Assisted reproductive techniques can be highly technical procedures and it is easy to feel that you are the object of a scientific process, and have little influence on that process or outcome.
However, there is a lot you can do physically and mentally to minimise side effects and enhance treatment, and help your body to recover afterwards.
Ideally, start to prepare physically at least four to six weeks before your treatment begins by:
- Improving your diet – avoiding chocolate, sugary foods, salty snacks, coffee, tea, cola. Include more vitamin C, E and selenium.
- Taking a good quality preconception multivitamin and mineral
- Drinking lots of water
- Sleeping or resting as much as you can
- Spending time practising deep breathing, relaxation or visualisation techniques
Many studies show that acupuncture at certain key points during your assisted cycle can help enhance the chances of conception (see the research listed below). The number of treatments can vary with each individual and their response to the assisted reproductive techniques, however, the following gives an overview of when and how many treatments we recommend:
On the long protocol cycle, during ‘down regulation’ or ‘suppression’, treatment can help support you if you are experiencing side effects from the medication such as headaches, breast tenderness, mood swings or irritability. If down-regulation has not occurred when it should, acupuncture can help encourage the process. We recommend 2 treatments during this stage of the cycle.
During ‘stimulation’, we recommend at least 2 treatments. The aim is to build up the kidney energy and support egg growth and establish strong uterine lining.
During egg retrieval/sperm collection, we recommend 1 treatment, particularly if you are feeling tender in the lower abdomen, or are suffering from abdominal cramps. During this treatment we can also begin preparation for the embryo transfer by opening the relevant acupuncture channels.
Before embryo transfer, we recommend 1 treatment as close as possible to the time of the transfer. The aim of the treatment is to provide improved blood profusion and more energy to the uterus, open the relevant channels, and calm the mind.
After embryo transfer, we recommend 1 treatment as soon as possible after the transfer. The treatment is aimed at enhancing endometrial receptivity as well as general relaxation.
In the days following embryo transfer, we recommend treatment to help calm the mind.
For further details about acupuncture and the research cited above please see the factsheet published by the British Acupuncture Council at http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/members-research-fact-sheets/1600-acupuncture-and-infertility-art.html
West Z Fertility & Conception: the complete guide to getting pregnant (2003) Dorling Kindersley
Dieterle S, et.al. Effect of acupuncture on the outcome of in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection: a randomized, prospective, controlled clinical study Fertility and Sterility2006 Apr 7
Westergaard LG, et.al. Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial Fertility and Sterility 2006 Apr 4
Smith C, et.al. Influence of acupuncture stimulation on pregnancy rates for women undergoing embryo transfer Fertility and Sterility 2006 Apr 4
Paulus, et.al. Influence of Acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy: Fertility and Sterility Vol: 77, No. 4, April 2002