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IVF and Acupuncture – Some FAQ’s

Integrating Acupuncture into the patients regime undergoing IVF protocols has been proven to help increase the chance of a positive pregnancy test. For best results it is important that the woman attends a registered Acupuncturist. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions answered.


For Acupuncture to be truly effective it should be undertaken by the couple for at least 3-6 cycles prior to IVF.

This time is required to:

  • Help improve the menstrual health cycle,
  • Improve endometrial receptivity,
  • Maximize sperm and egg quality,
  • It can help reduce drug side  effects,
  • It is proven to support embryo transfer,
  • Acupuncture is proven to reduce anxiety levels in women undergoing IVF.


  • Acupuncture can help with side effects of down regulation like night sweats and headaches.
  • A common side effect for patients undergoing stimulation is abdominal pain and swelling. This can be very uncomfortable and painful. Acupuncture helps  prevent and can relieve issues like this occurring to the patient by keeping the qi moving in the abdominal area.
  • The drugs can create awful mood swings and acupuncture can help the patient to stay calmer thus suffering less emotional instability.
  • It can help prevent breast tenderness
  • It can also help to maintain the energy levels so it can reduce the fatigue that can be experienced too.
  • Acupuncture can help to promote the circulation of blood and fluids which helps reduce any tissue swelling and inflammation.

While undergoing IVF How many treatments should I expect to have?
This depends on your presentation at the clinic and just how you are responding and reacting to treatment. However a guideline is  the practitioner should see you once a week  during down regulation and approx. twice a week while taking the follicle stimulating drugs. A treatment is usually scheduled before egg retrieval as well as another before embryo transfer. Patients are then generally asked to come in for treatment the day of the embryo transfer or up to 48 hours after to prevent uterine spasm.

Presently, there are lots of different pieces of research stating  different thoughts however the most commonly quoted research is from the Dept of Reproductive Medicine, Christian-Lauritzen-Institut, Ulm Germany.  It was published in Fertil Steril 2002:77;721-4. 2002 by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

(It is also known as the German protocol.)

It studied 160 patients undergoing IVF randomized into two groups of 80. The treatment group received acupuncture at the same points before and after embryo transfer. Clinical outcomes were 34 out of the 80 patients (42.5%) achieved a positive pregnancy test in the Acupuncture group in comparison to 21 out of the 80 patients(26.3%) in the control group.

The thought behind this is that acupuncture preformed at the time of transfer or as near as possible to it helps to reduce any uterine contractions which might result in an embryo being expelled or that could prevent a successful implantation.

Another more recent study conducted in China on over 5.500 women showed that pregnancy and birth rates improved when acupuncture was administered when compared to the no acupuncture group.  Cui Hong Zheng et al, 2012 Fert Steril, online 11 January 2012

Fertility and Sterility

Further Research: Acupuncture reduces anxiety levels in women undergoing IVF

In a randomized clinical trial, researchers explored the effectiveness of acupuncture in diminishing anxiety in a group of women undergoing IVF.  43 patients undergoing IVF received either active acupuncture (n=22) or sham treatment (n=21).  the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAS) was used to measure anxiety levels before and after treatment.

The women were treated with four sessions of acupuncture. In the active treatment group, needles were inserted at points HT7, PC6, CV17, GV20 and Yintang.  In the control group, needles were inserted in areas near but not related to these acupuncture points.

Results showed that mean anxiety scores after 4 weeks were significantly lower in the active treatment group than in the control group (19.4±3.2 vs. 24.4±4.2; p=0.008).  The number of women experiencing a reduction of > 30%  was significantly higher in the treatment group than in the control group (68.2% vs. 14.3%). This was considered to be a positive response to treatment.

Although the results were very positive the authors suggest that further studies should be carried out to determine further if acupuncture should be an integrated option for patients undergoing IVF. However it has to be noted that this study was conducted on women with no  history of psychiatric illness or anyone on antideprssants and/or anxiolytic drugs.

Given that acupuncture resulted in a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms, the authors suggest further studies to determine whether acupuncture might be a complementary option for patients undergoing IVF.

Isoyama D, et al.  Effect of acupuncture on symptoms of anxiety in women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: a prospective randomised controlled study.

Written by Suzanne Cafferky
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Reviewed in Medscape (free with registration)

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