The reasons for choosing In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) or Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) are as diverse and numerous as are the patients themselves, but what people do have in common is a deep rooted desire to love and start a family. IVF/IUI can be challenging as people invest time, energy, and money into a process that is still mysterious and constantly evolving as new technologies are used and innovations in hormonal protocols are made.
In a nutshell IVF (with variation of medications) timing, goes something like this etc. Follicle stimulating hormone is produced naturally in the body, and in women it is released during the follicular phase of menstruation – specifically the time from around cycle day 3 (CD3) until ovulation. In this time it is stimulating the ovaries to develop follicles, of which one will eventually dominate and be released at ovulation, to be fertilized in the fallopian tubes and eventually find its way to the uterus for implantation. (IVF) is when the ovaries are targeted with synthesized follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and other hormones, to produce as many mature follicles as possible in one cycle. Just before ovulation, these follicles are then retrieved at a clinic and mixed with sperm (or injected with sperm, as is the case with ICSI) to fertilize the eggs. Eventually the embryos are transferred back to the woman’s uterus to implant in the uterine wall and begin growing. All of this is really a long-winded way to say that your ovaries are hormonally boosted to make more eggs, the eggs are then removed, fertilized and put back for implantation to take place naturally.
Chinese medicine approaches IVF differently than it would other health situations, as it is not a condition, but a process or procedure. As I mentioned above, the reasons for using IVF are various and so in terms of health each patient will present in their own unique way. Our focus thus becomes to address underlying stress that may be affecting circulation and proper delivery of hormone treatments, improve sleep and digestion, regulate the immune system and increase overall blood flow and circulation to the reproductive organs.
What can acupuncture and Chinese medicine do to support the IVF/IUI process?
1. Relieve stress and improve sleep.
2. Improve pregnancy and live birth rates, as well as reduce miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy rates.
3. Support uterine lining and follicle development.
4. Balance hormones and improve response to ovarian stimulation. If there is commitment to dietary and lifestyle changes, acupuncture and herbs have been shown to improve ovarian response to hormones.
5. Reduce side effects of medications and procedures (bloating, mood changes, discomfort).
6. Support embryo implantation.
Acupressure For daily Home Application:
Acupressure is a useful and accessible way to treat yourself at home or on the go. Apply pressure on the point with middle finger or thumbs, moving in a circular motion for about 1 minute 3 or 4 times a day on both sides. If you find that your fingers are getting weak or sore, you can substitute a golf ball, pencil eraser or other object.
ST36 – Stomach 36 – ZuSanLi “Leg Three Miles”
This point is one of the most powerful on the body, and it is commonly used to tonify and nourish the digestive system, as well as build blood and energy and calm the mind.
Take home tips:
1. Use acupuncture once per week leading up to an IVF cycle, and twice per week during the stimulation phase. Also, treatments on transfer day have been shown to improve live birth rates.
2. Take care of yourself – eat well, sleep well, surround yourself with family and good friends, do things that you love.
3. Use castor oil packs, foot soaks and femoral massage to encourage blood flow to your reproductive organs.
4. Reduce your workload, focus on good sleep, and don’t exercise with too much intensity.