We understand the many stresses encountered by people having assisted reproduction and have worked with patients who have been through all of the major fertility clinics in London (e.g. The Lister, ARGC, CRGH, Bart's, Guy's etc). Women who come to us for complementary treatment usually find that they feel much more relaxed and in control if they have acupuncture during an assisted cycle.
For women wanting acupuncture before and IVF, we use the so-called 'Paulus protocol' points, which are the same ones used in the study described below. This study was important as it was the first major paper to suggest that acupuncture could positively affect the outcome of an IVF treatment.
Can acupuncture improve the chances of pregnancy in IVF?
In April 2002, the results of a study into the effects of acupuncture on women who were undergoing assisted reproduction therapy (ART) was published in 'Fertility and Sterility', the official publication of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (Fertility and Sterility vol. 77 (4), pp. 721-724 (2002)).
The researchers' aim was to determine the effects of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate by comparing a group of patients receiving acupuncture treatment before and after embryo transfer with a second group receiving no acupuncture. The acupuncture points chosen were selected according to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
160 patients took part in the trial and were randomly assigned to one of the two groups. 34 out of 80 (42.5%) patients in the acupuncture group became pregnant, as opposed to 21 out of 80 (26.3%) in the control group. At the time, these results were significant and suggested that acupuncture may indeed improve the pregancy rate for women undergoing ART. See later for more research that has been done as a result of this initial study.
Our Commitment to Patients Undergoing IVF/ICSI
Embryo transfer occurs within 5 days of egg collection, although it is usually on day 3 or day 5. Ideally, consultants like development to continue to blastocyst stage before transferring the embryo back, but sometimes circumstances require an earlier transfer, with very short notice given by the clinic. This can be a very stressful time, so we make every effort to ensure that we can see you both before and after embryo transfer on the day that you need, even if your transfer is on a Sunday or bank holiday.
Read on for a couple of IVF related testimonials from past patients at the clinic. Please note that the views expressed in the testimonials are those of the authors and are not necessarily the views held by The Helix Clinic.
I'm 38 years old and my husband and I have been trying to conceive for about 8 years. We've had a few failed IVF and IUI attempts and then gave up trying in 2001. In 2006 we decided to have another go at IVF under the care of the ACU (part of UCH London). Our fertility problems in the past were diagnosed as being the result of blocked tubes - my eggs seemed to be okay in 2001 when I was getting between 9 and 10 per cycle.
It was quite a blow therefore when UCH did the preliminary FSH and E2 tests to discover that although my FSH was borderline (9.5), my ovaries did not respond to the E2 test at all (so no uplift in estradiol levels as a result of stimulating).
We were advised by the consultant that IVF would probably be unsuccessful and that we should reconsider investing the energy and funds. I was absolutely devastated and couldn't believe that the quality of my eggs had deteriorated so much in just 5 years.
We decided to proceed with the IVF cycle anyway the following month (I just couldn't bear the thought of giving up, had put aside the money and already booked time off work). Unbelievably, I produced 15 eggs (a record for me), 7 embryos, 4 of which went on to become healthy blastocysts. Best of all, I am now 14 weeks pregnant with twins!!! And we have two frozen embryos in storage.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this incredible turn around is in part due to the acupuncture treatment. Of course the careful monitoring and care of the doctors, embryologists and staff at ACU were vital in making this happen for us, but your body needs to play its part too and I don't think mine would have done that without the acupuncture treatment (well, there was clear evidence before the time that it wouldn't). I'm also convinced that the treatment just prior to and after embryo transfer makes a difference - we've had two embryos put back on previous occasions without implantation.
On a personal note, about Mike, what I really liked about my first consultation with him is that I didn't have to explain any of the fertility terminology, he's very well versed in all things fertility related - something he's clearly passionate and knowledgeable about. He also takes a holistic view of the body and mind to treat the whole person, not just an isolated problem. I also found Mike to be compassionate, professional and very supportive throughout the process and always looked forward to the treatments which left me feeling calm and positive during this stressful time.
