Acupuncture and IVF – Frequently asked questions
Undergoing IVF requires negotiating a minefield of new information and decisions. Finding out about treatments to go alongside can be even harder. The following are some of the questions we hear most frequently from our patients. If yours is not answered here, please let us know.
Does it really work?
This is the most important question of all. Ask your acupuncturist and they’ll say yes. Ask your consultant and they may also say yes. One of the motivations for the research page on this website was to gather as much information together in one place so prospective patients can make their own minds up. Beyond that, many patients feel that it is the support and relaxation that their treatment provides, more than pregnancy rate increase, which is their reason for using acupuncture. Our clinic has relied mostly on word of mouth for many years and hopefully this is suggestive of patients happiness with the service. Fertility forums are also good for feedback on such subjects.
Why should I have acupuncture?
IVF is a fantastic treatment that helps thousands of couples conceive every year. It is however a difficult process to go through and can often be emotionally, physically and financially draining. The success rates of IVF are also limited, and success cannot be guaranteed. Most couples therefore want to go through the process as few times as possible. By living healthily and by including treatments such as acupuncture alongside IVF, you are doing everything you can do to proactively enhance the chances of success.
With all my other appointments, I’m just not sure I’ve got the time to do acupuncture. Is it worth it?
We find that patients do find it worth making the time for treatment. Although there are many appointments to attend during IVF, the benefits of a treatment where you are the focus rather than just your hormone levels, where you take time to lie quietly and have enforced ‘me time’ is very valuable. The number of patients who come back for further treatment on their subsequent cycles (often a year or two later after their first child) shows us just how important people find it.
It is also important to balance treatment with the rest of your commitments, and so choosing an acupuncturist who is convenient for your schedule is also relevant.
Is it safe?
Acupuncture is considered to be a very safe treatment provided it is administered by properly trained professionals. In addition to it’s use during IVF, we use it to treat women during pregnancy and even to treat babies. The most common side effect is the occasional bruise, which is more common when a patient is on blood thinners such as Clexane (heparin). You can feel slightly (and pleasantly) relaxed after treatment in which case it is advisable to take things slowly, keep hydrated and rest in the waiting room before driving. There is a small risk of a needle shock which is extremely uncommon but has the possibility of feeling dizzy or feeling faint.
When should I start having acupuncture?
Most acupuncturists would like more time with their patients in order to get them into optimum shape. The ideal course of preparatory treatment is three months. However in many cases this is not practical and a shorter course of treatment is required. In this case we see patients at the beginning of down regulation (long protocol) or prior to their last period (short protocol)
Our need for IVF is male factor. Is acupuncture still useful for me?
Even when the main reason for fertility treatment is male factor, there are often many improvements acupuncture can make on the woman’s side such as reducing stress, increasing blood flow to the uterus and ovaries and the treatment on the day of the embryo transfers to enhance uterine receptivity. IVF, and especially ICSI, is extremely successful in overcoming male factor and fertilisation issues. Where it is not so successful is in the implantation phase. In this situation this is where acupuncture focuses most of it’s efforts and where it becomes most useful to maximise the chances of success.
Should my husband/partner come in?
IVF is one of the very few medical situations that you will go through together. Irrespective of where the causes lie, this is something you experience as a couple. At our clinic we encourage couples to come in together initially. Even if only one person is being treated the amount of information that is gained normally makes most couples feel it was worth coming in. Obviously in today’s busy world this is not always possible.
I had acupuncture on my last cycle and it didn’t work. Why should i do it again?
IVF doesn’t work every time and there are many different reasons that it may have been unsuccessful. Just as you are doing the IVF again it still makes sense to increase the chances of success on the next attempt by doing the acupuncture too.
With all the money we’ve spent on IVF, I’m not sure we should be spending more on acupuncture. Is it worth it?
Acupuncture costs will be a minimum of around £200. An initial consultation plus 2 treatments during stimulation phase and then one pre and one post embryo transfer. Ideally we recommend treatment for about 3 months prior to starting fertility treatment. A typical IVF will be around £8,000 (more in London). If the existing research is to be considered and acupuncture can increase the chances of success by around 30-40% for what amounts to less than 5% of the cost, then this makes it a very cost effective treatment.
Can I have acupuncture in the two week wait?
Yes. Many clinics see patients during the two week wait. At ours, we see patients only if they are becoming anxious during the wait and we use acupuncture to help calm them and relieve stress. However, there is no robust research showing that acupuncture during the two week wait can increase success rates.
Can acupuncture be used to minimise side effects during IVF?
Yes. Acupuncture can be used to minimise the side effects of drugs such as headaches, fatigue, palpitations, pain or anxiety as they arise. Your acupuncturist will modify treatment depending on the feedback you give. In our experience most patients suffer less side effects during IVF treatment than they had expected.
Should I tell my clinic I am having acupuncture?
Yes. Acupuncture is used very commonly alongside IVF and most fertility clinics are either pro acupuncture or indifferent to it but very few are against the idea. This treatment is designed to be a complement to your IVF and should not be in opposition to your IVF clinic.