In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
What is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)?
- Background: In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is the uniting of egg and sperm in vitro (in the lab). Standard IVF treatment involves the following process in 4 major sections described below.
- Follicle Growth and Egg Collection: Based on each woman’s age, natural hormone levels, and overall reproductive health, an individual protocol of fertility drugs will be administered to stimulate her ovaries to produce multiple follicles. When the follicles reach an optimum size, the eggs within are retrieved with a long thin needle guided through the vaginal wall, using ultrasound and a light anesthetic.
- Fertilization: Once the eggs are identified, they are mixed with several thousand sperm (previously obtained from the partner’s or donor’s sperm sample) in a dish with nutrient liquid and kept in an incubator overnight, and later examined under a microscope to identify which eggs have fertilized normally.
- Embryo Transfer: Once the eggs are fertilized, they are carefully nurtured in the laboratory and they become embryos which are ready for transfer into the uterus on day 3 or sometimes on day 4 or 5. The physician then injects the embryos inside the uterine cavity during a speculum examination. The number of embryos transferred depends upon the age of the patient, the quality of the embryos and the stage of their development.
- Approximately 10 days after embryo transfer the first blood pregnancy test is performed, and after another 2 weeks the first ultrasound will confirm the pregnancy.
- A study presented in “Highlights in Fertility and Sterility” (Vol. 77, No. 4, April 2002) indicated that pregnancy rates for women undergoing IVF increased from 26.3% to 42.5% with only 2 acupuncture treatments at the time of transfer.
How Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Can Help IVF Succeed?
- Chinese Medicine and acupuncture can significantly increase the response and success of all forms of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART), including a 50% increase in IVF success rates.
- Studies have focused on how acupuncture can increase the blood flow in the uterus and ovaries, creating a more suitable and fertile environment for mature follicles to both develop and implant. Additionally, treating the man at the same time will allow him to provide improved sperm samples of higher counts, increased motility, and more regular morphology.
- Acupuncture can benefit IVF to reduce the side effects of Clomid, Gonal-F and other ovulation and hormonal support drugs, to decreases the chances of miscarriage by relaxing the uterus and providing increased blood flow, to regulate the stimulating hormones to produce an increased quantity of follicles, to increase the blood flow to the uterus and increase the thickness of the uterine lining to improve implantation rates, to improve the blood flow to the reproductive organs and prevent the uterus from contracting, to increase the blood flow to the ovaries to nourish the developing follicles and create better egg quality and stronger embryos, to relax the body and reduces stress, and to strengthen the immune system
- Chinese herbs can benefit IVF to build strong, nutrient-rich blood for the ovaries which will better nourish the developing follicles and create better egg quality and stronger embryos.
When Should I Start Acupuncture for My Upcoming IVF Cycle?
- Most patients require a series of ongoing treatments over a month or two to gain all the benefits acupuncture can provide.
- In many cases, we recommend that you start acupuncture treatment at least 1 month (3 months is even better) prior to the commencement of the IVF cycle to ensure you get the most out of it. Within this period, keep 2 times per week acupuncture frequency.
- After the embryo transfer day, it’s usually advised to receive a follow up acupuncture session twice weekly until your pregnancy is confirmed.