Improve IVF Success with Acupuncture Part 1: Preparing for IVF
Have you made the difficult decision to do IVF after trying everything else to get pregnant? While it’s true that IVF is no one’s first choice, fortunately there are ways to help your fertility cycles go more smoothly and be more successful using acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. A little focused preparation can make a big difference in IVF outcomes. In this series, we’ll talk about the key factors that influence your IVF cycle, and how acupuncture can affect those factors. We’ll talk about concrete ways you can help prepare your body for an IVF cycle, so you can get pregnant quickly – the first time around – whether it’s with your own eggs or using a donor. For your first step, here are key tips to help you get ready for your IVF cycle, before you do anything else.
1. See an Acupuncturist who is a Fertility Specialist
Acupuncture has grown as a profession in the past 30 years, and there are a lot of great acupuncturists out there these days. If you’ve been seeing a general acupuncturist for a while, or there’s one near your home or on your insurance panel, it can be easy to think of going with that option. However, the complexity of IVF requires a specialist to guide expertly you through the process. For the best and safest outcomes, you’ll want to check with potential acupuncturists about whether they are experienced with fertility-related acupuncture, especially IVF. There are many acupuncture practitioners who have dedicated their careers to helping women and families succeed in their fertility journey, and seeing someone with a breadth of knowledge in such a specialized area will give you the best chance of success. Ask potential providers if they are experienced with IVF, and if they’re not, get other referrals from your doctor, friends or online support groups. You’ll be relieved you saw someone who understands what you’re going through, and who knows how to safely and effectively work with your doctor to integrate complementary medicine into your IVF treatments.
2. Start Having Acupuncture Now
It surprises many people to learn that the ovaries recruit eggs for ovulation 3 months ahead of time. So, if you’re planning for an IVF egg stimulation cycle, the best time to start your acupuncture treatments is at least 3 months before your cycle start date, so you can have the best effect on your egg quality. Treatments done over that time period will help promote an environment in your body that fosters better egg quality, and better blood flow in your uterus and ovaries, even if you have been diagnosed with poor ovarian reserve. For other types of IVF cycles, like FET or egg donor cycles, a longer treatment course also has better outcomes. Research has shown that having 9-12 acupuncture sessions prior to the day of embryo transfer, along with a treatment on the day of transfer itself, vastly increases live birth rates in IVF patients.1
TIP! – Dose is important with acupuncture! We like to think of it as the difference between exercising once or twice, and doing it regularly; one will give you some benefit, but the other creates real, lasting changes in the body. So, as soon as you start planning for any type of IVF cycle, get set up with your acupuncturist to give you time to have the best outcome.
3. Treat Known Conditions Before Your IVF Cycle
For some people, infertility is unexplained. But for many others, there is a known cause, or a known complicating factor. If you have any condition that affects your overall health, getting complementary care before your IVF cycle can help prepare your body for the impact of IVF itself, and improve your response to the medications. Conditions like endometriosis, PCOS, thyroid or autoimmune disorders, digestive conditions, poor sleep, and recurrent pregnancy loss all affect fertility. These conditions often respond well to acupuncture and other complementary treatments. While you may not be able to avoid doing IVF, you can improve success rate by preparing your body ahead of time. An acupuncturist experienced in fertility and IVF will know how to develop a treatment plan to address your underlying health conditions and support your IVF cycle simultaneously.
3. Reduce Your Stress
While stress does not cause infertility, infertility causes stress, and stress negatively impacts our health in many ways. During this stressful, busy time of your life, committing to a stress reduction program can make the difference between maintaining emotional resiliency and hope throughout the process, and becoming emotionally overwhelmed, possibly needing to delay your treatments. Infertility has a huge impact on all areas of life, and you need a large dose of support to cope while you find the path to building a family. Exercise, meditation, connecting with loved ones, taking baths, knitting, being out in nature – whatever works for you, do more of it. It will not make the pain of this process go away, but it will help you get through, it day by day, until you finally get to meet your baby.
We also recommend specifically against do stressful things during your IVF cycle. Don’t go to Costco during rush hour, don’t call your cable company to dispute your bill (just the phone maze alone is a stressor!), and don’t keep social obligations that are draining. The Golden rule: Take out the negative and add more positive!
Speaking of positive – Research has shown that acupuncture treatments can help reduce stress associated with IVF, with acupuncture patients reporting less stress during their IVF cycles.2 Acupuncturists who specialize in fertility understand this particular type of stress, and design your treatment sessions to support you emotionally as well as physically, so that you feel well supported throughout the entire process.
Start Your IVF Prep Today!
We hope this helps you consider how to best prepare for an IVF cycle. In our experience, taking some time now to set yourself up for success can make your IVF cycles less stressful, and more likely to have better outcomes. Let us know below how this prep goes for you, and feel free to be in touch with any questions.
In future posts in this series, we’ll talk about how to improve egg quality before retrieval, how to make sure your lining is ready for implantation, and what to do – and not do – on the day of the embryo transfer, and during your two week wait. We’ll see you then!