If you’ve ever looked into acupuncture to help with infertility, you have most likely run across some impressive research showing that an acupuncture treatment during the IVF procedure increases chances of conceiving. While this is incredibly exciting research, it leaves those of us who practice Chinese medicine with questions.
The original study, commonly known as the ‘Paulus protocol’ specifically looked at acupuncture treatments right before and after the embryo transfer, focusing on the effects of two same-day treatments out of the entire fertility journey.
Chinese medicine for thousands of years has been practiced very differently. In addition to needles, acupuncturists are trained to incorporate herbal medicine, dietary recommendations and lifestyle support. When women come to us looking for treatment surrounding infertility, whether they want to achieve pregnancy naturally or go through an IUI or IVF procedure, we request at least three months to prepare their bodies using this method. Rarely do we use one to two acupuncture treatments to approach such a complex condition.
So, what kind of impact on IVF outcomes could we have if we look at this ‘whole system’ Chinese medicine? Would it fare better than using acupuncture done only before and after the embryo transfer?
Exciting new research has looked at this very question. During the course of this study researchers looked at over five years of live birth outcomes using a pool of 1,069 women at a fertility clinic in Washington. They found that women who received the ‘whole system’ Chinese medicine approach prior to IVF increased their odds of live birth by 77% when compared to the usual care group (those that did not try acupuncture). When the ‘whole system’ Chinese medicine group were compared to women who did only the day of embryo transfer acupuncture treatment, the ‘whole system’ group increased the odds of live birth by 53%.
The researchers concluded that ‘whole system’ Chinese medicine may improve the odds of live birth for fresh non-donor IVF cycles.
This study supports what we have suspected all along, getting your body in a strong and healthy place before embarking on conception is pivotal to improving outcomes.
If you are considering adding Chinese medicine to help you with infertility, give us a call. We are happy to talk about what Chinese medicine can do to support you on this journey.
(written by Julie)