In vitro fertilisation (IVF) Support for Women and Men

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The focus of assisted fertility treatments is biological and medical, involving highly technical procedures. This can lead to high stress levels, which can reduce your chances of a successful pregnancy. The emotional and psychological aspects of trying for a baby are neglected. Consequently, we advise that preparing properly for assisted treatments such as IVF is potentially even more important and beneficial than if you are trying for a baby naturally. Working with associates in hypnotherapy, reflexology, and massage we can give you the right physical, and emotional support to counteract these stresses and bring your body and mind to its peak potential.

The success rates for IVF conception to occur are usually between 11-28% depending on your age, with those aged 35 years or less most likely to conceive (source: Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority Guide to Infertility 2006-7). We can improve your chances of a successful pregnancy. Recently researchers said they have significantly increased success rates in women undergoing IVF. A report published in the journal of Fertility and Sterility found that of the 160 women undergoing IVF, the pregnancy rate in the group receiving acupuncture was 43%, compared to the group which did not receive the therapy, where the rate was 26%. The research team, led by Dr. Paulus and colleagues at the Christian-Lauritzen-Institut in Ulm, Germany, wrote in the journal: "Acupuncture seems to be a useful tool for improving pregnancy rate after assisted reproductive techniques.” Dr Paulus has developed an acupuncture protocol which is incorporated into your treatment plan. Acupuncture treatment plans for men are outlined below.

Before IVF

Treatment to prepare for IVF can commence up to 3 months before entering the medication phase of IVF. The treatment includes diet and lifestyle advice to bring you to optimum health. Weekly treatments are the most beneficial. If this is not possible treatment should commence with the IVF cycle. A schedule of treatments two times per week is the optimum, though weekly treatments will still increase your success rates. At the very minimum, acupuncture before and after embryo transfer should be considered.

During IVF

Acupuncture support during in the process varies depending on whether a long or short/flare protocol is followed. At all stages though, acupuncture is used to increase the thickness and blood supply of the uterine endometrium and to relieve anxiety during this stressful time:

>Down Regulation

This is part of the long protocol only and is where drugs such as gonadatrophins, which are normally administered either as a nasal spray or injection, are given to suppress your hormonal cycle (Follicle Stimulating Hormone and Lutenising Hormone are blocked). Down regulation can take anything between 7 to 28 days to occur with an average of 15 days. Acupuncture treatment at this stage is focussing on increasing blood flow to the uterus and improving ovaries and egg quality. Weekly or twice weekly treatments are recommended.

>Ovarian Stimulation

Once the normal hormonal cycle is suppressed, doctors now have control over your cycle, which enables them to stimulate your ovaries. Follicle stimulating drugs in the form of daily hormone injections are used to encourage the development of several follicles which contain eggs. The hormone injections usually last between 7 to 14 days, with an average of 10 or 11 days. Acupuncture treatment now is focussed on strongly moving energy and blood flow in the uterus and ovaries, as well as nourishing egg quality. Acupuncture two times per week is recommended.

>Egg Collection

After egg collection, acupuncture is recommended to reduce any local tissue trauma or bleeding, and help prepare a calm environment for the arrival of an embryo.

>Embryo Transfer

The Paulus research showed increased pregnancy rates for women having acupuncture before and after embryo transfer. Ideally two treatments are recommended on the same day of transfer. The second treatment should be within 1 hour of transfer, or as near to this time as possible.

>Early Pregnancy

Another treatment is given 8 to 10 days after fertilisation to support implantation and help a pregnancy become established. The treatment aims to improve blood circulation to the uterus and reduce anxiety.

>Acupuncture during the first few weeks of pregnancy

Acupuncture has been demonstrated to have significant immune-modulating effects. This effect may be important in reducing the risk of rejection by the mother’s immune system in the early days as the embryo implants and a pregnancy is established.

Acupuncture can be used to enhance microcirculation in the uterine lining and the newly developing placenta. This may have particular importance if you have a tendency to produce clotting factors but could also be useful where that is not the case.

In addition regular treatment with acupuncture designed to reduce anxiety offers you important and reassuring support during these first few weeks of pregnancy. Clinical trials have shown that regular monitoring and reassurance reduces miscarriage rates.

Frozen Embryo Transfer

Acupuncture for frozen embryo transfer, with or without medication, aims to increase blood flow to uterus and improve implantation and pregnancy rates. The schedule of treatment is 2 treatments per week for 2 to 4 weeks before embryo transfer and then two treatments on the day of transfer (as above).

Treatment for men for IVF

Acupuncture can be used for poor sperm morphology and motility. These treatments are based on protocols used in clinical trials which demonstrate increase in sperm motility and decrease in abnormal forms after a course of acupuncture. A course of 2 treatments per week in the 5 to 6 weeks prior to IVF is recommended.

Acupuncture on the day of sperm donation can be useful. The pressure to produce a sperm sample on the day of egg collection can be significant enough to cause a problem. Acupuncture reduces anxiety and can increase blood flow to the genital area.

Fertility News

These articles are all reporting recent research looking at the success of acupuncture at increasing conception rates among women undergoing IVF.

The Telegraph: Acupuncture helps women have babies.
Daily Mail: Acupuncture helps IVF women babies.
The Guardian: Acupuncture helps women have babies.

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