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Traditional Chinese Medicine works well in combination with Assisted Reproductive Technologies employed by Western Fertility Medicine to facilitate pregnancy.  It has been firmly demonstrated that Eastern and Western medicines used together work better than either Western or Eastern medicines used alone.  These techniques include In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF),  Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI), Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT), and Zygote Intra-Fallopian Transfer (ZIFT).  Traditional Chinese Medicine prepares a woman’s reproductive system to be optimally receptive before, during, and following an ART technique, by correcting hormonal imbalances to improve reproductive function, by redirecting Qi and blood to the reproductive structures, by reducing stress and by clearing blockages.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a process by which eggs obtained through retrieval are fertilized by specially prepared sperm within a laboratory setting. The process involves stimulating follicular development, retrieving eggs from the woman’s mature follicles and then fertilizing the eggs with donor sperm outside of the body in a laboratory. The fertilized eggs are then allowed to develop for three to six days before being transfered into the uterus, or frozen for later transfer.  The eggs are transferred into the uterus where implantaton takes place one to several days after transfer.  Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI) is the process of injecting selectively optimized sperm from the donor father into the uterus just prior to ovulation in order to achieve a more natural fertilization and implantation.  Western medicines are used in the process to control follicle maturation, uterine development, and ovulation.  Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) introduces a single selected sperm into a retrieved egg for fertilization to take place, followed by transfer of the egg into the uterus at 3 or 5 days.  Zygote Intra-Fallopian Transfer (ZIFT) is the placement of a fertilized egg within the Fallopian tube, and Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT) is the same for the placement of a non-fertilized egg along with specially selected sperm cells into the Fallopian tube where fertilization will take place.  The specific ART procedure used will depend upon your infertility diagnosis and will be decided upon by your doctor and yourself.

Traditional Chinese Medicine used with Assisted Reproductive Technologies for the treatment of infertility, optimally begins before the Western procedures have begun, correcting constitutional imbalances in advance to achieve a state of harmony and optimal reproductive health.  The time for this preparatory work is ideally one to three months, although women come to Eastern medicine with shorter available times with good results.  In this way the patient benefits from optimal reproductive health prior to the specific ART procedure.

Consistency of treatment before the transfer cycle begins, throughout the transfer cycle, and following transfer is paramount for maximizing the potential for successful implantation and a healthy full term pregnancy.  Additionally there are “day-of” pre-transfer, and post-transfer protocols that can be performed at most fertility clinics.  A commitment to a regular schedule of treatment should be made for results consistent with expectations.

Below are listed the many ways in which patients undergoing ART can benefit from Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture:

  • Increased blood flow to the uterus and ovaries.
  • Enrichment and thickening of the lining of the uterus.
  • Regulation of reproductive hormones to improve the quality and quantity of follicles and eggs.
  • Minimization of the unwanted symptoms of IVF and the medications used.
  • Reduction in the stress leading up to ART proceedures, and afterwards.
  • Decrease in the chance of miscarriage and increase in the chance of a successful implantation and a healthy full-term birth.
  • Prevention of post-transfer uterine contractions and miscarriage.

Scientific research on the supportive effects of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture when used with Assisted Reproductive Technologies continues to stack up.  The cornerstone Landmark German Study in April of 2002 by Wolfgang E. Paulus compared pregnancy rates of two groups of women undergoing IVF. The group receiving acupuncture 25 minutes before, and 25 minutes after embryo transfer had a pregnancy rate of 42.5% compared to 26.3% for the non-acupuncture group.  Another study in May of 2006 in the research journal Fertility and Sterility noted that acupuncture administered during the luteal phase of patients undergoing intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection increased the incidence of clinical pregnancy from 15.6% to 33.6%, and ongoing pregnancy from 13.8% to 28.4%.  A very good article from WebMD summarizes the case made for the efficacy of acupuncture used in conjunction with IVF, and an article published in January 2012 on research conducted at Tel Aviv University, states that women with an average age of about 38 years who had received acupuncture in conjunction with IUI had a clinical pregnancy rate of 65.5% compared to 39.4% for the control group who received no acupuncture.  For a link to an OB-GYN’s experience using acupuncture to help her conceive, click here.  Here is an excellent article published by WebMD describing the “Standard Protocol” for pre- and post-transfer acupuncture, the protocol that I incorporate with my patients on the day that they undergo their ART procedure.  Most fertility facilities will allow Acupuncture treatment to be delivered within their offices prior to and following an ART procedure.  Check with your fertility specialist.

For the statistics on local and National Fertility clinics, click here.