The successful use of Chinese medicine to assist IVF treatments is well known however most people don’t really understand how Chinese medicine, herbal medicine and acupuncture, can help in this process. I specialize in fertility and while most of my patients come for acupuncture to assist in getting pregnant, some do come to assist the process in combination with IVF. In fact acupuncture can assist in the success of any western fertility treatment. But how exactly does acupuncture help?
Acupuncture first of all helps to generate Qi (movement) and blood. By doing this acupuncture can help to break up any stagnations or blockages in the body. With regard to fertility this would be in the uterus where acupuncture ensures healthy blood circulation in the area, which is essential to support life.
When a patient comes to me to assist with their IVF treatment I take a full case history, so I can create a picture of why, from a Chinese medicine viewpoint, she has failed to concieve. Once I make a diagnosis and establish the underlying causes of infertility, I am able to create a treatment plan. In doing this I may be able to help the couple get pregnant without them having to do IVF, at the very least I will be able to prepare the body for the upcoming mental and physical journey of IVF. The process is extremely taxing on the body and should not be taken lightly.
In Switzerland, most of the IVF treatments done are agonist treatments, which is quite aggressive compared to the antagonist method. For this reason another important area for me to treat is the Shen. The Shen is our consciousness, and can become affected during these treatments, especially for women who have undergone more than one IVF cycle. More often than not, women do at least two treatments and I have even had women coming who are on their ninth cycle. IVF is successful at procuring eggs, creating embryos and transplanting eggs. But there is more to having a baby than fertilizing an egg and there is more to having a baby than becoming pregnant.
The drugs that are associated with IVF treatments can and do wreak havoc on the body. Firstly, a women injects on a daily basis drugs to cause the ovaries to form multiple follicles. A woman normally produce one, maybe two follicles in a cycle. During the IVF follicle stimulation phase, women may produce anything from 10 to 20 or even more follicles. Some women become very bloated and swollen in this time. Then to stop ovulation of these follicles the women are thrown into a menopausal state. As you can then imagine women may then show signs of menopause, with inability to sleep, hot flushes, mood swings and decreased libido. Acupuncture can help in this phase to treat the side effects of the drugs and to help prepare the uterus for the egg transfer.
Lifestyle and environmental factors should be also be addressed when treating for infertility. These include alcohol, caffeine, environmental toxins, age, stress, weight and recreational drugs. Pathological factors that play a role in infertility include PCOS, endometriosis, ovarian failure and tubal damage or obstruction and some infertility cannot be explained in western medical terms. All this is taken into consideration and from a Chinese medicine standpoint a diagnosis is made. If the patient has not started with the IVF drug protocols as yet I ask the patient to give me three months, therefore three cycles. In this way I am able to give acupuncture and herbs to treat the underlying condition and help prepare the body so that she may better support a fetus.
The success rate of IVF treatments is said to increase by ….if it is coupled with acupuncture. These results however are studies done on women who have had acupuncture just before and just after the IVF transfer. I however do not like to treat only at this moment. If a women is not getting pregnant naturally then a proper TCM diagnosis needs to be made and a treatment plan created. The real success behind acupuncture is by using acupuncture points to help create and move Qi and Blood and bring balance to the body. Treating the underlying condition which may be primary, secondary or unexplained infertility will nevertheless bring balance to the body. Diagnosis in Chinese medicine gives me the chance to see the person as a whole and to take both the physical and the mental into consideration.