Acupuncture for IVF – What to Expect

Many women first hear about acupuncture to support IVF when they are about to start a cycle or in the middle of a cycle of IVF. It can be overwhelming dealing with everything that you have going on with your treatment cycle, not to mention the hormones that can impact you emotionally and physically. In this article I’m going to walk through what to do if you are thinking about acupuncture for IVF.

Research on Acupuncture for IVF

One of the most well-known studies for acupuncture for IVF was published in 2002, by Paulus1 it showed that there was a significant improvement in results if patients had acupuncture treatment before and after their embryo transfer.

Over many years since then there have been additional studies 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7  many that reinforce the findings in the original study and a couple that aren’t quite as positive. Often the less positive results were shown when people were also travelling to receive their acupuncture which may have been adding additional stress to their day.

A quick note on Acupuncture Research: research in acupuncture has a number of areas that need to be taken into account, including the idea of a placebo and how that can be controlled in an effective way. This article on the British Acupuncture Council website includes some more information on some of the considerations of acupuncture research.

I’m also more than happy to discuss this with you if you’re interested in the details.

With more than 12 years of experience working with women and couples through their IVF cycles I’ve found that we need to consider a few things when starting acupuncture for IVF.

Finding an Acupuncturist

Some of the things to think about when you are looking for an acupuncturist to support you through your IVF are:

Their qualifications and training

Professional Standards Authority - Accredited Register Logo

In the UK acupuncture is not statutory regulated. Which means that there is no legality around calling yourself an acupuncturist. Including how much training you need to get started. Instead we are voluntarily self-regulated. You can find out more about this in my post about acupuncture regulation in the UK here.

It’s important that you check with your acupuncturist to find out more about their training and qualifications. This is so that you feel comfortable with their experience and safe with the standards and practices that they are working within.

I completed my degree in 2010 and am a member of the British Acupuncture Council, which is an approved register on the Professional Standards Authority. I’ve also completed post-graduate training in Fertility and continue with professional development every year to make sure that I am aware of the lastest research and information. I’ve also completed a certificate in Fertility Coaching which helps to manage the wider picture of what it’s like to be faced with infertility and how it can impact all areas of your life. You can read more about my qualifications and training here

So how do you find someone that you are comfortable to work with?

Many people come through word of mouth – so it can be worth asking friends or colleagues who may have also gone through IVF if they have any recommendations.

British Acupuncture Council Member Logo

You can also search for an acupuncturist close to you using the Practitioner search page on the British Acupuncture Council website (and you can see my listing here )

I also recommend speaking to a couple of people and choosing the one that you feel most comfortable.

You can book in a free Q & A call with me at any time here.

Their experience in Fertility acupuncture for IVF

When you have found an acupuncturist, you may want to give them a call and have a conversation with them about your situation and get a feel for how they work. Most acupuncturists will be very happy to have a free chat on the phone to answer your questions. This can be a good time to think about what questions you might want to ask (more on this below) and get a feel for what it will be like to work with them.

It can be helpful to work with an acupuncturist who specialises in fertility acupuncture. Although the basis of our treatments are similar to a general practitioner, fertility acupuncture specialists have a broader experience of working with many people in a similar place to you and they will have a better understanding of the treatment process from a Western perspective. It is the holistic support that a fertility acupuncturist provides over a more general practitioner that many women find valuable as they are going through IVF.

Their location – how easy will it be for you to get to

The location of your fertility acupuncturist is important. When you consider that you will also need to be travelling to appointments at your fertility clinic.

It could be helpful to find an acupuncturist who is based closely to your clinic so that you can combine appointments in one trip (especially if you are travelling a distance).

Or for many people it’s handy to have someone closer to home. So that after your acupuncture treatment you are able to easily get home without having to face a long commute.

Check with your acupuncturist what their opening hours are and how flexible are they with appointment times, especially for the acupuncture treatments around the time of your embryo transfer.

How they approach fertility and acupuncture for IVF

Although generally we know of acupuncture as the treatment itself and the needles. We work with a whole system of medicine that includes looking at other lifestyle factors, including your nutrition, exercise, relationships, mental and emotional health.

Would you like to have additional guidance on these areas? Many people do – as it can be difficult to know what to do with the wealth of information out there.

Do you want someone who is strict and prescriptive, giving you clear instructions on what you need to do?

Or would you prefer someone who works in more of a coaching and collaborative style to work with you to help decide on what changes are appropriate for you?

Acupuncturists will have different styles and one may be better for you.

I work in a collaborative. Working with you as a team to put together a plan that fits with where you are right now. Often you have already made a lot of changes and we want to look at how they are helping to nourish and support you. Not causing any additional worry or stress trying to keep up with everything.

This is where the value of fertility coaching comes in and we incorporate this into your treatment plan.

How you feel having acupuncture with them

Acupuncture clinic treatment room with soft sunshine coming through the window. Garden view and comfortable furnishing

It’s also important about how you feel when you are having your acupuncture treatments. What feels best for you. Is the room clinical or homely? Is the space welcoming and comfortable or can you hear everything going on in the room next door?

For me I like to feel comfortable and warm when I’m having acupuncture and to know that my practitioner is around, either in the same room or close by so that I can speak with them at any time.

I also offer a combination of massage and acupuncture as part of my fertility acupuncture treatments. This gives you a relaxing start to the treatment. You are in a calm and relaxing environment, with music in the background and always warm and covered, never laying there feeling exposed.

It’s the little things like this that build to make an acupuncture treatment enjoyable and not just another thing that you feel like you have to cross of your fertility to-do list.

When should you start coming for acupuncture for IVF?

Acupuncture is a course of treatment, not really a one-off event. Although the study that I mentioned earlier (and how many people come across acupuncture for IVF) involved 2 treatments I generally don’t recommend this. It’s not to say that it won’t help – and if that is where you are – with your transfer looming next week and you feel like acupuncture would be good for you – please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

As a minimum I would like to see you before that transfer day. Your first appointment includes taking a full consultation and medical history. One of the things that I really value about acupuncture (both for myself and for my clients) is that it’s an individualised treatment. Your acupuncture is tailored to you specifically, what is going on for you in the past, where you are in your IVF cycle and how you feel on the day.

We want to do that initial consultation and treatment ahead of time so that I can make sure your treatment is tailored for you and so you can feel comfortable in coming for acupuncture and getting the most benefit from it. You can find out more about what to expect at your first acupuncture treatment here.

If we have time in advance it is helpful to have treatments in the months ahead of your IVF cycle (3 months is a recommended amount of time). But if you are further along and closer to your IVF cycle than that – we can still work together and support you through your treatment.

Flexibility is important for IVF Acupuncture

One of the things that my experience in working with patients going through fertility issues and IVF is that we need to be flexible.

As much as we’d love to be able to plan everything out and know exactly what is happening when – it doesn’t happen that we.  It could be that your period doesn’t arrive on schedule and so your cycle is delayed. That your scan shows that the follicles are smaller than expected and it’s going to be a few more days before your egg collection. These are all very familiar situations that we can be faced with. So, flexibility is the key.

I offer flexibility in appointment times, especially around your embryo transfer days and will often need to add in additional times in the morning or later in the evening so that we can fit things in.

You will also need to be flexible too. It may mean leaving work early – taking a longer lunch break. Whatever is needed for you to prioritise the time for yourself for some acupuncture. If you know that you are likely to be starting your IVF cycle at your next period and you haven’t been to see me before, or perhaps not for a while – please get in touch sooner than later – so that we can be sure to make sure that there is space for you in the calendar and can support you through you IVF.

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