Acupuncture is a safe and gentle modality to optimize fertility and prepare for a healthy pregnancy. Whether trying to conceive naturally or through ART, Acupuncture can be useful at various stages of the journey.
One of the most studied aspects is how it may affect results of embryo transfer during IVF. It has been shown that success rates for pregnancy increase by up to 42.5% when combining Acupuncture with IVF.
How to plan for your Treatment
If you’re new to acupuncture, I highly suggest meeting with your practitioner first for a consultation and having at least a few treatments before the embryo transfer date. If you plan on only booking an embryo transfer appointment there is usually not enough time for a full consultation as well.
These initial visits will allow your practitioner to have a detailed intake and formulate a diagnosis for treatment. Even though the points we use during Embryo Transfer Acupuncture tend to be quite similar for most women, it is always meant to be a holistic, customized treatment for each patient.
Realistically, it will also give you a better feel for what is involved and you can see how your body reacts to a treatment. Especially if you are very nervous (or afraid around needles). In that case its important to get the jitters out of the way earlier, so you will feel more relaxed on the actual transfer day.
What to Expect during your treatment
Actual treatments will vary by practitioner and their background and training. It will also depend whether you are having acupuncture on location at your fertility clinic, or at the acupuncture clinic. Usually treatments are planned to include the studied protocols, which state treatment timing as close to the embryo transfer as possible.
Most Fertility Clinics permit acupuncture on site, and many will have a dedicated room or area that is quieter and meant specifically for acupuncture. You will usually need to advise your clinic that you are working with an acupuncturist and they will pre-arrange extra time before and after the procedure. Once you are comfortably situated the first acupuncture treatment is done before transfer , usually 20-35 minutes in length. This will usually include a select combination of acupuncture points on the hands, feet, lower legs, torso and ears. You will probably be reclining in a lounger or hospital bed and lightly covered in blankets to keep warm.
Then, after the procedure your clinician may allow you to use the washroom (or they may not, depending on the specialist). Afterwards, the second set of acupuncture points is applied and you get to relax for another 20-35 minutes or so.
Timing for Treatments
Although the embryo transfer acupuncture treatments are usually done in a fertility clinic, sometimes this is just not possible or realistic for some women. Cost or timing may be prohibitive, or your practitioner may not be available for this type of “housecall”. In such cases, I sometimes treat women in my office on the morning of their embryo transfer. This is also usually a slightly longer and more relaxed treatment than it might be in the hospital/medical clinic environment. Afterwards, if they are near by they can either choose to come in for the post-transfer treatment later that day – or they can come in the following morning.
The Two Week Wait
I usually suggest at least 2 follow up acupuncture treatments during the “Two Week Wait” leading up to a pregnancy test. This serves to calm any anxiety and relieve stress around the test. Along with keeping the patient more relaxed, it may also serve to prevent the uterus from contracting. Later, during the first trimester regularly timed acupuncture treatments are suggested to strengthen the immune system and decrease the chances of miscarriage.
Choosing Your Acupuncturist
While acupuncture is now a regulated act available from a variety of professionals in Ontario – its important to note that not all acupuncture is the same. Registered Acupuncturists, TCM Practitioners and Naturopaths are trained in traditional acupuncture methods that are far wider in scope than many other acupuncture providers.
These others may include medical doctors, chiropractors, physiotherapists and massage therapists. Many of those practitioners focus on pain relief only – acupuncture for fertility is not within their scope.
While each practitioner has their own strengths and scope of training, it is important to know that fertility-focused acupuncture is a holistic approach based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. When choosing your provider, it is important to ask about their scope of practice and level of training in Acupuncture for Fertility.
Questions you may consider asking a potential provider:
- Is acupuncture for fertility within their scope of practice?
- Have they had additional training in acupuncture for women’s health and fertility?
- What percentage of their practice is fertility-related?
- Are they familiar with ART?
- Do they offer pre and post embryo transfer acupuncture?
Booking Your Appointment
Available for on-site fertility acupuncture for embryo transfer at all Toronto-area IVF clinics. This is a 2-hour appointment, which allows plenty of time for the pre and post treatments around your scheduled procedure. This appointment requires advance notice and cannot be booked online. Please call the office directly for more information and availability.
UPDATE: during the COVID-19 pandemic most Fertility clinics are not permitting on-site visits by Acupuncturists. For that reason we can also offer the pre and post transfer acupuncture treatments at our centrally located office in downtown Toronto. Please contact us to inquire about timing of the treatments.