We have supported many women across all age groups undergoing IVF, or other forms of assisted reproduction, that have had a successful outcome and a live birth using acupuncture and nutritional supplements.
Acupuncture and Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART)
‘The good news of the acupuncture use in fertility therapy is the benefit is not affected by age, meaning all age groups showed an increase in IVF success rates from the acupuncture therapy‘ (Dr Caroline Smith). Using acupuncture in combination with Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) is gaining wide-spread acceptance due to clinical trials done across the globe. For over a decade research has been published in official medical journals such as Fertility and Sterility by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and Human Reproduction by the European Society for Reproduction and Embryology showing the efficacy of acupuncture as a support therapy for ART/IVF/ICSI.
Research has shown that receiving acupuncture while undergoing assisted reproduction has positive benefits. Studies show that when acupuncture is combined with In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) there can be a 50% increase in pregnancy rates in women of all ages. This is highly encouraging considering that in Australia the one percent of births involving the use of ART are given on average only a 20% chance of conceiving in an IVF cycle. Additional benefits of acupuncture that have been reported include reducing the potentially considerable side-effects associated with the fertility drugs required in assisted reproduction, and importantly, decreasing the chance of miscarriage.
Four major studies demonstrating increased pregnancy rates when acupuncture is combined with ART/IVF in Australia a randomised study headed by Dr Caroline Smith was published in 2006. Smith and her colleagues evaluated the effects of acupuncture on clinical pregnancy rates for women undergoing IVF/ICSI. A group of two hundred and eighty (280) women were randomly allocated to receive either ‘true’ acupuncture (treatment group) or non-invasive ‘sham’ acupuncture (control group) immediately before and after embryo transfer. The authors chose acupuncture points that have effects on the reproductive, endocrine and neurological systems according to Chinese medicine principles. The study showed the chances of achieving a pregnancy increases (31% vs 23%) when acupuncture is used as an adjunct therapy to IVF. According to the authors ‘the ongoing pregnancy rate at 18 weeks was higher in the treatment [true acupuncture] group.’ This latter finding is consistent with a German study by Dieterle et al reported in the same issue of Fertility and Sterility.
A 2006 randomized Danish study by Westergaard et al involving 273 women undergoing IVF/ICSI demonstrated clinical pregnancy (39% vs 26%) and ongoing pregnancy (36% vs 22%) was significantly higher when acupuncture was performed before and after embryo transfer compared to when no acupuncture treatment was performed.
In 2002 Fertility and Sterility published the landmark IVF/acupuncture research by Dr Wolfgang Paulus and colleagues. The researchers studied 160 women undergoing IVF. Half received the standard fertility protocol and half had acupuncture added to the fertility protocol, receiving acupuncture before and after embryo transfer. The authors maintain the ‘analysis shows that the pregnancy rate for the acupuncture group is considerably higher than for the control group (42.5% vs 26.3%, P=.03).’
An unexpected outcome in a 1996 Swedish study lead by Stener-Victorin assessing the use of electro-acupuncture for pain relief during egg-pick up was a ‘significantly higher implantation rate’ in the group receiving electro-acupuncture.
Long term pill use may mask reproductive status
A Danish study reported at this years 2014 European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) annual meeting points to the masking of reproductive status and shrinkage of ovaries by long-term pill use, especially for women between 19 to 29.9 years.
Fortunately, the researchers don’t believe the effect is permanent, nor for the most part will affect future fertility in most women. However, according to the data, one percent (1%) of women who take the pill long term will go into early menopause and the pill can mask this tendency. This study is important as 1.6 million of the 160 million women throughout the world who take the pill will experience early menopause.
If you have been taking the pill long term and on stopping find your doctor tells you you have a low ovarian reserve due to low Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) and Atrial Follicular Count (AFC) you should repeat the test in 6 months to determine whether the pill was responsible and merely giving the appearance of a trend towards early menopause or if in fact you are at risk of an early menopause. If you are not at risk of an early menopause, then your AMH should increase and size of ovaries improve. If you are at risk of an early menopause then the second test should show results similar to the first one.
Whether at risk of early menopause or suffering from this effect of long-term pill use Acupuncture, herbs and nutritional supplements with diet and life-style modifications may help to slow this process if you are at risk. This is also beneficial if you are not at risk, but are suffering from this effect of long-term pill use, to help restore your levels to within appropriate ranges and address ovarian shrinkage.