Lisa and Richard
Eight months ago this Saturday our beautiful baby daughter was born. She is very much a miracle baby, conceived through our first go at IVF (ICSI), despite my treatment producing only three eggs, and problems with my husband's sperm quality and motility. I totally believe that the acupuncture treatments we received from Mike played a significant part in her birth.
My husband saw Mike in the weeks running up to our treatment, and I saw Mike for several months before my treatment started. We had decided to throw everything we had at our problems, which meant taking a holistic approach, changing our diets, taking supplements and having regular acupuncture treatments. I continued to see Mike halfway through my treatment when it became clear things weren't going well (the drugs designed to stimulate my eggs weren't having the desired effect), and twice on the day of my fertilised eggs being put back - once before, and once after.
Throughout, Mike was always calm, sensitive and kind. There were times when I was feeling extremely vulnerable and sensitive, and Mike was brilliant at keeping me calm and positive.
We were the happiest people on the planet when it was confirmed that the ICSI had worked, and I was pregnant. I carried on seeing Mike regularly throughout my pregnancy. I like to think it's karma that I had the best pregnancy ever! No sickness, no tiredness, I felt brilliant throughout and full of energy. I am sure that this was down to being in such good health when the treatment started, and the needles played a big part.
Both my husband and I would recommend Mike without any hesitation.
If you are planning to start an assisted cycle anytime soon, and would like to have acupuncture to complement your conventional treatment, click on the button to contact us to make your initial consultation. Alternatively, please feel free to email or call us if you'd like to ask us a question.
Ongoing Research Studies After The Paulus Paper
Since the original Paulus paper was published, a number of basic research and meta-studies have been done to examine and try and replicate their findings. As is often the case in acupuncture research, conflicting results have emerged. Read on to find out about some of the most interesting studies published in some of the more prestigious Obstetrics and Gynaecological journals. For each journal, we indicate its impact factor as of 2013, which gives a measure of how respected the journal is within its community. The higher the impact factor, the more weight you should give the research.
Fertility and Sterility
Fertility and Sterility has an impact factor of 4.174, placing it at number 4 in the Obs and Gynae journals. In May 2006, a study was published in Fertility and Sterility (Vol 85, Issue 5, May 2006, Pages 1341–1346) that also produced results to suggest that acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer (ET) could improve pregnancy rates in IVF. Lars Westergaard and his co-researchers designed a prospective, randomized trial comparing a group of 95 women who had acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer with a second group of 91 women who had acupuncture on that day and also 2 days later, and a third group of 87 women who had no acupuncture at all. They found that pregnancy rates at 18 weeks were significantly higher for the group that had acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer compared with the control group (36% vs 22%), and also found that in their study additional acupuncture two days after embryo transfer had no extra beneficial effect.
In the same volume, another positive result was obtained by Dieterle et. al. (Vol 85, Issue 5, May 2006, Pages 1347–1351). They ran a randomized, prospective, controlled clinical study comparing a group of 116 women who received acupuncture during the luteal phase of their IVF or ICSI cycle with a group of 109 women who were given placebo acupuncture. Again, they found that the pregnancy rate at 18 weeks was increased in the acupuncture group (28.4%) compared to the placebo group (13.8%), suggesting that acupuncture given in the luteal phase could have a positive effect.
In a third separate study in the same volume, Smith et. al. (Vol 85, Issue 5, May 2006, Pages 1352–1358) used a single-blind, randomized controlled trial to look at the effects of acupuncture on pregnancy rates for women having IVF or ICSI. They looked at a group of 228 women split into two groups (acupuncture vs noninvasive sham acupuncture) and found that although the pregnancy rate at 18 weeks was higher in the acupuncture group (28% compared to 18%), it was not statistically significant. They concluded that acupuncture could be considered safe for women undergoing embryo transfer.
