Acupuncture for Reciprocal IVF: What to Expect

Acupuncture and Reciprocal IVF

What is reciprocal IVF?

Reciprocal IVF is a variation on the standard IVF protocol that allows one partner to provide the eggs, and the other partner to carry and give birth to the baby. It’s a beautiful way for both partners to participate in the creation of their family. It is also sometimes called partner-assisted reproduction or co-IVF.

Reciprocal IVF is becoming more common with lesbian couples and couples with trans-gender partners. The partner who donates eggs is genetically related to the baby, so may be called the Genetic Parent, Genetic Mother, or egg donor. The partner who carries and gives birth to the baby may be called the Birth Parent or Birth Mother.

The basic steps of IVF are the same. The genetic parent will go through the process of ovarian stimulation to develop many eggs at once. The eggs will be fertilized in the lab and grown to day 5. At this point, the parents can decide to have genetic testing on the embryos or not.

When it’s time to implant the embryo, the birth parent will take center stage and go through the steps for embryo transfer. After that, it’s just over a week of waiting and hoping for a positive pregnancy test!

How can acupuncture help?

Acupuncture treatments are given weekly, for ideally 3 months ahead of time, to help prepare both partners for their role in the IVF process, while keeping the stress of the process at bay.

Acupuncture can help relieve the side effects of the egg retrieval process. For the genetic parent, the process of controlled ovarian hyper-stimulation can be uncomfortable, with side effects ranging from mood changes to pelvic pain.

The medications necessary to make the ovaries produce many eggs in one cycle can cause a lot of abdominal bloating (fluid retention), pressure, pain, and fatigue. Urination and bowel movements can become painful, and it can be difficult to stand or sit up fully due to pelvic discomfort.

These medications can also cause mood changes similar to PMS, with either weepiness or irritability being relatively common. One of the medications used can cause headaches, insomnia, and night sweats.

The stress of IVF can cause increased anxiety and worry. Acupuncture can help with all of these side effects, and help make the process easier while promoting egg quality and overall success.

Acupuncture has been shown to improve blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, increase ovarian response to the medications, support the endocrine system, and increase IVF success rates. Starting acupuncture about three months prior to the egg retrieval is ideal. That allows acupuncture to support the entire process of making the eggs, which takes a full three months.

Acupuncture can also help prepare the birth parent to create the ideal conditions for an embryo transfer. Similar to anyone who is going through IVF and planning to have an embryo transfer, there is a medication protocol to pause menstruation and ovulation, and build up the uterine lining to be ready for implantation.

For this process, acupuncture and electro-stim acupuncture can be used to increase microcirculation in the pelvic region, helping to ensure a receptive environment for the embryo to implant. When the lining is at the correct thickness, it’s time for the embryo to be transferred.

On the day of the transfer, acupuncture is recommended just prior to and after the embryo transfer. Research has shown significantly better pregnancy outcomes when acupuncture is included for 9-12 visits prior to the embryo transfer, as well as on the day of embryo transfer itself.

At Portland Acupuncture Studio, we have worked with IVF patients for over 20 years. We know that IVF can be a stressful process, with a lot at stake, so we are dedicated to helping you succeed while supporting your emotional balance.

One of the things acupuncture does really well is decrease your body’s stress response, and promote your nervous system’s ability to return to a calm state. Both partners can benefit from treatments to reduce stress and improve a sense of well-being during the process. 

Learn more and schedule an appointment

At Portland Acupuncture Studio, we have three highly skilled acupuncturists ready to help you on your journey. Contact us today to see how we can support you both on the path to building your family.  We are here to help you succeed. 

Established patients can schedule online, patients who haven’t seen us at Kwan Yin Healing Center call (503) 701-8766, or email us to schedule your appointment.

About Lisa Tongel

We are practitioners of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine specializing in fertility, IVF support, pregnancy care, reproductive health, and pelvic pain.