In Canada, it is estimated that roughly 1 in 6 couples experience infertility. Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one or more years of unprotected sex. Approximately one third of infertility is attributed to the female partner, one third is attributed to the male partner, and one third is due to a combination of problems or simply unexplained.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most utilized assisted reproductive technology (ART). It is used to help those who are struggling with infertility to conceive a child. However, the process of IVF can be a long and emotionally draining process. It often requires many cycles before a successful pregnancy is achieved. More and more couples who are undergoing these expensive procedures are now looking to turn to alternative therapies to help improve their chances of success.
Acupuncture is an ancient healing practice that involves the insertion of small needles into specific points of the body to support natural healing. Today acupuncture is still frequently used to treat a variety of conditions. It is more commonly being used as a complementary therapy for couples looking to support fertility and who are undergoing IVF procedures.
Acupuncture works to improve fertility and reproductive health by promoting blood flow to targeted areas of the body, supporting the movement of energy/Qi, promoting relaxation, and decreasing stress and anxiety. Studies that have looked at acupuncture therapy and IVF outcomes have shown increased success rates by improving parameters such as embryo quality and implantation rates.
A systematic review and meta-analysis by Quan et al. in 2022 looked at 27 studies which included 7676 participants. These studies aimed to measure the efficacy and safety of acupuncture on females with infertility undergoing IVF and other fertility treatments. The intervention group showed a statistically significant improvement in many parameters compared to the control group. This included implantation rates, clinical pregnancy rates, ongoing pregnancy rates and live birth rates.
Another RCT published in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility by Dehghani et al., in 2016 looked at 186 participants undergoing IVF. The study looked at the effect of acupuncture before and after embryo transfer. There was a significant increase in positive IVF outcomes in the group who received acupuncture prior to embryo transfer compared to the group who received no acupuncture.
In conclusion, incorporating acupuncture as a complementary therapy for those undergoing IVF may be beneficial. Increasing blood flow to reproductive organs and reducing stress may help to improve reproductive health and successful pregnancy outcomes. If you are considering acupuncture as part of your fertility and IVF journey, please feel free to reach out to the clinic for additional information.
Please note that while acupuncture is generally safe, it should only be performed by an experienced and licensed professional. The addition of acupuncture should also be discussed with your fertility physician before starting treatment to ensure it is safe and indicated for you.