acupuncture treatments were associated with increased odds of live births in observational studies. These also included acupuncture prior to transfer (2).

What does acupuncture do?

  • Acupuncture promotes blood flow to the uterus and ovaries (by inhibiting central sympathetic nerve tone which induces vasodilation and blood flow) to stimulate a healthy endometrial lining and follicle development.

  • It regulates the nervous system and reduces stress. This is very important in fertility journeys as the pressure and fear is often quite high! Acupuncture does this by promoting the release of endorphins.

  • It regulates hormone signalling through release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, neuropeptides and oxytocin. This influences the HPO (hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian) axis to promote ovulation, regulate menses and increase overall fertility.

At what stages of the cycle is acupuncture recommended?

  • ASAP prior to IVF cycle. Ideally we want to work through 3 menstrual cycles to ensure everything is working well and prepare the body (and ovaries) for the stimulation. This may involve weekly sessions for 3 months leading up to IVF. If you have had prior IVF rounds or have menstrual difficulties, longer may be recommended (6-12 months… but time is often precious when it comes to IVF so we do what works for you). IVF is asking your body to produce more follicles than it would usually do, so we want to make sure it is prepared for what’s to come and rebuild it from the previous rounds and/or pregnancy losses. Plus, acupuncture may help increase the receptivity to FSH medications, as it stimulates blood circulation to the ovaries.

  • 1-2 sessions before retrieval. To support the body through the stimulation phase and calm stress.

  • 1-2 sessions between retrieval and transfer to help with any stress, bloating, pain or cramping.

  • 1 session within 24hrs (ideally <2hrs) before the embryo transfer. The focus of this time is to regulate qi/blood flow to the uterus to enhance implantation success and endometrial receptivity (5), calm stress and nourish the ‘Kidneys’.

  • 1-2 days after transfer. This is focused mostly on calming stress/anxiety, reducing uterine cramping and supporting ‘Kidney Yang’ (progesterone).

  • Continue weekly/fortnightly post transfer into early pregnancy.

How does IVF work?

IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) involves using medications/injections to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple follicles, which are then collected once mature (during egg retrieval), to be fertilised in a lab using collected sperm. After about 3-5 days, the embryos are then transferred into the uterus (embryo transfer) with the hope of successful implantation.

How does TCM view fertility?

Traditional Chinese Medicine views fertility as the core of our vitality. When we are at our healthiest, fertility should be a result. Optimal fertility requires good reserves of Kidney Qi/Essence, a harmonious balance of Yin & Yang, adequate supply and movement of Blood and Qi, and a settled Shen (spirit). Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine aims to replenish any deficiencies and balance the body so it is functioning best. If you are interested in the Traditional Chinese Medicine approach on fertility, I will write more about that another time.

P.S. This post is mostly on females, but the male factor is important too! So treating the male partner is ideal for best outcomes.

I hope you find this helpful! If you are keen on acupuncture, you can book online or find an acupuncturist near you.

Acupuncture to support IVF


1 PMID: 32309770

2 PMID: 31871519

3 PMID: 31200701

4 PMID: 32322482

5 PMID: 36790554

Book- Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine by Jane Lyttleton.


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