Acupuncture for IVF
Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles along energy pathways (commonly called channels or meridians) in the body. In Chinese Medicine these channels are seen as an interconnected network between the organs and are the pathways through which the Qi (loosely translated as energy) and blood flow through the body. The Qi and blood circulate through these channels and by needling the points along the channels, the Qi, blood, yin and yang can be regulated to make them balanced.
What is the aim of acupuncture for IVF?
The theory and aims of acupuncture for IVF from a Chinese Medicine standpoint are very complex and involve a lot of language and terms that are specific to Traditional Chinese Medicine, they also differ according to the patient’s condition, but in general we aim to bring the body into balance, remove stagnation from the channels, nourish the organs and strengthen the uterus.
From a western perspective the treatments are aimed at supporting the blood flow to the ovaries to help the follicles develop and increasing the blood supply to the womb, thickening the endometrial lining and making the uterus more receptive to implantation.
How many treatments do I need?
There is no standard number of treatments that are needed. Treatment schedules should be developed between the therapist and the patient. Patients generally come once a week throughout the IVF cycle. If this is not possible than treatments will usually be performed close to important dates of the cycle i.e. egg collection and egg transplant.
Most research that has been done has been regarding acupuncture treatments that are performed on the day of egg transplant and it is suggested that if you cannot attend regular treatments then to try and attend at least one treatment as close to the egg transplant time as possible.
What should I expect from a treatment?
Most acupuncture treatments take approximately an hour although this may vary between clinics. The therapist will ask you to fill in a form and will take a case history before beginning treatment. Treatment involves the insertion of thin needles at various points of the body and may be performed on the back or front or both sides of the patient.
You may feel a sting upon insertion of the needle although the discomfort is usually minimal. After insertion the acupuncturist may manipulate the needles to obtain De Qi (to get the Qi or energy to come to the needle). This feeling is most often described as a tingling, numbness or heavy, achy feeling at the site of insertion. Occasionally the feeling may move along the channels or you may feel something elsewhere on the body. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal but let your acupuncturist know what you are feeling and they will adjust the treatment if you are experiencing any discomfort.
The needles are retained for anywhere between 15 to 45 minutes and may be manipulated again throughout the treatment. Some therapists may also use massage, electro-acupuncture or reiki during the treatment. At the end of the treatment the needles are removed and disposed of. At some sites of insertion you may feel a lingering dull achy feeling after removal of the needles but this will disappear shortly.
What about my partner?
Partners are welcome to attend the initial treatment where they can talk to the therapist about any questions they may have. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine has a very long history of treating males for low sperm count or poor quality of sperm and this can also be discussed with the therapist.
Are there any side effects?
Acupuncture is considered to be a very safe and side effect free treatment. All needles used are sterile and are unwrapped prior to treatment and disposed of immediately after treatment. Sometimes a patient may experience bruising at the insertion site. You can expect to feel quite energised after the treatment, particularly on the following day and as the points that are used are tailored to the patient you can expect to get an overall benefit in your general health and well being.
How much does it cost?
The cost for an initial treatment is $80 and $70 for subsequent treatments.
Can I claim it on my health fund?
If you are covered for extras with your health fund and as your acupuncturist is a registered provider then you will be able to claim a health fund rebate. Rebates vary between health funds and levels of cover. You can check with your health fund in regards to how much money you can expect to get back.
At Maitland Wellness Centre our acupuncturists; Bjorn Mella, Meshelle Bell, Lauren See and Michelle Brodie are all registered with AACMA and with the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia, the government run register of Acupuncturists.
Is there any research into the benefits?
There is a fair amount of positive research that has been done into Acupuncture for IVF but there are only a few studies that satisfy the requirements of rigorously conducted randomised trials. There is currently no firm scientific evidence of how Acupuncture works within the body and different researchers suggest different theories for its efficacy. The latest systematic review and meta-analysis from The British Medical Journal (Published 7 February 2008) concludes that current research of the use of Acupuncture to support IVF is clinically significant (which could be as much as a 65% increase of the chance of pregnancy) but still preliminary.
Many research articles regarding Acupuncture to support IVF, ICSI or to improve sperm count and/or morphology can be found on the Internet.