Acupuncture for Fertility, IVF, IUI: When to Start Treatments

Acupuncture for fertility can be started at any point in the menstrual cycle, or at any point before a medically administered fertility treatment, to promote optimal health in the body and encourage conception.  The more time a woman begins treatments before ovulation or retrieval, the better, because the benefits of acupuncture are cumulative.  Three treatments to increase nourishing blood flow to the uterus and ovaries will be more effective than one treatment, however, acupuncture can always benefit the process, no matter when you start.

Acupuncture treatments for fertility ideally coincide with the phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle, as well as with any complementary treatments, which can include IUI (Intra-Uterine Insemination) and IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization).  Typically, it is recommended that a woman receives four acupuncture treatments during the menstrual cycle.

In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Acupuncture

On Cycle day One (your menstrual and IVF cycle coincide), a fertility doctor will start a woman on birth control to “quiet the ovaries”.  From a Chinese medicine perspective, this is a chance for a woman to accumulate resources, or build up a reserve of energy and blood, giving the body a rest.  A doctor might also use Lupron, which suppresses the whole system/cycle.  A fertility doctor also may elect to do nothing at this point.

On Cycle Day Three, a woman is injected with hormones to produce more than 1 or 2 follicles, which is a normal amount without additional hormones.  A larger amount of follicles is the goal; this is called the Follicle Stimulation part of the cycle.

For those women undergoing IVF, acupuncture treatments are given before egg retrieval and before embryo transfer.  If an IVF cycle is more than a month away, acupuncture and herbs can be used to build up a mother’s resources and correct imbalances in preparation for the coming cycle.

First Acupuncture Treatment: this treatment occurs sometime within cycle day 5-8 during Follicle Stimulation to help strengthen that process.

Second Acupuncture Treatment: This happens within cycle day 9-13, before retrieval. Within 24 hours of the retrieval is ideal, but within 48hrs is still effective. This is the same type of treatment as the first.

The retrieval, or the gathering of the new follicles, happens under anesthesia.  There is a period of 3-5 days between the retrieval and transfer, which is the inserting of the fertilized eggs back into the uterus via the cervix.

Third Acupuncture Treatment: this takes place at least 48 hours pre-IVF transfer.  If possible, an acupuncture treatment immediately before the transfer is ideal.  This treatment helps thicken the uterine lining and open the cervix to make it easy for a smooth transfer.

Fourth Acupuncture Treatment: this takes place 3-5 days post-transfer.  This is called the “implantation treatment.”  It is necessary to help an embryo attach to the uterine lining and begin to grow.

There are no necessary acupuncture treatments for a couple of weeks.  After a positive pregnancy test, a woman will receive treatment to help the new embryo grow, and reduce the chance of miscarriage.  If a woman gets her period, she can begin the process again, or receive treatment to rebalance and restrengthen the body to prepare for a subsequent cycle of fertility treatments.

Intra-Uterine Insemination (Artificial Insemination)

A woman may be taking hormones, like the medication Clomid, to produce more follicles, before she begins acupuncture treatments, or she may not be taking anything.

First Acupuncture Treatment: this occurs within cycle day 3-7 during Follicle Development to help strengthen that process.

Second Acupuncture Treatment: this happens within the 2nd week of the cycle, or pre-ovulation.

At this point it is likely that the sperm are “washed” and only the strong ones will be injected directly into the uterus.

Third Acupuncture Treatment: this happens 3-5 days after the IUI.  A woman will know when she is “peaking” or ovulating, and will do so within 24-36 hours.  The IUI is done at this point.  This acupuncture implantation treatment is key for helping embryos attach and grow.

Fourth Acupuncture Treatment: this can be done about 2 weeks after the implantation treatment.  It takes place after a positive pregnancy test, and helps reduce the chance of miscarriage.  If a woman gets her period, she can begin the treatment cycle again, or choose to rest and rebalance with or without acupuncture treatments.