Improving IVF Success With Acupuncture
By Dr. David Kreiner
I have been practicing fertility since 1985. Throughout this time, I have witnessed first-hand the enormously improved success we have been able to achieve with advancements in in-vitro fertilization (“IVF”). Today, people we previously thought would never be able to conceive are having babies as a result of state-of-the-art IVF technology. However, as successful as we have been, there are those yet who are disappointed after a failed IVF cycle. To find a way to help these patients, I went back to school to study Traditional Chinese Medicine (“TCM”) and acupuncture.
TCM has been used for nearly all health problems since before recorded history. The ancient Chinese medical text, the Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine, was written about 2,400 years ago. The basis of TCM as explained in this text involves the relationships among the internal organs and with the concepts of yin and yang as applied to medicine. In TCM, the yin and yang principle proposes that the bodily organs are interdependent and support each other in harmony. Disease is defined as a loss of this state of balance within and among the organs. Treatment with TCM is based on the restoration of the body’s natural harmony and rebalancing of all the organs.
Applying TCM to conventional Western medical diagnosis mixes different worlds without a common language. The science of TCM is based on the flow of Qi (the body’s life energy) that connect the organs through channels and runs throughout the body. Deficiencies and stagnations of this Qi arising from the different organs result in patterns of symptoms– including the inability to conceive. Treatment is individualized based on the unique patterns in each patient.
In 2002, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (“ASRM”) journal, Fertility and Sterility, published a study that demonstrated increased pregnancy rates in patients who had pre- and post-transfer acupuncture.1
Since then, there have been several studies2-5 showing that acupuncture performed during the 4-8 weeks prior to embryo transfer improved endometrial lining and pregnancy rates. Specific protocols were tailored to the needs of the individual patients and included herbal therapy, heat, diet and exercise modifications. Yet arguments against these studies involved an inability to have a proper control in the non-treatment group.
With the development of laser acupuncture studies have been performed using sham acupuncture as a control. These studies demonstrate improvement in pregnancy rates when laser acupuncture was performed before and after transfer.6
How does acupuncture help fertility?
From a Western perspective, reducing stress is effective in increasing fertility mostly by improving hormonal function. There is evidence that acupuncture reduces stress as well as increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs and helps to balance the endocrine system.
If we are to assume that combining TCM with modern reproductive medicine optimizes a patient’s success, then how can we best help our patients? At Long Island IVF we work with some of the most qualified fertility acupuncturists on Long Island and, in addition, offer TCM and acupuncture on-site in the Melville office including pre- and post- transfer.
As a medically certified acupuncturist and reproductive endocrinologist with over 30 years of experience in IVF, I feel I am uniquely qualified to offer our patients the most effective fertility treatment that includes the best that Western medicine has to offer as well as TCM and acupuncture.
1Fertility and Sterility 2002; 77:721-4 Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Paulus WE, Zhang M, Strehler E, Seybold B, Sterzik K
2Human Reproduction vol.11 no.6 pp.1314-1317, 1996 Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries of infertile women with electro-acupuncture Elisabet Stener-Victorin1, Urban Waldenstrdm, Sven A.Andersson, and Matts Wikland
3Fertility and Sterility 2012; 97: 599–611. Effects of acupuncture on pregnancy rates in women undergoing in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cui Hong Zheng, Guang Ying Huang, Ming Min Zhang, Wei Wang,
4Fertility and Sterility 2005; 83:S9. Acupuncture: Impact on Eggs and Embryos of IVF Patients. Cridennda D, Magarelli P, Cohen M
5Br Med J 2008; 336:545–9. Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live. birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: systematic review and meta-analysiss. Manheimer E, Zhang G, Udoff L, Haramati A, Langenberg B, Berman B, et al 6- Fertility and Sterility 2006; 85:1341–1346. Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial. Lars G. Westergaard, Qunhui Mao, Marianne Krogslund, Steen Sandrini, Suzan Lenz, Jørgen Grinsted
6Fertil Steril 2008;90(suppl):S105. Laser acupuncture before and after embryo transfer improves art delivery rates: results of a prospective randomized double-blinded placebo controlled five-armed trial involving 1,000 patients. Fratterelli JL, Leondires MR, Fong K, Theall A, Locatelli S, Scott RT: