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  • Writer's pictureRobin Acupuncture

Boosting Follicle Growth: How Acupuncture Improves IVF Stimulation

During the stimulation phase of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), your belly is going to experience more than its fair share of needles. Why then would you want to subject yourself to even more pokes through acupuncture?

Well, acupuncture can enhance the effectiveness of your injections and can lower stress and anxiety. The needle pricks are generally not considered painful, and most people find the treatment to be quite relaxing.

In my acupuncture practice, I also spend a lot of time on educating my patients on what to expect and also give tips to help boost your chances of success. You can think of me as your guide to help navigate the emotional ups and downs that inevitably accompany any IVF cycle.

IVF Process - Ovarian Stimulation & Egg Retrieval

In this blog, I will describe my acupuncture treatment protocol during the ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval phases of IVF. Acupuncture can also be very helpful for the developing sperm and for boosting the chances of a successful embryo transfer, but I'll discuss those topic in more detail on a later blog. If you're looking for more information about the various phases of an IVF cycle, please check out this blog post: "Demystifying the IVF Journey: Navigating the Phases with Confidence"

For most patients, my IVF stimulation treatment protocol can be grouped into four main phases:

IVF Process & Acupuncture


Phase 0: Priming Your Body with Acupuncture

3+ months prior to the start of IVF stimulation

Before starting IVF treatments, I highly encourage couples to optimize their chances of success by seeking acupuncture treatments to:

  • Address underlying medical conditions that might affect fertility (PCOS, endometriosis, anemia, erectile dysfunction, diabetes or high blood pressure)

  • Optimize your menstrual cycle

  • Enhance the quality of your eggs and sperm

The priming phase is particularly important for couples diagnosed with unexplained infertility. In many cases, I have helped couples diagnosed with unexplained infertility get pregnant naturally without the need for IVF. This helps couples avoid the physical and emotional toll of IVF, not to mention the financial impact. For more information on how acupuncture can help prepare your body for an upcoming IVF cycle, please check out this blog post: "When is the Best Time to Start Acupuncture when Considering IVF?"

Bottom Line: A successful IVF cycle starts well before the injections (and in some cases, you may be able to avoid IVF all together).

Phase I: Promoting Follicle Growth

First 5-7 days of stimulation

During the first few days of your stimulation phase, we don't have any blood work or ultrasound diagnostic information to understand how the follicles are developing. Also, drug side effects are generally pretty mild during this initial period. Therefore, the primary focus of acupuncture at this stage is to promote blood flow to the ovaries in an effort to enhance follicle growth. I will also typically target some acupuncture points that help regulate hormones, making it easier for your body to handle the sudden influx of hormones.

Bottom Line: Most patients should plan on one or two acupuncture treatments between the start of their injections and their first blood work.

Phase II: Growing Underdeveloped Follicles & Treating Side Effects

5-10 days before egg retrieval

The time between your first blood work and your trigger shot is a critical period for follicular growth. Luckily, your blood tests and ultrasound results give us a lot of information to help understand how your body is responding to the stimulation drugs. Depending on your results, acupuncture treatments during this phase of your IVF stimulation will focus on:

  • Balancing follicular growth between the left and right ovaries

  • Increasing the number of follicles

  • Growing the average follicle size

If you are curious about the growth of your follicles, the average size typically measures about 6mm after four days of stimulation, growing to about 12mm after 10 days of stimulation. Ideally, the follicles should reach about 15mm to 22mm by your egg retrieval date.

In addition to growing your follicles, by this point in your IVF cycle you may be experiencing a range of side effects including:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Bloating

  • Nausea

  • Headache

  • Hot flashes

  • Fatigue

  • Breast tenderness

  • Mood swings

Rest assured that these side effects are totally normal and can usually be manages with acupuncture.

Bottom Line: 2-3 acupuncture treatments during the later stage of your injections can help optimize follicle growth and manage drug side effects.

Phase III: Egg Retrieval Preparation

1 day before egg retrieval

By the time of your egg retrieval, you will have been pumped full of hormones and given daily updates on how your follicles are developing. Is it any wonder that most couples are feeling anxious leading up to their egg retrieval date?

While it is normal to feel anxious at this stage, stress hormones associated with anxiety can be counterproductive to the final maturation of your effs. Therefore, I strongly recommend that my patients come in for a final relaxation session the day before their egg retrieval.

In addition to calming your nerves, my acupuncture treatment will focus on promoting blood circulation to your ovaries for one last boost of nutrients. These are the crucial final hours we have to boost both the quality and quantity of your follicles.

Bottom Line: 1-2 acupuncture treatments in the 36 hour window before your egg retrieval can boost egg quality and quantity in addition to lowering stress and anxiety.


Final Thoughts

Acupuncture can boost the effectiveness of IVF stimulation by:

  • Increasing blood flow to the ovaries

  • Balancing hormones

  • Managing drug side effects

  • Reducing stress and anxiety

If you're looking to complement your IVF cycle with acupuncture, make sure to find an acupuncturist who focuses on providing fertility treatments. In my practice, I've helped many couples become pregnant by complementing their IVF cycle with a tailored acupuncture treatment protocol. In some cases, I've even helped couples avoid IVF by addressing their underlying health conditions before the injections start.

If you are interested in learning more, feel free to book an appointment using my online booking site.


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