In March 2009, Domar et. al. (Vol 91, Issue 3, March 2009, Pages 723–726) aimed to replicate the earlier research on increased pregnancy rates to try and determine whether the increase was due to a placebo effect. They conducted a prospective, randomized, controlled single blind trial of 150 women split between an acupuncture group and a control group. The women were also asked about their levels of anxiety and optimism. The study did not find any significant difference in pregnancy rates between the two groups, but women in the acupuncture group experienced significantly less anxiety after the embryo transfer.
In 2011, Moy et. al. (Vol 95, Issue 2, Feb 2011, Pages 583–587) published the results of another randomized controlled trial. It was a double blind trial with 160 women going through IVF or ICSI. the overall pregnancy rate in the study was fairly high, with no significant difference between the real and sham acupuncture, and no adverse effects observed. The authors concluded that acupuncture was safe for women having IVF or ICSI.
BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology
BJOG has an impact factor of 3.760. In September 2008, a systematic review and meta-analysis of acupuncture and IVF was published in BJOG (Vol 115, Issue 10, Sep 2008, pages 1203–1213). El-Toukhy et. al. looked at 13 randomized controlled trials for IVF acupuncture where acupuncture was compared with either no treatment or placebo treatment. 5 of the trials involved acupuncture around the time of egg collection, and 8 of the trials involved acupuncture around the time of embryo transfer. When they averaged the results of all the trials they found no significant increase in pregnancy rates for women who had acupuncture.
Reproductive BioMedicine Online
Human Reproduction has an impact factor of 2.675. In September 2010, Andersena et. al. (Vol 21, Issue 3, Sep 2010, Pages 366-372) presented the results of a prospective, randomized, controlled, double blinded trial. 314 women having IVF or ICSI received acupuncture according to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and 321 women were given placebo acupuncture. There were no statistically significant differences in pregnancy rates between the two groups.
Human Reproduction has an impact factor of 4.670. In February 2009, So et. al. (Vol 24, Issue 2, Feb 2009, pages 341-348) published the results of their randomized double blind comparison of real and placebo acupuncture for IVF. 370 women were assigned to either the real or placebo acupuncture groups, with all treatment sessions given just before and after the embryo transfer. In this study, they noticed a reduction in cortisol and anxiety levels for both groups, and interestingly found that the placebo acupuncture led to a higher pregnancy rate than 'real' acupuncture (55.1% compared to 43.8%).
Human Reproduction Update
Human Reproduction Update has an impact factor of 8.847. In November 2013, Manheimer et. al. (Vol 19, Issue 6, Nov/Dec 2013, pages 696-713) published a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of acupuncture on clinical pregnancy rates for women going through IVF. They included 16 randomized controlled trials comparing acupuncture with sham or no acupuncture, and found no statistically significant difference when they combined all the trials together. However, they did find that in trials where the control group pregnancy rates were lower showed larger effects from the acupuncture intervention when compared to trials with relatively high pregnancy rates in the control group. Their conclusion suggested focusing further research on this particular effect.
Latest Cochrane Review
Finally, in July 2013 a Cochrane Review titled 'Acupuncture and Assisted Conception', was published. Cheong et. al. aimed to review the evidence as to whether acupuncture improves pregnancy rates for IVF and ICSI. They included 20 randomized controlled studies in their review, with 6 studies looking at acupuncture around the time of egg collection, and 14 studies of acupuncture at embryo transfer. Overall their opinion was that there is no clear evidence for a beneficial effect of acupuncture for women having assisted conception.
You have now read about the current state of research into acupuncture and IVF, and have seen a couple of our testimonials. Maybe you have read good things about us on one of the fertility bulletin boards, or know a friend who has had a good experience with us, or with acupuncture generally. If you think you would like to make an initial appointment, do click on the button or feel free to email or call us if you have any more questions we can help you with.
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