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Acupuncture the day of Embryo Transfer

Since 2002 randomized controlled trials have shown that doing acupuncture right before and right after an embryo transfer (ET) can significantly increase the pregnancy rate.

The latest data about the usage of acupuncture within the US population is a survey done by the National Health Interview Survey of 2007. The study, published in 2012 by the journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, found that 6.3% of the U.S. population had tried acupuncture. Out of those, over 95% believes that acupuncture is used only for pain management. Very few understand that because acupuncture helps the body reach a state of homeostasis, it can treat, essentially, every disharmony. Helping a woman prepare her body and mind to receive an embryo during a frozen (or fresh) embryo transfer procedure is no exception.

Over 20 years ago Wolfgang E. Paulus, M.D. created a randomized study using a standardized acupuncture protocol to evaluate the effect of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in assisted reproduction therapy (ART) by comparing a group of patients receiving acupuncture treatment shortly before and after embryo transfer with a control group receiving no acupuncture.

The results, published in April of 2002 by the Journal Fertility and Sterility by American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), showed a

42.5% pregnancies rate for the acupuncture group and only a 26.3% pregnancy rate for the control group (no acupuncture).

Since then, multiple studies have shown similar results. In 2006 a study titled “Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial” concluded that:

Acupuncture on the day of ET significantly improves the reproductive outcome of IVF/ICSI, compared with no acupuncture.”

A more recent study published in March of 2020 by the International Journal of Reproductive Medicine, titled “The effect of acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer on the in vitro fertilization outcomes” concluded that:

Our findings showed that acupuncture 25 minutes before ET significantly increased the IVF outcome in women undergoing IVF”

Unfortunately, the study also concluded that:

Repeating acupuncture 25 min after ET did not improve the IVF outcome in comparison to the control group”.

After taking a closer look at the study, I noticed that they were using exactly the same acupuncture points before and after the ET, including abdominal points (Ren-6, Ren-4). It is well understood in the acupuncture fertility community that abdominal points should be avoided during pregnancy. For example, the study done by Wolfgang Paulus in 2002 (mentioned above) uses abdominal points before the ET, but not after the ET.

Furthermore, a meta-analysis published in 2008 by The BMJ - a weekly peer-reviewed medical trade journal, published by the trade union the British Medical Association, looked at some of the most well-done studies around the topic of acupuncture done the day of embryo transfer (ET). The meta-analysis, which included the studies of Benson, Dieterle, Domar, Paulus, Smith and Westergaard, concluded that:

Current preliminary evidence suggests that acupuncture given with embryo transfer improves rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilization”

In Conclusion

There’s a lot of data available to justify doing acupuncture before and after an embryo transfer procedure. Some fertility clinics provide their own acupuncturist to do this procedure, some allow you to bring your own acupuncturist and others don’t allow either. In case of the last scenario, the patient would have to go to the acupuncturist’s office for the before and after acupuncture treatment.

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