Assisted Conception

Sperm injected into egg, ICSI dish

Supporting conception 

Fertility treatments and protocols help people achieve their goal of starting a family. I work with couples and individuals to successfully undergo Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART).  Ideally I work with couples and individuals for at least 3 months before treatment commences, preferably 6 months. This level of pre-treatment begins the process of preparing for pregnancy and provides optimal results. I work with you closely and provide regular acupuncture during your fertility treatment and afterwards. Acupuncture at key times has been shown to provide positive results.  

Navigating assisted fertility 

Going through ART can be a daunting experience. There is a lot to consider. Choosing the right clinic for you and the best tests and investigations for your individual needs. Maybe you are preparing for your first round of ART or have already had multiple unsuccessful rounds and are looking for things to be done differently this time. The various ART techniques include IUI, IVF and ICSI and some clinics carry out more specialist procedures for example Male Factor Infertility investigations such as DNA Fragmentation, Testicular Biopsy and Testicular Mapping.  Some clinics specialise in treating women between 38-44 years and some clinics same sex couples. 

This is where I can help you. We talk through different procedures and how acupuncture can support different ART techniques. Knowing which questions to ask the fertility clinic: their success rates, the different procedures and protocols, investigations and tests.

This empowers you to be proactive in your relationship with the fertility clinic and ask for the information that will allow you to make informed decisions – making sure you receive individualised treatment that best suits your needs.  Fertility treatment is definitely not one size fits all as there are different reasons couples and individuals embark on ART. I work closely with couples and individuals before, during and after fertility treatment.

Woman holding positive pregnancy test

Acupuncture before fertility treatment begins

For the majority of my patients, both couples and individuals, I provide regular treatments before ART treatment commences so you begin your treatment healthier and more physically and mentally prepared for the challenges it may pose. We work together to change underlying health conditions and implement dietary and lifestyle changes that have been shown to increase fertility. We create optimum conditions and environment for fertilisation and implantation of the embryo. Acupuncture can help mature the follicles and maximise the quality of your eggs before collection. Treatment also increases blood flow to your uterine lining which aids successful implantation. 

Optimising hormone levels takes time, and when there have already been multiple failed rounds of ART, further tests or investigations are necessary and there is time to have these can be done. When results warrant it, and with the correct medication or treatment, miscarriage rates can be lowered and it becomes possible to carry a baby full term.

Acupuncture supports key stages in assisted conception

There are now different methods available to support conception and pregnancy. For example, IUI and ICSI are variations on IVF, as are frozen and a donor egg cycles. I can speak with you more fully about the protocol you have opted for but the general stages in IVF involve – 

Preparing for Fertility Treatment

I support patients when they are preparing for their fertility treatment by regulating the menstrual cycle and hormones, increasing blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, balancing the immune system so implantation is favourable and reducing cortisol levels which aids relaxation and further balances sex hormones. 

Down Regulation  (Long and Short protocol) 

This phase involves taking medications that stop your ovaries from being stimulated by hormones produced in your body. It is similar to putting your menstrual cycle on hold.  Your ovaries are paused with the aim of controlling ovulation and egg maturation. Depending on when you begin down regulation drugs you may have a full period or scanty, light spotting.  Acupuncture treatment focuses on clearing old blood from the uterus and allows a healthy new lining to grow and support the pregnancy. Side effects from down-regulating medication such as sweats, anxiety irritability and headaches can also be successfully with treated with Acupuncture. Treatment during this phase can also reduce the risk of over stimulating the ovaries (OHSS). 

Stimulation & Collection 

During Stimulation multiple follicles in the ovaries start to develop and mature and a new uterine lining grows and thickens.  Acupuncture at this stage supports your body by promoting blood flow to the ovaries and uterus.  Treatment at this time can also reduce symptoms experienced due to Ovarian Hyper-stimulation and minimise them for the remainder of the pregnancy. When the eggs have matured and the lining is thick enough, the eggs are collected. During this phase I usually treat patients 2 to 3 times.  It is at this stage the sperm is also collected. 

Embryo Transfer 

After egg and sperm collection, they are carefully selected and monitored closely for fertilisation and development. Embryo transfer will usually take place at Day 3 or Day 5.  At this stage acupuncture is given preferably within a few hours either side of embryo transfer. IVF studies are mixed as to how successful the impact of acupuncture is at this phase.  What is known is that acupuncture during this phase can regulate cortisol and release endorphins, which in turn reduces stress and promotes relaxation.

Two week wait  Depending on your reasons for acupuncture to support your fertility, I treat 2-3 times during this period. Treatment is not solely focussed on implantation but involves relaxation during this stressful period, promoting sleep and wellbeing in order to maintain your mood and energy levels.  Regular treatment may continue until the end of your first trimester of pregnancy.  It is important to wait the full 2 weeks before taking a pregnancy test as the hormones given during your fertility treatment can give a false positive if testing is too early. 

Research supporting acupuncture & ART 

A growing body of research and evidence supports acupuncture as an adjunctive therapy to IVF and other ART treatments. Please contact me if you would like references to studies relevant to your particular situation. 

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