Fertility & Acupuncture

Questions about Fertility & Acupuncture

how many sessions do you recommend for fertility?

If you decided to run a marathon, the chances are you would train for a few months before the race. Preparing for pregnancy is no different. To give both yourself and your baby the best start in life, preparation is key!

 

However, there is no magic number of treatments for fertility, as every woman is different and has different needs. The strength of acupuncture is that it addresses the individual – therefore no treatment plan will be the same. As a rule of thumb, I recommend a three month course of treatment to fully prepare your body for pregnancy. This is because it represents the full life cycle of the egg, from the start of its journey to ovulation. This is the optimal time for acupuncture to try and support your egg health and prepare the endometrium. 

 

I like to see my patients on a weekly basis for the first four weeks and then, after reviewing progress, I usually decrease treatment to twice a month. Depending on your particular needs this might mean you have a treatment during the first two weeks of your cycle, or one treatment pre ovulation and another post ovulation.

 

Is there a specific time in your cycle that is best to have acupuncture when trying naturally?

Again, there is no one answer to this question, as it very much depends on the individual. The focus of treatment would be different for someone who has a thin endometrium compared to someone else who has a short luteal phase. The aim of acupuncture is to create balance in your body and to support your entire reproductive system, so a one-off treatment for fertility is not really recommended. A course of treatment is a like laying a foundation where each treatment builds on the last.

By guiding the body back into balance, acupuncture treatment may help:

  • Regulate the menstrual cycle and encourage regular, ovulatory cycles

  • Support ovarian function and help improve egg quality

  • Improve blood flow to the uterus and ovaries

  • Increase the thickness and quality of the endometrial lining

  • Support a healthy luteal phase

  • Encourage healthy embryo implantation

  • Support and regulate the immune system

  • Reduce the chance of miscarriage

  • Regulate hormones

  • Reduce stress and anxiety

How can acupuncture help with conception?

Acupuncture may help you to conceive because it brings the body back into alignment, both physically and emotionally. Studies also show it reduces stress, increases blood flow to the reproductive organs and helps to balance the endocrine system.

Does acupuncture benefit the IUI process?

 In the same way as acupuncture may benefit natural fertility, it may benefit patients alongside all Assisted Fertility Techniques, including

  • stimulated cycles

  • IUI

  • IVF

  • ICSI

  • Frozen Embryo Transfer

  • Egg donation

  • Sperm donation

When are the key times to have acupuncture during IVF and ICSI?

Current research supports the findings that acupuncture during an IVF or ICSI cycle (long or short protocol) – with increased frequency during ovarian stimulation and at the time of transfer – can have a statistically positive treatment effect on clinical pregnancy and live birth rate. 

 

  • During Stimulation 

 

During the IVF/ICSI cycle itself I would recommend you have treatment once a week from the start of down regulation. Once you start the stimulation phase, I recommend you continue treatment once a week, unless the endometrium is thin (ideally it should be >7.5mm in thickness and triple layer), in which case I would recommend treatment twice a week. 

 

  • Pre and Post Collection 

 

I like to see my patients pre and post collection. Pre collection to give the follicles a final boost and promote emotional wellbeing as it can be a stressful time. Then another treatment immediately after collection when my focus turns to preparing the endometrium for transfer.   

 

  • Pre and Post Transfer

 

I highly recommend you have acupuncture immediately pre and post transfer. 

 

There are numerous studies which show that having acupuncture treatment pre and post transfer increases the pregnancy success rate. One study found 

 

  • a pregnancy rate of 42.5% in the group of women who receive acupuncture before and after IVF

  • a pregnancy rate of 26.3% in women who simply underwent IVF and had no acupuncture 

 

The efficacy of acupuncture alongside IVF is further supported by the fact that more and more fertility clinics advocate the use of acupuncture alongside assisted fertility treatment, with some now having in-house acupuncturists. 

 

 

When are the key times to have acupuncture during frozen embryo transfer (FET)?

The focus of treatment alongside FET is to support and nourish the endometrium to try and maximise endometrial receptivity. Therefore, I recommend treatment on a weekly basis from the start of the cycle – unless the endometrial thickness is an issue; in this instance, I would recommend treatment twice a week.

As with transfer during a fresh IVF/ICSI cycle, I would highly recommend treatment pre and post transfer.

Is it safe to have acupuncture on transfer day?

It is very safe to have acupuncture on transfer day (with a qualified practitioner) and is in fact highly recommended! I would recommend a treatment pre and post transfer – see above.

I have PCOS and am interested how acupuncture can be used to help with this?

Often PCOS can result in irregular periods and acupuncture may be effective in regulating the menstrual cycle. Several studies have concluded that acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for PCOS and may have a role in increasing blood flow to the ovaries, reducing ovarian volume and the number of ovarian cysts, controlling hyperglycaemia by increasing insulin sensitivity and decreasing blood glucose and insulin levels.

It is important that any treatment is supported by lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise, as well as any medical recommendations.

 

Does acupuncture help prevent miscarriage? If so, how?

Acupuncture may help the prevention of miscarriage when not related to chromosomal abnormalities by treating many of the common causes of miscarriage:

  • Increasing the thickness and quality of the endometrial lining

  • Regulating hormones

  • Reducing uterine contractions in early pregnancy

  • Regulating the immune system

  • Stress reduction

How often do you recommend having acupuncture once pregnant?

Pregnancy is the most natural thing in the world and your body knows what to do, so you may not feel you need any further treatment, which is absolutely fine!

 

However, you may find pregnancy quite a challenging time, as it can sometimes be accompanied by uncomfortable symptoms and emotional stress, where a little extra support is welcome. In these cases, acupuncture is a safe, effective and drug free treatment for all stages of your pregnancy. 

 

There are many different reasons why you may come for treatment at this time, such as:

  • this is your first pregnancy, and you want to ensure you are doing everything possible for a healthy and enjoyable pregnancy. For example, one focus at this time may be strengthening your digestive system to minimise symptoms of morning sickness

  • or you have a history of miscarriage and you want treatment to support the pregnancy and reduce any anxiety during the first trimester

  • or you have had IVF and feel you may benefit from further acupuncture treatment. One study found acupuncture may reduce the risk of miscarriage when undergoing IVF

Equally, common pregnancy related ailments may benefit from treatment, such as:

  • headaches

  • sinusitis

  • constipation

  • heartburn

  • tiredness

  • morning sickness

  • varicose veins

  • haemorrhoids

  • depression

  • stress

  • anxiety

  • back pain

  • carpal tunnel syndrome

  • symphysis pubis dysfunction

I see my patients on a weekly basis during the first trimester. During the second trimester I tend to see patients once a month unless any issues arise. Then from 35 weeks I like to see patients on a weekly basis again, to prepare for labour.

Is acupuncture better than reflexology for fertility?

There are no ‘best’ or ‘better’ treatments – whichever you prefer is the best one for you!

If you have any further questions please get in touch.

 

ABOUT JUSTINE

Based in Fulham, London, Justine is an acupuncturist and women's health expert with 25 years' experience. She specialises in all aspects of women's health from adolescence to post-menopause.

FEATURED IN

The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, The Culture Trip, Get the Gloss

 

FREE MONTHLY NEWSLETTER

© 2019 Justine Hankin Acupuncture
Design by Wild Design

 

 

Contact

Member of the Acupuncture Fertility Network

Member of the British Acupuncture Council

 

Fertility CoachCertified Integrative Fertility Coach