One of the many reasons my patients come for acupuncture during their fertility treatments is to reduce the stress that accompanies infertility treatments. Patients often tell me it’s the one time in their week they get to vent their frustrations, bounce ideas of what to do next off of me, and then lay quietly in a dark room uninterrupted with soothing music for twenty minutes. One recently said it’s like getting therapy and a massage all at once.
A few days ago, I had a new patient who talked about the ups and downs of their IVF cycle. From day to day they would vary, from being her normal self to a day of sadness, to a day of significant anxiety and then back to being completely normal. Every day of the cycle could be different whether she had gotten her period, was ovulating, or was in the two week wait. I told her she was certainly in the right place, as what she said reminded me of a study done a few years ago on patients who were using acupuncture during their IVF cycle in Colorado.
Aside from looking purely at outcomes at the end of the study, the study measured daily levels of cortisol from the day of baseline all the way until their pregnancy test. Cortisol is one of a few stress hormones in the body, and is often elevated at times of intense stress. Naturally, one would assume that during the high stress times of an IVF cycle, cortisol levels would be elevated. Though cortisol was indeed higher on average, if you looked closely at the graph, it more resembled a roller coaster. Much like my patient was describing her moods from day to day, cortisol was super high on some days and surprisingly low on other days.
This is where acupuncture seems to come to the rescue. The researchers found that the group getting acupuncture during their IVF cycle not only had lower overall cortisol levels than the control group, but that the variation from average on any given day was significantly lower. In other words, instead of a roller coaster, the graph looked more like smooth and mild rolling hills. Additionally, they found those with lower cortisol seemed to have more success with their cycles, though more research on this to clarify would be beneficial.
In my mind this explains much about the benefits of acupuncture that I’ve seen in patients. It’s not that a session will relieve you of all anxiety, it’s simply a matter of making your body more adaptable to stress such that it rides the waves more smoothly and prevents those drastic swings. If you're interested in acupuncture for infertility, you can read more here.
Steve Mavros, L.OM., is co-founder of The Healing Arts Center of Philadelphia. He has been an acupuncturist and herbalist since 2001. Though he treats a wide variety of conditions, he has been focusing on male and female since his first month in practice. Working hand-in-hand with reproductive endocrinologists and even treating on-site at fertility clinics, Steve has helped pioneer the acupuncture for fertility field in Philadelphia. His practice also includes other focuses including chronic pain, headaches and migraines, menstrual issues and menopause, anxiety, stroke rehabilitation and fibromyalgia.
The views and nutritional/herbal advice expressed by Steve Mavros, L.OM. is not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider. No information offered here should be interpreted as a diagnosis of any disease, nor an attempt to treat or prevent or cure any disease or condition. Information and statements regarding products and/or services made available by Steve Mavros, L.OM. and the Healing Arts Center have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.