There’s actually now decades of research to support the evidence that acupuncture is beneficial for IVF treatment. In practice at Yin, we incorporate much of this learning, whilst always looking at the individual and adapting our approach as new evidence evolves.
One of the first studies to put “IVF acupuncture” in the public eye was back in 2002 when a German paper was published by Paulus (1). The treatment approach focused on doing acupuncture immediately before and after embryo transfer with excellent results. Conclusions were that acupuncture improved the clinical pregnancy rate (CPR) and the acupuncture group resulted in 42.5% CPR, compared to 26.3% in the control group (without acupuncture).
Thanks to the success and publicity of this study, we often meet with many of our new IVF/fertility clients around their embryo transfer for their first acupuncture treatments. We even have clients come in quoting the “Paulus protocol” and requesting specific acupuncture points that they have found in the research paper or as shared in fertility forums. We love the opportunity to introduce these clients to the world of acupuncture, however, don’t like to put too much stress on people around the timing of this approach.
At Yin, we encourage a before and after embryo transfer (where it doesn’t cause undue stress), however, our focus is more on regular treatment leading up to IVF, to closer align with our clinical experience and the more recent research (which we will discuss more below). Of course, life doesn’t always happen this way and we are often meeting new clients at all stages of IVF and even during the pregnancy. So if the first time you book with us is on the day of embryo transfer, we still feel confident that we can help prepare you for your transfer and into pregnancy.
Back to the research…. Since the Paulus study, there have been several similar studies that have replicated this approach – ie treating directly before and after embryo transfer. In 2006, Westergaard (2) conducted a Danish study and concluded that acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome of IVF/ICSI, compared with no acupuncture.
In more recent years there have also been more comprehensive studies including reviews of more frequent acupuncture before and during the IVF cycle. One of the latest meta-analyses (3) actually came out of Australia in 2019 and looks at the research around IVF acupuncture in more detail. They found that the dose of acupuncture, (ie how many acupuncture sessions), had a significant effect on pregnancy outcomes, finding more than three acupuncture treatments showed a significant increase in clinical pregnancy rates.
Another great paper that reviews the effectiveness and best dosage of acupuncture is a retrospective cohort study published by Hullender Rubin (4) in 2015. This study looked at over a thousand women and incorporated not only acupuncture but a similar approach to what we use at Yin – “Whole Systems Traditional Chinese medicine” (WSTCM). This means we take a holistic approach, not only treating with acupuncture but encouraging nutritional supplements, herbs, lifestyle and dietary advice that is personalised to each person.
The Hullender Rubin (4), study concluded that women who had on average 12 acupuncture treatments, (including herbs and supplements where appropriate) had an increased proportion of live births by 61.3% (which is an even better measure than just clinical pregnancy rates).
Our practice style at Yin has been influenced by these studies and in particular, the holistic approach that Hullender Rubin adopts to cater to each individual. Our practitioners have trained in her methods including lifestyle advice specific to maximising your fertility both with and without IVF.
If you’d like to know more, please feel free ask us at your next appointment or book in here.
Paulus WE, Zhang M, Strehler E, El-Danasouri I, Sterzik K. Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertil Steril. 2002 Apr;77(4):721-4. doi: 10.1016/s0015-0282(01)03273-3. PMID: 11937123.
Westergaard LG, Mao Q, Krogslund M, Sandrini S, Lenz S, Grinsted J. Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial. Fertil Steril. 2006 May;85(5):1341-6. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2005.08.
070. Epub 2006
Smith CA, Armour M, Shewamene Z, Tan HY, Norman RJ, Johnson NP. Acupuncture performed around the time of embryo transfer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Reprod Biomed Online. 2019 Mar;38(3):364-379. doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2018.12.038. Epub 2019 Jan 2. PMID: 30658892.
Hullender Rubin LE, Opsahl MS, Wiemer KE, Mist SD, Caughey AB. Impact of whole systems traditional Chinese medicine on in-vitro fertilization outcomes. Reprod Biomed Online. 2015 Jun;30(6):602-12. doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2015.02.005. Epub 2015 Feb 24. PMID: 25911598; PMCID: PMC4458185.