Naturopathic Medicine and IVF: How a holistic approach can help improve your chances of success

IVF or In Vitro Fertilization is now responsible for 1% of all births in North America. This assisted reproductive technology is definitely on the rise and is something I come across everyday in practice. Patients seek support at Yinstill Reproductive Wellness because there is something missing from their treatment regimen at the fertility clinic. Often times women come into Yinstill wanting to know how they can complement their upcoming IVF, FET (frozen embryo transfer) or IUI (intrauterine insemination) cycle with natural treatments. We gladly welcome these women into our practice as there is lots that can be done naturally to support women through this process from a naturopathic standpoint. If you have an upcoming cycle of IVF or IUI, read on to find out how we can support you throughout this process.

When a woman is undergoing fertility treatments, her stress levels can skyrocket. IVF is associated with an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and divorce. No wonder! The cost alone would be a huge source of stress for anybody. Add to that daily hormone treatments and injections and you’ve got the perfect recipe for stress, anxiety, irritability, and strained relationships. What many people don’t realize is how their diet and lifestyle can affect and further perpetuate this stress response. But when we change the diet, correct nutrient deficiencies and implement stress management techniques, you are better equipped to handle the stresses of life and IVF. It might seem like a lot initially, but once you start implementing these positive habits into your life you will feel the difference and realize that it’s actually not hard at all. Remember that it always seems impossible until it’s done.

When you come to Yinstill to prepare your mind and body for your upcoming IVF cycle, we are able to discern the factors that can have the most impact on your wellbeing and success with this upcoming treatment. We are able to reduce your perceived stress levels, improve resilience to stress, improve overall sense of wellbeing, increase your nutrient status in the body, increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, and help you release both physical and mental tension. This way, each time you leave our clinic you feel a little bit less stressed and a little bit more vital – and these effects build more and more with each treatment. This is done in 3 main steps:

1. Release: This generally refers to letting go of things, both mental and physical, that no longer serve you. We generally start with food but this can also apply to emotions, trauma, habits, etc. Foods that don’t serve you are ones that are causing more stress and inflammation in the body, promoting weight gain, or disrupting the mircobiome (healthy gut bacteria). Due to the profound effects of the mircobiome on the brain and mental health, it is important to support a healthy gut through a healthy diet. There is also a huge connection between gut health and autoimmunity, and autoimmunity has been linked to recurrent pregnancy loss due to the autoimmune response causing the body to attack the embryo.

2. Restart: Some of the treatments that I provide at Yinstill can be thought of as “restarting” the body. We restart the nervous system using Bowen Therapy. This helps us uncover blockages (physical and emotional) and release them. We also restart the gut function by removing toxic foods and healing the lining of the gut as it is now known as our “second brain” and has tremendous impact on your overall health. Restarting often allows us to see where the true imbalance lies and helps point us in the right direction with treatment.

3. Replenish: Finally, we replenish. We load the body up with intravenous vitamins, nutrients, and minerals required for healthy eggs, a good retrieval, and for the maintenance of pregnancy in the first trimester. If necessary, we replenish the body with bio-identical hormones after conducting comprehensive testing that tells us exactly where there is a hormonal imbalance in the body that might be affecting your fertility or clinical symptoms. When indicated, we replenish the building blocks for neurotransmitters – the signalling hormones of the brain, which play a huge role in how we feel on a day to day basis. Neurotransmitters like serotonin – the “happy chemical”, or GABA, which is responsible for relaxation.

All of these combined treatments make up a holistic approach to complement the treatment you are undergoing at the fertility clinic. We have countless testimonials from women who have tried IVF with and without complementary interventions and felt the difference. Research looking at the effects of acupuncture on IVF outcomes showed that on average, women receiving acupuncture before and after embryo transfers had 20% more success (live births) than women who did not receive treatment. There is also evidence that diets and weight loss help to improve outcomes of IVF in women who are overweight, and at Yinstill we help you lose weight more effectively by considering hormonal fluctuations as well as the thyroid or other endocrine disorders that contribute to weight regulation. We also come up with a diet that is personalized for you, which takes the guesswork out of trying to figure out what and how to eat.

Once you book in with us, you will have an initial consultation where we will review your history. We proceed with some comprehensive testing to assess your overall health – testing geared toward thriving, not just surviving. At your second visit, we review personalized dietary recommendations, lifestyle recommendations, and overall treatment plan. To prepare you for your IVF cycle, I recommend starting with 3 Bowen treatments, followed by acupuncture 1-2 times per week, and weekly IV drips leading up to retrieval/transfer. The extent of the treatment plan depends on how much time we have to work together before your IVF cycle, which is why it’s best to start early. Our own clinical research shows that women receiving treatment for over a month leading up to their transfer day have lower perceived stress levels than women not receiving any complementary treatment. Furthermore, we can be there on the day of your embryo transfer to provide acupuncture treatment as we work with PCRM, Genesis and Grace fertility centres to provide this service to our patients.

I offer free 15 minute consultations to all prospective patients and would be happy to chat with you in more detail about your specific situation. I am confident that myself and the rest of the Yinstill team can help you through this process. To book your appointment, call 604-873-9355 or email

Looking forward to supporting you throughout your upcoming IVF, IUI or FET cycle!

In health,

Dr. Shilo


1. ANZJOG. 2011 Oct;51(5)455-459
2. Westergaard LG, Mao Q, Krogslund M, Sandrini S, Lenz S, Grinsted J. (2006). Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial. F ertility and Sterility. May;85(5):1341­6. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2005.08.070
3. Rong Zhang Ph.D., Xiao­Jun Feng B.S., Qun Guan B.S., Wei Cui M.S., Ying Zheng M.S., Wei Sun B.S., Ji­Sheng Han M.D. (2011) Increase of success rate for women undergoing embryo transfer by transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation: a prospective randomized placebo controlled study. Fertility and Sterility. Volume 96, Issue 4, Pages 912­916. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.07.1093
4. Wolfgang E Paulus, M.D., Mingmin Zhang, M.D., Erwin Strehler, M.D., Imam El­Danasouri, Ph.D., Karl Sterzik, M.D. (2002) Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertility and Sterility. Vol 77, No 4. doi:10.1016/S0015­0282(01)03273­3
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