By Colette Assor Lic Ac MBAcC AFN

The preparation of the mind and body is an essential part of the journey towards successful fertility treatment and pregnancy

Acupuncture has been used for over 2000 years to manage health problems and support fertility, and there is growing evidence that integrating acupuncture into fertility treatment may offer a greater chance of success.

A recent high-level review and meta-analysis, the highest level of research of its kind, reviewed 3188 women from 12 randomised trials. The study revealed that acupuncture had a significant effect on birth rates of patients undergoing IVF and ICSI. The review further indicates that the effectiveness of acupuncture may be dose dependent, ie, a sufficient number of sessions over an adequate period of time. Whilst research is ongoing and is not conclusive, this study confirms that acupuncture may provide a fundamental supportive role in IVF treatment. (Research Source: The British Acupuncture Council www.acupuncture.org .uk)

Colette Assor, Registered Acupuncturist, spoke with Mr Colin Davis, Specialist in Reproductive Medicine and Medical Director of The Evewell Centre, to discuss his views on the role of Acupuncture alongside assisted reproduction treatment.

Could you tell me a bit about your work at the Evewell Centre?

“At the Evewell, we believe in a holistic approach to women’s health focusing on the underlying causes for problems and applying the most appropriate treatment.

We created a fully integrated centre dedicated to caring for and protecting all aspects of a woman’s fertility and gynaecological health. This is the first centre of its kind in the UK where we have fused together gynaecology and reproductive health to give women a more holistic approach to their care. “

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is now one of the most popular complementary therapies used alongside IVF treatment.

Acupuncture originated in the East and is part of a system of medicine referred to as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM.) It involves the insertion of ultra- fine sterile needles at various points on the body and works to restore the body’s natural equilibrium.

From a bio medical view point acupuncture works on the nervous system influencing the production of hormones and neurotransmitters. This can activate the body’s own internal regulating system stimulating its natural healing abilities promoting physical and emotional well -being.

Can you tell me more about your views on Acupuncture and IVF?

“I think Acupuncture offers a complementary role in health across the board, and certainly does in fertility and reproductive medicine. I am very excited by this study because anything that is complementary and supportive of the journey that leads to a positive outcome is very important.

I have found acupuncture to be an important component of the fertility treatment pathway.

I encourage a complementary approach and believe that acupuncture has the positive impact of improving blood flow to the pelvis as well as reducing stress and anxiety. There is also the evidence that it may help implantation of the embryos and the post implantation chance of success, improving implantation rates as well which is what this study alludes to.”

Emotional wellbeing during IVF

This research further indicates that acupuncture may be a suitable treatment to reduce stress and anxiety levels during IVF treatment.
Relaxation and emotional wellbeing are at the core of the holistic approach and patients often report feelings of deep relaxation and better-quality sleep after an acupuncture session.

“As doctors we often make things very clinical, but I do think an important part of our role is to provide support thereby reducing stress. I think acupuncture can really focus on reducing stress levels and hopefully improve implantation.”

What stages of the IVF cycle would you recommend patients to have Acupuncture?

“I think Prior to starting treatment it is important to find you are with the right person who you can feel supported by, I think consistency is very important.

During the IVF cycle, I would recommend that women see an acupuncturist at the start of their stimulation cycle and in particular just prior to egg collection and immediately after embryo transfer.

On a longer -term basis, it is sensible for an acupuncturist to help regulate the menstrual cycle and in particular to improve the blood flow to the pelvis. I do think that longer term preparation is extremely useful, approximately 8 weeks for working on blood flow with a minimum time of 4 weeks. “

Would you say you support an Integrative Treatment approach?

“I think it’s very important. What acupuncture seems to do is allow more of a balance of the menstrual cycle. I have seen on many occasions acupuncture when undertaken well, can regulate the menstrual cycle and make the process of getting pregnant much better.”

What are your views on safety in Acupuncture?

“I see Acupuncture as an extension of the clinical role of the doctor and the nurse. I think it is important for patients to be seen by a BAcC registered practitioner to ensure quality is maintained throughout.“

The British Acupuncture Council is the leading self – regulatory body of Traditional Acupuncturists in the UK. All members are degree level trained and abide by a strict code of professional conduct and ethics establishing and maintaining the highest professional standards of practise for acupuncture in the UK.

What advice would you give couples who are trying to conceive

“When I see a couple for the first time who have had difficulties getting pregnant, I believe in taking a detailed history to try and explore the underlying reasons. As well as the problems related to ovulation, male factor and pelvic factors. I also believe stress, lifestyle, dietary factors and work- related stress are important to identify. By understanding underlying causes, appropriate advice and treatment can be put into place. I normally begin with relevant investigations and tests to look for causes for infertility and then agree on a time frame to take forward the appropriate treatment. “

I would like to thank Mr Davis for taking the time to share his views on Acupuncture for Assisted Reproduction.

To contact Mr Davis at Evewell Centre, please go to www.evewell.com

Colette Assor Lic Ac MBAcC is a registered Acupuncturist practising at Acupuncture Works London and Vice Chair of The Acupuncture Fertility Network.

(This article was featured in 'IVF Babble' in March 2019)