Acupuncture and IVF: Does it Improve Success?

26 Sep
Ask Dr. Sher A Question

Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles into the skin along so-called meridians (energy channels). It has been used in China for centuries to regulate and treat many health disorders including ailments involving the female reproductive system.

When I visited China in 1987, I actually witnessed a Cesarean birth being performed without sedation, pain killers or anesthesia… using only acupuncture. The mother lay there relaxed, conversing with the surgeon and nurses while the surgery was being performed. It was truly quite amazing. So I need no convincing that this complimentary treatment actually works when used for the right indications.

The last twenty years have witnessed a virtual explosion in fascination with, and interest in, acupuncture (as well as in traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine) in Western societies. The growing fascination and interest in the “mystical” power of acupuncture to enhance fertility potential and its incorporation into the IVF arena should come as no surprise, given the desperation of many infertile couples to have a baby. As a consequence, interest in acupuncture has grown by leaps and bounds in the field of Assisted Reproduction in the last 10 to 15 years.

So…does acupuncture actually improve IVF outcome? Well, those who support its use as a complementary treatment for IVF claim that it works by improving blood flow to the woman’s reproductive organs and thereby improving follicle development, egg quality and implantation. But what are the true facts in this regard? Does acupuncture actually enhance reproductive blood flow as has been asserted, and if so, does treatment actually improve results?

Well, what we do know, based on ultrasound studies, is that acupuncture can indeed enhance uterine blood flow. But convincing evidence that it improves ovarian blood flow is lacking. A few years ago, a Sher Institute doctor reported on the fact that acupuncture administered around the time of embryo transfer improves embryo implantation potential and thus IVF success. Its use during stimulation with fertility drugs has as yet not been shown to improve ovarian follicle growth, egg quality or endometrial thickening.

In fairness… acupuncture is not harmful and most of those so treated swear by it. For the nay-sayers, what can be said with certainty is that at the very least acupuncture has a “feel good” aspect to it and in most, evokes a psychological benefit that should not be discounted.

In conclusion…..I offer my SIRM-Las Vegas patients access to in-house acupuncture. But I only recommend that it be administered surrounding the time of embryo transfer, preferably on the day that the embryos are placed in the uterus. However, I caution them intensively not to have exaggerated expectations regarding the role that this complementary therapy might play in enhancing IVF outcome.

Please note: All SIRM centers currently offer patients access to onsite acupuncture.

25 Comments

  • Rawn says:

    Hello Dr Sher
    We are married for 7 years. We were going for Fertility treatment for last 5 years. We had many test done but yet doctor could not find out any reason why my wife is not conceiving. The reason is unknown. My wife went for hysteroscopy and Laproscopy about 2 years ago and doctor found light endrometriosis and her doctor removed them. She had done IUI for several times but nothing happened and finally she went for a IVF. Out of 5 eggs only 1 made to day 5 ( blastocyst ). Finally She had a miscarriage after conceiving for 7 weeks about a year ago. Now my wife decided to go for an Acupuncture. We need your advise regarding this. I would appreciate if you could advise us whether acupuncture would help or not? And if yes, than how many session? Should she go for Acupuncture and try to conceive naturally or combine with IUI? We are not ready for another IVF at this moment as it is very expensive treatment as you know.

    • Geoffrey Sher says:

      Endometriosis is often associated with an immunologic implantation dysfunction which must be addressed prior to IVF (see below).

      Please go to the home page of IVFauthority.com. When you get there look for a “search bar” in the upper right hand column. Then type in the following subjects into the bar, click and this will take you to all the relevant articles I posted there.

      1. “An Individualized Approach to Ovarian stimulation” (posted on November 22nd, 2010)

      2. Ovarian Stimulation for IVF: The most important determinant of IVF Outcome” (Nov. 2103)

      3. “Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol”

      4. “Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction” (posted on May, 10th and on May 16th respectively.

      5. “Endometriosis”

      6. “Embryo Implantation………” (Part-1 and Part- 2—-Posted August 2012)

      7. “Traveling for IVF from Out of State/Country– The Process at SIRM-Las Vegas” (posted on March, 21st 2012)

      8.“A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF at SIRM”; Parts 1 & 2 (posted March, 2012)

      9. “IVF success: Factors that influence outcome”

      10. “Use of the Birth Control Pill in IVF”

      Consider calling 800-780-7437 or 702-699-7437 to arrange a Skype with me so we can discuss your case in detail.

      Finally, perhaps you would be interested in accessing my new book (recently released). It is the 4th edition (and a re-write) of “In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies”. The book is available through “Amazon.com” as a down-load or in book form. It can also be obtained from most bookstores.

      Geoff Sher

      P.S: Please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vp3GYuqn2eM&feature=youtu.be
      To view a video-tutorial by Linda Vignapiano RN, Clinical Manager at SIRM-Las Vegas.

      • Rawn says:

        Thanks for your reply. As I mentioned earlier Endometriosis was already removed before the IUI and IVF was done. only With the help of IVF she conceived but because of her miscarriage after 7 weeks it was not successful. My question to you is since we cannot afford another IVF at this moment whether acupuncture would help or not? And if yes, than how many session you recommend? Should she go for Acupuncture and try to conceive naturally or combine with IUI? Once again thanks taking your time to answering my question.

  • Regina says:

    Dr. Sher
    Do you think acupressure will work the same way as acupuncture if done the day of embryo transfer?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.