I have been studying and practicing fertility treatment since 1985. Over the past 31 years, I’ve witnessed first-hand the enormously improved success we have been able to achieve with advancements in in-vitro fertilization (“IVF”). Every day now, people we previously thought could never be helped to conceive are having babies as a result of today’s state-of-the-art IVF technology. However, successful as we have been, there are those who remain unhelped and still in need despite modern technology and medicine. For those, I went back to school to study Traditional Chinese Medicine (“TCM”) and acupuncture.
TCM has been successfully used for nearly all health problems since before recorded history. In fact, approximately 2400 years ago the ancient Chinese medical text, Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine, was written dealing with the relationships among the internal organs and with the concepts of yin and yang as applied to medicine. In TCM, the yin and yang principle proposes that the bodily organs are interdependent and support each other in harmony. Disease is defined as a loss of this state of balance within and among the organs. Treatment with TCM is based on the restoration of the body’s natural harmony and rebalancing of all the organs.
Applying TCM to conventional Western medical diagnosis mixes different worlds without a common language. The science of TCM is based on the flow of Qi (the body’s life energy) that connect the organs through channels and runs throughout the body. Deficiencies and stagnations of this Qi arising from the different organs result in patterns of symptomatology– including the inability to conceive. Treatment is individualized based on the unique patterns that are evident in each patient. These symptoms and patterns are elucidated upon taking the patient’s history and performing a physical examination.
Integrating TCM with state-of-the-art Western medicine involves focusing on these patterns and connections that help us filter each patient’s story and emerge with a clear map of how to use all the tools of medicine… including the most effective TCM and high-tech Western medicine.
Though the West was first introduced to acupuncture and TCM when President Nixon visited China, it was not until 2002 that the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (“ASRM”) took notice when a published article in Fertility and Sterility showed that pre- and post- transfer acupuncture increased pregnancy rates (1).
There have been several studies (2-5) showing improvement in endometrial lining and pregnancy rates from acupuncture during the 4-8 weeks prior to embryo transfer. Specific protocols are tailored to the needs of the individual patient and may include herbal therapy, heat, diet and exercise modifications.
At ASRM 2015, Dr. Paul Magarelli, a reproductive endocrinologist specializing in IVF, presented a study he performed at his IVF clinic in Colorado demonstrating significantly higher pregnancy rates when acupuncture was initiated at least 6 weeks prior to embryo transfer and included pre- and post- transfer treatments. The benefit of acupuncture before and after transfer was further demonstrated in a study performed in Europe by Westergaard et al (6).
How does acupuncture help fertility? From a Western perspective, acupuncture’s successful treatment of stress is effective to improve fertility mostly by improving hormonal function.
There is evidence that acupuncture also increases blood flow to the reproductive organs and helps balance the endocrine system.
If we are to assume that combining TCM with modern reproductive medicine optimizes a patient’s success, then how can we best help our patients? At Long Island IVF we work with some of the most qualified fertility acupuncturists on Long Island and, in addition, offer TCM and acupuncture on-site in the Melville office including pre- and post- transfer.
As a certified acupuncturist and reproductive endocrinologist with over 30 years of experience in IVF, I feel I am uniquely qualified to offer our patients the most effective fertility treatment that includes the best that Western medicine has to offer as well as TCM and acupuncture.
1- Fertility and Sterility 2002; 77:721-4 Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy
rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Paulus WE, Zhang M,
Strehler E, Seybold B, Sterzik K
2- Human Reproduction vol.11 no.6 pp.1314-1317, 1996 Reduction of blood flow
impedance in the uterine arteries of infertile women with electro-acupuncture
Elisabet Stener-Victorin1, Urban Waldenstrdm , Sven A.Andersson and
3- Fertility and Sterility 2012; 97: 599–611. Effects of acupuncture on pregnancy
rates in women undergoing in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-
analysis. Cui Hong Zheng, Guang Ying Huang, Ming Min Zhang, Wei Wang,
4- Fertility and Sterility 2005; 83:S9. Acupuncture: Impact on Eggs and Embryos
of IVF Patients. Cridennda D, Magarelli P, Cohen M
5- Br Med J 2008; 336:545–9. Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live.
birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: systematic review and
metaanalysis. Manheimer E, Zhang G, Udoff L, Haramati A, Langenberg B,
Berman B, et al
6- Fertility and Sterility 2006; 85:1341–1346. Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial. Lars G. Westergaard, Qunhui Mao, Marianne Krogslund, Steen Sandrini, Suzan Lenz, Jørgen Grinsted