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Thoughts on the management of infertility

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Thoughts on Acupuncture and IVF

If you do a Google search on "Acupuncture and IVF", you will get about 60,000 entries. However, to my knowledge, there are only a handfull of traditional published studies that look at the impact of acupuncture on IVF success rates. In terms of my training in evaluating the medical literature, the best study was published in the journal, Fertility and Sterility, in February of 2002. In this study, 160 women underwent routine IVF. Half of them were randomized to have acupuncture both before and after the embryo transfer and half were not. The results were also blinded to those who had acupuncture and those who didn't. Randomization and blinding make this a very good study. The acupuncture group had a pregnancy rate about 40% higher than the group that did not have acupuncture.

Acupuncturists believe that acupuncture helps in this setting by making the woman and her uterus more receptive to implantation. In terms of my understanding of the embryo transfer and implantation process, I don't understand physiology in exactly the same way. However, one of our major objectives in IVF is to make the uterus as "quiet" as possible during IVF transfer. We do this by our procedural techniques and by using drug therapy. In terms of my personal experience with acupuncture, it seems that acupuncture could well also have this impact on a woman's body.

I need to openly state that I am not entirely comfortable recommending a technique based on an approach for which I do not fully understand the theory underlying the technique and for which there is such limited data. However, I see little downside to using acupuncture with IVF since there is the above controlled study to support its use.

If you would like to use acupuncture with your IVF cycle, I recommend an acupuncture treatment on the afternoon before the embryo transfer and on the afternoon of or the day following the transfer. We work with several acupuncture groups and can recommend one to you. About half of our IVF patients utilize acupuncture.

Because getting pregnant is so very important, some patients feel a lot of stress during an IVF cycle. Some of our patients have used acupuncture to help them control or better cope with that stress. We have had several patients who have greatly benefited from this approach. I believe it contributed to their getting pregnant and strongly recommend acupuncture with this objective.