Can Acupuncture Really Increase IVF Success Rates?

When you have fertility challenges and are trying to get pregnant, you naturally want to do everything you can to increase your chances of conceiving. If you're undergoing in-vitro fertilization, it can affect your mental health and compound stress. You may be anxious about beginning an IVF cycle and worry about the final outcome — hoping you will get pregnant but not knowing for sure if you will succeed (via the National Library of Science).

In addition, IVF treatments can be hard on the body. Hormonal injections can contribute to you feeling nervous and hostile. On top of all of that, you are living with the pressure of committing a large sum of money and physical and emotional effort in the hope that the next IVF cycle will be a success. Once pregnant, you may be concerned that the pregnancy will stick and be healthy.

Ironically enough, all of these stressors, individually and combined, can actually keep you from getting pregnant (via WebMD). One way to increase your chances of getting pregnant is to lessen your daily stress, and acupuncture is a practice that may help. 

Stress can have a negative impact on an IVF treatment

According to Dr. Sarah Berga, an infertility specialist, stress does more than many people think when you're undergoing IVF treatments. Berga tells WebMD, "We know now that stress hormones such as cortisol disrupt signaling between the brain and the ovaries, which can trip up ovulation." This is a self-protection mechanism for the body. Your body realizes that stress isn't an optimal environment for pregnancy so it does what it needs to do to avoid it.

However, the more you desperately hope, plan for, and wait to get pregnant, the more stress can build. IVF researcher Alice Domar agrees. "Women struggling with infertility have the same levels of anxiety and depression as women diagnosed with cancer or HIV," she tells WebMD.

For these reasons, anything that can be done to help quiet the mind and relax the body can aid in helping pregnancy occur, though that can be easier said than done (via The Bump). However, mindfulness can help you recenter yourself and allow stress to alleviate, and acupuncture can help foster mindfulness.

Research suggests acupuncture can help with successful IVF treatments

Acupuncture, a practice in traditional Chinese medicine, has been found to help improve the success rate of embryo transfers. It involves placing very small and thin metallic needles in key points throughout the body to create a balanced energy flow (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). An unbalanced energy flow is thought to bring on disease; it can also make it more difficult to get pregnant.

Acupuncturist Mary Sabo tells Pregnantish, "A lot of times as we age there's a breakdown between the ovaries and the brain and the way they are communicating, and acupuncture's been shown to strengthen that loop."

According to The Guardian, women who undergo acupuncture treatments may have a 65% improvement in IVF success rates. Furthermore, a study in the International Journal of Reproductive Biomedicine shows that acupuncture treatments done 25 minutes before embryo transfer were reported to "significantly increased the IVF outcomes in women undergoing IVF compared with no acupuncture."

Sabo says her patients get weekly treatments until they are about six to eight weeks into their pregnancy and a fetal heartbeat has been confirmed, though acupuncture can be done safely throughout the entire pregnancy.