Fertility is my passion, and I benefitted from acupuncture during my own (in)fertility journey and IVF. It’s what got me interested and drove me to change my career into a completely different direction. There is more evidence appearing on how acupuncture can support natural fertility, although in the West, sufficiently big clinical trials are almost non-existent. There is a small (and building) amount of positive evidence, however, and plausible mechanisms on how acupuncture may benefit fertility are:
- Regulating fertility hormones – stress and other factors can disrupt the function of the hypothalamic pituitary-ovarian axis (HPOA), causing hormonal imbalances that can negatively impact fertility.
- Increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs – stress also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which causes constriction of ovarian arteries. Acupuncture inhibits this sympathetic activity, improving blood flow to the ovaries and to the uterus.
Since graduating, I have further deepened my interest and knowledge in the field – you can find a list of the most important courses I have attended over the years here.
Acupuncture and Assisted Conception
Research suggests that acupuncture may help in various areas relating to assisted conception (see also the fertility mechanisms above), including in the lead-up to and during a cycle and immediately before and after embryo transfer (though, as with most research related to complementary treatments, this can’t be considered 100% proven, and usually needs further, bigger studies).
The question I am most often asked is when to have acupuncture alongside assisted conception. As the recruitment of the primordial follicle takes place about 3 months before ovulation, and the sperm development takes about 3 months as well from start to finish, you could say it would be ideal to start acupuncture about 3 months before a cycle. In “real life” I find, however, that the run up is usually much less. Rest assured that it will still be beneficial to have acupuncture, even if starting at the later stages.
If possible try at least to have the initial intake appointment before you start your cycle, so you can get used to me, the practice environment and the treatment. After that, I would suggest the following schedule:
Long Protocol: 1 appointment about 1 week from the start of the first downregulation injections / 1 appointment during the first week of stimming / 1 appointment during the second week of stimming / pre-and post embryo transfer on the day
Short protocol: 1 appointment during the first week of stimming (as estimated according to your natural cycle)/ 1 appointment during the second week of stimming / 1 provisional booking of an extra appointment for a 3rd week, in case the natural cycle is delayed (this can always be cancelled if not needed) / pre-and post embryo transfer on the day
Frozen cycle with downregulation: 1 appointment about 1 week from the start of the first downregulation injections / 1 or 2 appointments whilst building up the womb lining / pre-and post embryo transfer on the day
Natural frozen cycle: 1 or 2 appointments in the first half of your natural cycle / pre-and post embryo transfer on the day
This overview should hopefully be informative enough if you are wondering when to book appointments for, but please feel free to contact me via my email address above if you would like further explanations or have more specific questions.
Pre- and post- embryo transfer acupuncture
I am now offering a more streamlined service for patients who would like to be seen on their day of transfer. You might be treated in a zero gravity chair and although on very rare occasions another patient might be present in the room as well, your privacy will be assured by a screen and no details will be taken during the session itself. This enables me to offer more flexibility regarding timing of the transfers, including early starts to fit the transfer in before on the day and return straight after the transfer.
I book transfer acupuncture sessions in myself, so please contact me direct if you are interested. Again, the bigger the run up time, the better, but I will try to accommodate any request as much as possible.
PLEASE NOTE: on the day of transfer, it is important to wear loose and comfortable clothing. I will need easy access (preferably without having to remove too many garments) to your lower legs/feet, tummy, lower arms/hands and head.