Author: Angela Marshall
Dr. Angela here talking IVF acupuncture and how it might benefit you on your IVF journey.
Here at Womb to World, we support many women going through IVF. The benefits of IVF acupuncture are far-reaching not just on a physical level, but a mental and emotional level as well. Studies have long analysed the role of acupuncture in IVF and the positive impact it may have.
Firstly, the physical, mental and emotional aspects of IVF can’t be overlooked. The pressure women and their partners go through is intense and not an easy road. More often than not the process of IVF causes stress, worry and anxiety. Which is felt both on an emotional and physical level. Women can also feel inadequate and disconnected from their bodies. They view their body as a failure in terms of creating life. Their sense of feminine power can feel as if it has been taken away. It is not uncommon for intimacy between partners to also be lost or pushed to the side, as the process becomes sterile, and procedure orientated.
For those that know me, you will know that I am a big advocate for viewing the body as a whole. Where the mind goes the body follows. When we are able to drop into a sense of calm we can begin to reconnect with our bodies. We can learn to trust, love and support them. To be able to navigate the IVF journey from a place of calm can greatly assist in the chances of falling pregnant. The analogy you will often hear me use in relation to fertility is viewing yourself as a gardener. The body is the soil and without the right soil a seed will not grow. You need to tend to the soil- support and nourish your body to give the embryo the best soil to grow in. The seed also needs water, love and support to encourage it to grow.
From a Chinese Medicine perspective acupuncture is used to bring the body back into balance. When viewing it from a fertility perspective, we look at four key areas:-
In TCM the heart is considered the emperor of all organs. The heart houses the mind, referred to as the Shen and is responsible for pumping blood and life throughout us.
The spleen is responsible for producing blood and absorbing blood. It is the centre control for the intake, usage and deliverance of nutrients within our bodies.
The liver is the home of our emotional centre and governs the movement of blood and energy throughout us.
The kidneys are considered the beginning of life, the power source for all functions. The energy and health of our kidneys is largely connected with our ability to reproduce.
I look at all four areas along with your history and how you are presenting on the day to support the flow of blood and nutrients within your body. To bring it back to a state of calm and balance, and to increase the flow of energy throughout.
What is the process of IVF acupuncture?
I encourage women to start IVF acupuncture in what I refer to as the pre- care stage. This being three months prior to the eggs being harvested. Three months is the time it takes from start to finish for an egg to develop. Please do not feel deterred if you are closer to the egg retrieval procedure. Acupuncture still offers amazing benefits and support at any stage during the process.
If you are seeing me for the months prior to retrieval, I suggest weekly appointments at a minimum if possible. This allows time for us to support the body, to increase blood flow and enhance the flow of energy.
As my clients approach the egg collection stage I work with them to time the pre-care appointments accordingly.
Often women experience some soreness, discomfort and cramping from the egg retrieval procedure. I suggest a session the day or two after the retrieval to assist the healing process. Treatments also focus on preparing the uterus for implantation by focussing on increasing blood flow to the area, relaxing the muscles and increasing circulation.
Ideally, I recommend a session the evening prior to or the day of the embryo transfer. I will also focus on supporting you with techniques to calm the mind and to reduce the worry and stress. Research has indicated that having acupuncture just before and after the transfer of the embryo, can improve not just your chances of falling pregnant, but also birthing a beautiful baby at full term by up to 65%
I suggest an acupuncture session the afternoon of the transfer or the day following and then another within the 3-5 days post transfer. It is beneficial to have acupuncture during this time as it assists in supporting hormones and encourages uterine receptivity. An additional session within the two-week period that follows the transfer is also advisable. As the two-week mark is when you will know if the embryo has taken or not.
If IVF is successful acupuncture will continue to be supportive throughout your pregnancy journey. If it isn’t successful, which is emotionally hard to go through, acupuncture can continue to support you through this time and future IVF procedures.
The benefits of acupuncture on IVF
Studies have indicated that acupuncture pre and post embryo transfer can assist with the potential viability and success of falling pregnant. Aside from this acupuncture can be beneficial for:
Improving egg maturation
Enhancing the flow of blood to the reproductive organs and the body
Improve the health of your uterine lining
Reducing pain and inflammation
Lowering the effect of stress on your body
Improving egg quality
Promoting calm and relaxation
Aside from IVF acupuncture I treat with a holistic framework. Supporting you with dietary advice, stress and lifestyle management suggestions. Good nutrition, adequate sleep and looking at what you put on your body, not just in your body are all important considerations. Reducing the use of plastics and chemicals in your daily life, and the products you use on your body is vitally important.
I encourage the women I treat to use a good quality organic coconut oil if they are able as a body moisturiser. Spending time to connect with yourself as you apply it. Paying particular attention to the womb space. Repeating positive affirmations and words of love to your body at the same time all helps to reconnect back with yourself. It is important to love your body and to see it for the beautiful amazing being it is. When we are disconnected from our body, we are not cultivating a rich soil for a seed to grow.
If you would like to chat further or book an appointment, please get in touch. I am here as always to offer support and guidance in whatever area you may need. I also have a free ebook you can download outlining more information on things to think about before IVF.
Hullender, Rubin, L.E, Opsahl, M.S, Taylor-Swanson, L. and Ackerman, D.L. (2013). Acupuncture and In Vitro Fertilisation: A Retrospective Chart Review. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 19(7), pp.637-643. Available at https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2011.0888 [Accessed 1 April 2021].
Hullender, Rubin, L.E., Anderson, B.J. and Craig, L.B. (2018). Acupuncture and in vitro fertilisation research: Current and future directions. Acupuncture Medicine, 36(2), pp.117-112. Available at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1136/acupmed-2016-011352 [Accessed 1 April 2021].
Hullender Rubin, L.E, Opsahl, M.S., Wiemer, K.E., Mist, S.D. and Caughey, A.B. (2015). Impact of whole systems traditional Chinese medicine on in-vitro fertilisation outcomes. Reproductive BioMedicine Online, [Online] 30(6), pp.602-612. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458185 [ Accessed 1 April 2021].
Rubin, L.H, Opsahl, M. and Ackerman, D. (2012). P02.163. Acupuncture and donor egg in vitro fertilisation cycles: a retrospective chart review comparing two acupuncture protocols. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 12(S1). Available at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/1472-6882-12-S1-P219 [Accessed 1 April 2021].