More Acupuncture is better for FET patients
Lisa Tongel, Licensed Acupuncturist is a published co-author of research examining the effects of acupuncture on Frozen Embryo Transfer outcomes. She is a co-investigator in the following studies, in partnership with ORM Fertility and the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine:
Community-based acupuncture and IVF outcomes at ORM Fertility: a retrospective cohort study. Outcomes presented as a poster at the annual scientific meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Fertility & Sterility. 2020; 114(3):e330 and Fertility & Sterility. 2020; 114(3):e450-451.
- Acupuncture’s role was examined with respect to live birth rates with IVF frozen embryo transfers (FET), with both genetically tested and untested embryos. Other acupuncture-related studies have been done with IVF patients in the past, but these are the first studies to focus solely on FET outcomes.
- Both studies suggest that more acupuncture treatment (3 or more) is best to support FET patients’ live birth outcomes.
- In FET cycles done without genetically tested embryos, having three or more acupuncture treatments was associated with more live births than having only two treatments on the day of embryo transfer.
Acupuncture’s Effect on Frozen Embryo Transfer
When a frozen embryo from a previous IVF cycle is thawed and transferred into a woman’s uterus, that is called a Frozen Embryo Transfer or FET. These studies investigated birth outcomes from FET cycles between patients with unknown additional therapies compared with the addition of two distinct acupuncture approaches varying in dose (2 sessions, or three or more sessions).
These studies suggested that individualized acupuncture therapy with three or more visits and FET alone was associated with significantly more live births and fewer miscarriages when compared with embryo transfer acupuncture. The more acupuncture, the better it is for the patient, suggesting a higher success rate.
It is important to note that there were other variables that may have influenced these findings, however, so future study is still needed to determine the ideal acupuncture dose and treatment approach to help support FET success rates.
Implications for Acupuncture Treatment Guidelines for FET patients
Based on research published in 2002, it is currently somewhat common for IVF patients to have acupuncture treatments done only on the day of their embryo transfer. The objective of these studies was to determine the effect of acupuncture on the birth outcome of FET patients. Is the birth outcome higher for those who have more than acupuncture treatment on the day of embryo transfer only?
In these 2020 studies, three or more acupuncture sessions were associated with more live births after Frozen Embryo Transfer, compared with only two sessions in women with unscreened embryos, but not FET alone. This suggests that having acupuncture treatment(s) prior to the day of embryo transfer, as well as on the day of embryo transfer, is associated with more live births than acupuncture done only on the day of transfer.
This information is very helpful to update and guide our acupuncture treatment approaches. Based on these studies, having acupuncture done prior to the day of embryo transfer, as well as on the day of embryo transfer itself, seems to have the best chance of improving live birth rates with FET. Hopefully, additional research will be done to help us learn more about acupuncture’s role in IVF success rates.
Summary of findings in both studies:
- Individualized acupuncture therapy with three or more visits and FET alone was associated with significantly more live births and fewer miscarriages when compared with acupuncture on the day of transfer alone.
- Three or more acupuncture sessions were associated with more FET live births than two sessions in women with unscreened embryos, but not FET alone.