I do my best to prepare women for the realities of IVF. The success rate is actually fairly low (around 20-30%) but a positive outlook can really help. After all, if some couples can fall into that percentage, then why not you! Recent research shows acupuncture alongside IVF to be beneficial. Other studies can be looked on the BAcC website
Below, I have tried to outline the ideal level of treatment required to support the IVF process based on my experience. I’m happy however to provide as much or as little treatment as couples feel they require.
Egg quality is determined 90 days prior to ‘ovulation’ as too is sperm quality. It is a good idea therefore, for couples to lead a healthy lifestyle to ensure they are in the best health possible. I do not advocate dramatic changes or extreme diets just clean healthy living. I give practical advice on how to ‘clean up your diet’ and reduce exposure to household chemicals etc that can disrupt hormonal balance.
For women, I suggest treatment every week -10 days. In some cases, we might look at doing the BBT chart. In short, the goal is to normalise the menstrual cycle and prepare you emotionally for what is to come. By feeling balanced and calm, it’s more likely that patients are able to stick to a healthy lifestyle, get good sleep and feel that they are easily able to cope with the IVF procedure.
Once the IVF procedure begins, I do offer some flexibility in cost. What is important to me is that my patients feel comfortable and supported and are given the best chance possible for a successful outcome.
The Down Regulation Phase
Down regulation can feel like really bad PMT. Not surprising really when the drugs are designed to take you to the brink of menopause. Whilst some women might only feel mild symptoms, some can really suffer. Treatment during this time is aimed at minimising symptoms and I simply offer as much or as little treatment as is required.
Also during down regulation, women will have their final period before implantation. Treatment is timed to coincide with the bleed to ensure a smooth period that enables the new endometrium to build up smoothly increasing the chances of implantation.
The Stimulation Phase
Having reached the brink of menopause, the ovaries are then super-stimulated! The IVF clinic will monitor the development of the follicles and adjust the drug regimen as appropriate. It does not necessarily follow, more follicles the better, it is quality that is most important. Acupuncture here supports the body and development of follicles. It also reduces the fluid build up which leads to the horrible bloated feeling that most women get.
Where possible, I like to offer a treatment both before and after egg collection. The afternoon or evening before so that the patient can have a good night’s sleep and feel relaxed going into the procedure, (which ultimately means it’s likely to be easier for the clinic to collect the eggs) and after the procedure to help reduce any inflammation caused by the clinician rummaging around in your uterus!
Again, where practically possible, pre and post transfer treatments are preferable. This is where most of the original acupuncture and IVF research was done.
The Two Week Wait!!
Post transfer can feel like an emotional no-mans land. The weeks leading up to transfer can be quite busy, injecting drugs and having scans but once it’s done then the wait for that all important test can seem to go on for ever. I like to see patients about 5 days after transfer. Simple treatment which we call a ‘holding treatment’ which is designed to maintain progesterone levels. I also think it’s a good time to check-in with patients to offer a bit of support emotionally.