Acupuncture for infertility: On pins and needles
A common and effective practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) today is to have an acupuncture treatment immediately before and immediately after IVF.
Studies have shown this practice to increase the number of resulting pregnancies by as much as 50 percent as compared to IVF treatments that did not employ TCM concurrently.
When my RE first recommended acupuncture, I was more than a little apprehensive. The thought of having dozens of tiny needles sticking into my flesh scared me to death, but I tried to remain focused and open-minded, plus I am willing to try anything in my quest to have a baby.
Although I don't always know what's going on inside my body and I'm not pregnant yet, in the year and a half that I have been receiving acupuncture treatments, I have noticed a decrease in my stress level overall and greater consistency to my menstrual cycle, not to mention with the aid of acupuncture, I was able to get rid of a cyst on one of my ovaries.
The American Pregnancy Association defines acupuncture as, "the insertion of ultra-thin, sterile needles into specific acupuncture points on the body which reside on channels or meridians; these are pathways in both the exterior and interior of the body." These points, when needled, can regulate the way in which the body functions.
There are many studies showing that acupuncture can increase success rates of IVF. Western doctors are beginning to embrace it, sometimes sending their patients to acupuncturists for specific conditions. And the federal Food and Drug Administration takes it seriously enough to regulate acupuncture needles for use by licensed practitioners.
Acupuncture and TTC
I talked to Kelly LeGendre L.Ac., owner of The Fix Community Acupuncture and founder of HappyMamaHealthyBaby.com who specializes in fertility. LeGendre treats both women looking to get pregnant without the assistance of reproductive technologies, as well as those undergoing IUI and IVF. For patients undergoing IVF, she typically accompanies them to their endocrinologist's office and performs acupuncture immediately before egg retrieval and after embryo transfer.
According to LeGendre, "Acupuncture has been shown to improve ovarian function and encourage your body to produce higher quality eggs, increase blood flow to the uterus and aid in thickening of the uterine lining, decrease side effects associated with hormonal therapy, and relieve the stress and anxiety associated with trying to conceive. Receiving acupuncture immediately before egg retrieval and after embryo transfer has been proven to dramatically increase the likelihood of pregnancy, reduce uterine contractions after transfer and decrease the possibility of miscarriage."
Acupuncture is also very effective for calming down the body and reducing stress, which can be a major deterrent when trying to conceive. Nowadays, even with a dozen or more needles stuck in my body, I often fall asleep during my treatments, they are that relaxing!
Costs of acupuncture
Acupuncture treatments can vary dramatically in cost, depending on how long you are treated and while many insurance companies cover the cost of acupuncture, some do not when treatment involves infertility, so check your policy carefully.
Acupuncture and IVF
To read the study showing increased rate of IVF pregnancy with acupuncture, visit the National Center for Biotechnology Information and to find an acupuncturist in your area, visit the American Pregnancy Association or consult with your reproductive medicine specialist for a recommendation.
It would be irresponsible of me to encourage desperate women trying to conceive to waste their time and money on a practice that I didn't use or believe in myself. I feel using an East-meets-West approach to care and aid in my infertility will ultimately yield optimal results.