At East West Fertility, we have supported many women across all age groups undergoing IVF, IUI and other forms of assisted reproduction. Many women used acupuncture and Chinese herbs as an adjunct treatment to their IVF and IUI. With this strategic combination, many of the women went on to have successful outcomes and a live birth.
Fertility requires balanced hormones, structurally sound reproductive organs, good health and a nutritious diet. Even with these conditions being met, the chances of a healthy couple conceiving each month are just 25%.
A couple is considered infertile if they have not conceived after one year of having unprotected sex. Infertility is an increasing problem, particularly in Australia where one in six couples are diagnosed as infertile. In about 10% of these cases the exact reason is unknown. In other cases, either the female or the male has a reproductive problem, or both partners can be infertile.
When problems with fertility occur, people turn to Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). Whether they’re creating ‘Test Tube Babies’ or artificial insemination, the Assisted Reproductive Technology of introducing semen to egg has come a very long way. Currently the two most commonly used methods are IUI and IVF.
IUI or Intrauterine Insemination is a procedure during which pre-sorted washed motile sperm are inserted directly into a woman’s uterus at the time of ovulation (and sometimes one or two times in the days immediately following ovulation). IUI is often used as a first line treatment for unexplained infertility or endometriosis because it deposits higher concentrations of good quality sperm close to the egg.
IVF or In Vitro Fertilisation is considered the gold star of fertility treatments today. It is the most successful method of ART currently available to couples. The IVF process includes stimulation of the ovaries to produce multiple eggs at a time, removal of the eggs from the ovary, fertilization of the egg within a laboratory, and finally, transferring those embryos into the uterus, usually one at a time.
In both cases, the sperm used can come from either a male partner, or, another sperm donor in the case of male infertility in the partner, same-sex lesbian couples, or in the case of a single woman.
So, what is more beneficial, intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF)? Should we try IUI first before doing IVF? These are the questions that doctors are commonly asked from their patients.
WHAT IS IUI?
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a fertility procedure that includes inserting sperm in a woman’s uterus to assist in fertilization. The objective of IUI is to augment the number of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes to increase the chance of fertilization.
Sperm must swim from the vagina to the cervix to fertilize an egg, which is a long way for microscopic sperm, and the long journey can be greatly reduce the number of sperm that keep swimming and make it into the uterus and the fallopian tubes.
When undergoing IUI, semen is collected from the male partner, “washed” in the lab to remove the seminal fluid and concentrate the sperm and then injected through a catheter into the female’s uterus. By placing the sperm directly into the uterus, the sperm have less time to travel to the fallopian tubes.
Proper timing and healthy sperm boost the chances of IUI’s success rate. Fertility experts help a couple determine the right timing to do the IUI procedure. Typically, it is performed just before the female partner ovulates. This can be done by the use of a home Ovulation Predictor Kit (OPK), blood tests or the couple may come to the clinic for an ultrasound.
IUI is a more affordable fertility treatment, and many couples will try it first before doing IVF.
According to the Fertility Authority, “A couple may benefit from IUI if:
- The female partner has an ovulation disorder and has been unable to get pregnant with only ovulation-inducing fertility drugs.
- The female partner has cervical factor infertility, such as scarring, or problems with the cervical mucus.
- The male partner has a low sperm count, low sperm motility (movement) or poor morphology (shape).
- The male partner has ejaculation problems.
- The male partner freezes his sperm to preserve fertility before a surgery or cancer treatment.
- The couple is using a sperm donor in order to conceive.
What is IVF?
IVF was pioneered more than 38 years ago, with the world’s first IVF baby – Louise Brown, born in 1978. Since then the technology and procedures have advanced with moves to reduce associated common side effects such as Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome.
Currently IVF is the most commonly implemented Assisted Reproductive Technology and has helped thousands to realise their dreams of parenthood.
IVF is recommended in cases where:
- The female partner has blocked or damaged fallopian tubes.
- The prospective parents are older and the female partner has a low ovarian reserve.
- The male partner suffers from low sperm count, low sperm motility, poor morphology or ejaculation problems.
- In cases of unexplained fertility which has not resulted in pregnancy after intervention.
- The female partner suffers from PCOS or Endometriosis, or early onset menopause.
It is the most effective infertility treatment, excluding infertility caused by problems in uterus like intrauterine adhesions among women. But this being said, it does not guarantee a successful pregnancy, and many couples have to undergo more than one cycle of treatment before they are successful.
The procedure includes stimulating multiple eggs and follicles to develop, egg retrieval to collect the eggs, fertilization of the eggs in the laboratory in order to transfer into the uterus.
In IVF, multiple eggs are removed and fertilised, and after thorough culture for 3-5 days, one embryo is directly transferred into the uterine cavity and remaining embryos are frozen for future use.
Success Rate – IUI vs IVF
The IVF success rate has changed over time. However, as a general guide, a couple where the female partner has unexplained infertility that has been trying for 2 years can expect approximately:
- 8% chance per month of getting pregnant with Clomiphene (Clomid) and intrauterine insemination for up to 3 cycles (much lower after 3 tries)
- 12% chance per month of conceiving with injectable FSH (e.g. Puregon) and insemination for up to 3 cycles (much lower after more than 3 attempts)
- 55% chance for having a baby after one cycle (month) of IVF treatment
What can you do to enhance your success of fertility?
From a Chinese Medicine perspective, infertility is a manifestation of reproductive imbalance coupled with impaired general health and wellbeing. Chinese Medicine views fertility as a balanced reproductive system that produces fluctuations in the Yin and Yang. For the reproductive system to function at its peak there must also be balance in all body systems.
At East West Fertility we have over 30 years’ experience working with men and women who use Acupuncture as an adjunct to their fertility treatments. We undertake a holistic approach to pre-conception care and conception care for each partner – encompassing acupuncture, herbs and supplements, dietary and lifestyle changes to supplement traditional western assisted reproduction treatments to help you reach balance in your body systems.
While the research is ongoing, and sometimes conflicting, there have been some interesting findings from studies such as Gillerman, Rehman, Dilgil and Homburg in 2016 looking at the impact of acupuncture on IVF success rates.
East West Fertility has supported many patients who have experienced a wide range of women’s health disorders that cause infertility such as:
- Anovulation (no ovulation)
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Amenorrhea (no periods)
- Luteal phase insufficiency
- Menstrual irregularities
- Endometrial lining problems
- Implantation disorders
- Impaired oestrogen metabolism
- Sperm antibodies (hostile cervix)
- Acquired ovarian failure (for example, as a result of chemotherapy)
- Early menopause
We have also supported many male patients who are experiencing a range of men’s health disorders that cause infertility such as:
- Low testosterone levels
- Low sperm count
- Poor sperm motility
- Poor volume
- Poor liquefaction
- Abnormal morphology (shape)
- DNA fragmentation
To get started with our Program to Assist Fertility (for females and/or males looking to naturally support their IVF/IUI treatments) please give us a call on 3720 0235 or click here to make an online booking.
Jenny has over 30 years’ clinical experience providing Acupuncture to individuals and couples wanting to conceive, and would love to provide you with that service too.