IVF Success and Acupuncture: Ancient Tradition Can Vastly Improve Modern Treatment Outcomes

by Frank on March 14, 2016

Experts generally agree that acupuncture has been practiced as part of a unique, holistic healing system for nearly 3000 years. This rich clinical history, transmitted from generation to generation, has produced an extraordinarily nuanced and capable system of medicine which is used to treat everything from the common cold to the most complex disorders. Despite its long and storied history, today acupuncture is often viewed as antique, esoteric, or exotic. Patients and medical practitioners wonder how a system of medicine that developed without today’s medical technology and modern understanding of biology can continue to be clinically relevant. How does a system that evolved without a modern understanding of germs treat the common cold? How can a system that didn’t have the benefit of advanced chemistry, understand and treat hormonal imbalances in menstrual disorders? The answer is, simply, that traditional acupuncturists did understand these things, but in a different paradigm. Instead of explaining these conditions using biomedical lingo, they drew from the language of what they understood most intimately – the natural world.

Instead of referring to bacteria or viruses as such, they were referred to as pathogenic influences. Each was categorized according to how it affected the body – was it phlegm producing, did it generate fever or chills, what body systems were affected? This allowed practitioners to establish a plan of action that fit the disease process, and to adjust their treatment accordingly. Acupuncture would be administered to stimulate immune response, and herbs with antibiotic properties prescribed. Similarly, while a woman 1000 years ago couldn’t have been diagnosed with low levels of progesterone, a hormone that raises the basal body temperature and is important to achieving and supporting pregnancy, she would have been said to be unable to conceive due to cold in the uterus. She would have been treated with herbs that helped to increase the body temperature which would help trigger the natural production of progesterone.

As modern acupuncturists and herbalists, we draw on our rich tradition to inform our choices and the treatments we use in the clinic. We do this not because we favor tradition over modern medicine, but because the tradition has been validated by an evolving understanding of biomedicine. Acupuncture research, especially in the US, is still largely in its infancy. However, there are some good quality clinical trials that demonstrate acupuncture’s efficacy for a variety of conditions. In particular, there have been a number of high quality trials that show that acupuncture can vastly improve the success rate of standard IVF treatments. A meta-analysis published by the medical journal Fertility and Sterility in early 2012, examined 24 trials (over 5,800 participants) in which acupuncture was added to standard IVF treatments. The authors concluded that “acupuncture improves CPR [clinical pregnancy rate] and LBR [live birth rate] for women undergoing IVF…” (Zheng, et al.). Another series of trials by researchers Paul Magarelli and Diane Cridennda demonstrated that adding acupuncture to IVF protocols increased clinical pregnancy rates from approximately 40% (IVF alone) to 65% (IVF + acupuncture). In addition, those treated with acupuncture experienced fewer spontaneous abortions, fewer ectopic pregnancies, lower levels of stress hormones, and had more take-home babies.

These trials demonstrate that acupuncture can have an extraordinarily positive result when added to your IVF protocol. By combining 1000’s of years of clinical tradition with the technologies and knowledge base of modern medicine, we can utilize the best of both worlds to help our clients have happy, healthy babies. To learn more about how acupuncture can work for you, contact our office and set up a consultation today.

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