Treating Infertility with Acupuncture
For thousands of years Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) have been used to help couples conceive. Research in both the US and abroad has shown the use of acupuncture, and sometimes herbs, can increase success rates for women in almost every category of infertility; whether trying on their own naturally or using forms of Assisted Reproduction such as clomid, stimulating hormones, artificial insemination (IUI), or In-vitro fertilization (IVF). For more than a decade our team has helped guide hundreds of couples through this process with less stress and better results.
Acupuncture for Infertility
Our Co-Founder Steve Mavros, L.OM. pioneered bringing Acupuncture to all the major fertility clinics in the Philadelphia area and it has become our main Acupuncture specialty at the Healing Arts Center. We've helped over 1500 couples and individuals conceive over the last 15+ years either on their own or with the help of physicians and assisted reproductive technologies like IUI and IVF.
For thousands of years Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) have been used to help couples conceive. Research in both the US and abroad has shown the use of acupuncture, and sometimes herbs, can increase success rates for women in almost every category of infertility; whether trying on their own naturally or using forms of Assisted Reproduction such as clomid and letrizole, stimulating hormones, artificial insemination (IUI), or In-vitro fertilization (IVF).
How can acupuncture help my infertility?
We still don’t have a complete understanding as to the exact action of acupuncture’s effects on the body. However, clinical studies and 2000 years of empirical research have given us clues to what internal changes are occuring. Studies have shown that acupuncture and herbal medicine:
- Increase blood flow to the uterus – thickens endometrial lining + aids implantation
- Increase ovarian blood flow – better ovarian response + more mature follicles
- Increases live birth rate (prevents early miscarriage)
- Increase male sperm count and motility
- Reduce stress + promote relaxation (modulating cortisol)
- Regulate irregular menstrual cycles from PCOS or other causes
- Reduce pre-menstrual symptoms and pain during the period
- Lessen side effects from hormone treatments
Acupuncture has been clinically shown to promote timely ovulation and an ideal luteal phase, seems to have a regulating effect on the body’s hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis and can help make an irregular or anovulatory cycle closer to normal. We have seen great success treating infertility issues such as High FSH (Follicle Simulating Hormone), Low AMH (anti-mullerian hormone) advanced maternal age, unexplained infertility, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Endometriosis, Ovulatory dysfunction, Decreased Ovarian Reserve, poor egg quality, Luteal Phase Defect, thin endometrium, irregular periods, fibroids, immunologic reaction, recurrent miscarriage, and Amenorrhea.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine isn’t just for women. Male factor can also be addressed. For men, there is evidence showing our ability to increase sperm count, as well as improve motility percentages. We have yet to directly see evidence that it helps with morphology, unfortunately.
As specialists in the treatment of reproductive enhancement, we recognize that every person and couple having difficulty conceiving need individualized treatment because no two people present with the exact same issues. With that customized approach, acupuncture treatment can be an effective means to aid conception in most cases of infertility.
Before taking the jump to using oral medications or doing IUI’s or IVF, trying on your own with acupuncture and herbs is a great option. As long as there is nothing physically impeding you from getting pregnant (e.g., tubal blockage or hostile uterine environment), acupuncture can generally help regulate your cycle and optimize every month’s chance of being the one that works.
How long will it take for me to get pregnant?
We wish there was a quick answer to this one, but it very much depends on each couple’s individual situation. We’ve seen success anywhere from the first cycle to 9 months later. Most patients (men and women) need approximately 3 months of treatment to find success. Studies have shown however, that some couples will succeed at the 6-9 month mark, as it can take that long for their cycles to be fully regulated and ready to conceive. For women, consistent treatment is important so specific hormonal adjustments can be made at each week of the cycle using acupuncture and sometimes herbs or supplements. Every week is a significant opportunity to heal a particular segment of the four-phase menstrual cycle (menstruation, follicular phase, ovulation and luteal phase). For male factor, a typical course of 10 weeks can do the trick, as it usually takes a full sperm generating cycle (approx 72 days).
If 3 months goes by without success, we frequently will refer you to one of our Reproductive Endocrinologist partners while you continue acupuncture to get additional information. Remember that trying to get pregnant is often like a statistical game. The more you try, naturally or with Assisted Reproductive Technologies (IVF/IUI), the better your chances are. This applies to acupuncture as well – the longer you allow it to correct and balance your body, the better your chances are.
When during my cycle should I get acupuncture done?
Acupuncture treatments should be done on a regular basis throughout each phase of your cycle (generally weekly). Therefore, any time is a good time to start. If you’d like to start with a fresh cycle, we generally advise coming in 2-3 days after your period has begun, but you can also come in mid-cycle.
IUI & IVF Support
Modern medicine has made many great advancements in the treatment of infertility and has given couples a chance when previously there was none. Unfortunately, they are not the most pleasant procedures to undergo between the hormones, bloodwork and injections. Though success rates have improved greatly over the last decade, there is still room for help. Recent research has shown that Acupuncture can greatly enhance the success of these procedures including Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI), In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), IVF with Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), IVF with Pre-Genetic Screening, and Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET).
How does acupuncture integrate with IVF?
A number of studies with over 1300 patients included and published as a meta-analysis in the British Medical Journal showed that women undergoing IVF that added acupuncture to their treatment, particularly around embryo transfer, had significantly higher success rates in clinical pregnancy, fewer number of cycles needed, higher ongoing pregnancy and live birth rates. Our own statistics kept diligently over the last decade (compared to SART data of our local area) shows a net positive of 8-12% higher live birth rates than IVF done alone.
What does this mean for you if you are going through IVF?
It means more hope, fewer cycles and a shorter wait for what you most desire: a beautiful healthy baby. All forms of assisted reproductive technology are draining; financially, physically and emotionally. Acupuncture is not a magic bullet but your odds of success will go up greatly.
When should I start acupuncture for my upcoming IVF cycle?
Most patients require a series of ongoing treatments over a month or two to gain all the benefits acupuncture can provide. The recommended treatment schedule is based upon your individual case and can vary. In many cases, we recommend that you begin treatment about a month prior to the commencement of the IVF cycle to ensure you get the most out of it. As the embryo transfer gets closer, the frequency of visits may increase.
Do you perform the transfer protocol at my clinic?
If they're within 30 miles of Philadelphia, absolutely! Steve worked diligently to bring acupuncture to every major clinic in the Philadelphia area. We currently serve Penn Fertility, Main Line Fertility, RMA of Philadelphia, Shady Grove, Society Hill Reproductive, Abington Reproductive, South Jersey IVF, Delaware Valley IVF and Reproductive Associates of Delaware. Each clinic has generously allowed us to use their facilities on the day of the transfer. When the day of the transfer arrives, one of our practitioners will meet you at the clinic and work with the IVF nurses and doctors to time the treatment correctly. We administer a single treatment, backed by the most recent research, immediately before the embryo transfer. Not only does it help increase your chance of success, but the acupuncture can help relax and calm you during a very stressful procedure. It’s usually advised to receive a follow up acupuncture session in the office a week after the transfer as this has also been shown to boost success rates.
(Please Note - In the past, the standard for Acupuncturists was to do a treatment both before and after the embryo transfer. Our own research over the last decade has shown a modified single treatment immediately beforehand is actually more successful than the old before and after protocol and that is now our gold standard.)