Acupuncture and Assisted Reproductive Technologies
Update November 2014, by Tim H. Tanaka, Ph.D. R.Ac., R.TCMP
A number of patients have been receiving acupuncture at The Pacific Wellness Institute while receiving medical fertility treatments such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). Our acupuncture protocols are adjusted based on the phase of IUI or IVF cycles
I will be undergoing IVF. When should I start acupuncture and how often should I receive treatment?
The recommended treatment schedule is based on consideration of various factors in your specific case. In many cases, we recommend that you start acupuncture treatment at least one to two months prior to the commencement of the IVF cycle and that you continue for one to two times a week until the day of the transfer. This acupuncture IVF schedule is also consistent with the recommendation and protocols used by American32 and Japanese33 advanced reproductive medicine centers.
My IVF cycle has already started. Is it too late to start acupuncture?
It is never too late to start acupuncture. While you would likely obtain more cumulative benefits from the treatment by starting earlier, it would be still beneficial to receive acupuncture in any phase of the IVF cycle.
What happens after the embryo transfer? Shall I continue acupuncture?
Many of our IVF patients request continuing their treatments after the transfer. That is because they found our treatment so relaxing and was helping them decrease anxiety while waiting for post IVF pregnancy test results. Our post transfer acupuncture protocol is similar to our gentle Phase 4 approach used during the late luteal phase, mentioned earlier.
Shall I come right after the embryo transfer?
On the day of the transfer, we usually suggest to our patients that they go home, relax, and do our recommended breathing exercises after the procedure.
I would like to get acupuncture according to the protocol used in a German study. What are your thoughts on this method?
In April 2002, German researchers reported that they had increased the success rate by nearly 50 percent in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) using acupuncture.34 As the study was highly publicized, the German protocol quickly became a “gold standard” acupuncture protocol during the IVF cycle and the protocol has been used by many acupuncturists. Following the 2002 study, however, other investigators35-39 as well as the original German group40 failed to replicate their findings. Systematic review studies that analyzed the efficacy of acupuncture (German protocol and its modified protocols) with IVF pregnancy rate showed conflicting results.41-43 We have never used the German protocol and many acupuncturists who are up-to-date in the latest research also no longer follow the German protocol. (See my earlier comments in 2002, regarding the German study here). It is important to keep in mind that most studies that tested efficacy of acupuncture during IVF are only related to the particular protocols used by the German group and most do not bear any relation to what would now be considered to be the best or most effective acupuncture protocol during IVF or the treatment of infertility.
Update November 2018: A systematic review study on the German acupuncture protocol has been published in October 2018.  Based on the results of meta-analysis of previous clinical trials using the German method, the authors do not recommend using this protocol with IVF procedure as this particular acupuncture protocol might negatively impact the pregnancy rate.
 Schwarze JE et al.: Does acupuncture the day of embryo transfer affect the clinical pregnancy rate? Systematic review and meta-analysis. JBRA Assist Reprod. 2018 Nov 1;22(4):363-368
Related Article: Acupuncture Points used in IVF Clinical Trials
Is there any additional benefit of receiving acupuncture during IVF cycle?
- Infertility and Acupuncture FAQ 1: Acupuncture and Reproductive Health
- Infertility and Acupuncture FAQ 2: Fertility Acupuncture Procedures
- Infertility and Acupuncture FAQ 3: Acupuncture and Assisted Reproductive Technologies
- Infertility and Acupuncture FAQ 4: Fertility Diet, Nutrition, and Lifestyle
- Infertility and Acupuncture FAQ 5: Infertility and Acupuncture References