Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Treatments for IVF Assistance

IVF Assistance

Preparation and support during Assisted Reproduction Treatment and IVF.

Acupuncture is the most commonly used complementary treatment alongside IVF treatment, and has become integrated into many of the best fertility clinics across the world. Acupuncture has been shown to significantly improve the outcome of a successful IVF treatment, see research here.

I have been providing acupuncture to patients of the leading IVF clinics in London for over 15 years, and have supported couples through over 1000 IVF cycles. Having been a senior practitioner at The London Acupuncture Clinic I both have an extensive specialist knowledge in this field and can offer a comprehensive service allowing patients to receive their embryo transfer day acupuncture 7 days a week (including bank holidays) from The London Acupuncture Clinic.

My practices at The London Light Centres Monument and Belgravia allows for convenient access to these services for those based in greater London.

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can also help improve the success rate of IVF in cases where assisted reproduction such as IUI, IVF, ICSI or donor cycles cannot be carried out successfully or not at all due to poor ovarian or uterine conditions or poor sperm function.

In women, reasons for delay or failure of assisted reproduction techniques can include:

  • raised FSH
  • low ovarian response to stimulation
  • thin endometrial lining (not thickening above 7 mm)
  • non-receptive lining  (repeated IVF failure despite high quality embryos)
  • presence of fluid in the uterus. 

A Chinese medicine perspective

In clinic, we look at available modern medical test results, such as hormone profiles and scan results, other blood tests if relevant (such as thyroid) then we will ask detailed questions relevant to the Chinese medicine diagnosis and treatment; questions about the menstrual cycle, ovulation signs and symmptoms, premenstrual symptoms, how the menstruation is and so on. We ll ask to look at any Basal Body Termperature (BBT) charts if they have been carried out or ask the patient to start one.

Based on our Chinese medicine diagnosis we can advice on an individual treatment plan. When a patient comes in advance of their IVF, we are looking at improving certain symptoms such as easing menstrual pain or changing menstrual blood from scanty dark flow to a fresher flowing blood. Ideally patients come in well in advance to their IVF treatment so that we can check (from the perspective of Chinese medicine) if there is anything that can be improved. 

Common abnormalities that we find are

  • abnormal hormone profiles: high FSH, high oestrogen, low progesterone, high Lutenizing hormones;
  • abnormal symptoms in the menstrual cycle: short and scanty periods, no fertile mucus at ovulation time, spotting in the luteal phase, bad premenstrual symptoms, bad period pains.
  • abnormal BBT charts: the follicular phase may be too high or too low, slow ovulation rise indicating unruptured follicle and thus failure in ovulation, low or short luteal phase, or no change in temperature indicating no ovulation took place. An important part of our work is to correct the Basal Body Temperature to enhance the fertility status of a woman. In necessary we may ask a woman to check her blood levels with a blood test to see if they are consistent with the BBT chart.

Chinese medicine can improve the function of the ovaries, leading to better hormone levels and response during stimulation.  

In Chinese medicine we look at improving hormone profiles (for example high FSH, high oestrogen, low progesterone, high Lutenizing hormones) as well as symptoms manifesting in the cycle (such as short and scanty periods). We aim at correcting the Basal Body Temperature which is a reflection of the two hormones oestrogen and progesterone.  

Chinese medicine can increase the blood flow to the uterus and increase the thickness of the uterine lining (endometrium).

Improving ovarian function and the hormones oestrogen and progesterone as well as improving the menstrual cycle will lead to better blood flow to the uterine lining thus will improve the nourishment and thickness of the lining. Research has confirmed that acupuncture can improve the blood flow to the pelvic artery (measured in PI values).  [Steiner Victorin et al (1996) ‘Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries of infertile women with electro-acupuncture’, Human Reproduction; 11 (6);1314-7]. 

Chinese medicine can decrease the side effects of the drugs used in IVF.

Many women suffer from headaches during their down-regulation, and find acupuncture very helpful.

Chinese medicine can help decrease the chances of miscarriage.

Once a patient is pregnant we normally treat her for the fist trimester to help establish the early pregnancy and avoid miscarriage.

Chinese medicine can improve the quality and ‘energy’ of sperm and is helpful in the preparation of ICSI.

Experience and research shows that Chinese medicine can improve sperm quality and that it is a helpful treatment prior to a partners ovuation or egg collection.

Chinese medicine and acupuncture greatly enhances the outcome of IVF.

Research has suggested that using acupuncture with IVF increases the pregnancy rate by nearly 50%. A 42% clinical pregnancy rate was achieved in the acupuncture group compared to a 26% in the control group that did not receive acupuncture. “Acupuncture may affect the autonomic nervous system involved in the control of muscles and glands and thus may make the lining more receptive to receiving an embryo” the researchers concluded. Paulus WE, Zhang M, Strehler E, El-Danasouri, Sterzik K (2000) ‘Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients undergoing assisted reproduction therapy’, Fertility and Sterility, Vol77, `no 4.

Chinese medicine and acupucture relieves stress and calms the mind.

Many of our patients treasure the relaxation they get whilst having acupuncture in the stressful, times of IVF. They also value discussing their treatment and asking questions they may not be able to ask their IVF clinic, often because there is never enough time to do so.

Failure of Implantation: the role of Chinese Medicine in IVF

Conditions of the fallopian tubes or uterus affect implantation and the early growth of the foetus.  The fallopian tube or the uterus might have excess fluid or mucus on the surface that makes it difficult for the embryo to transverse, implant, or flourish.  This excess fluid is called dampness in Chinese medicine, and aim of treatment is to clear any excess fluid with herbs or acupuncture. 

The endometrial lining might not provide an even surface with appropriate sites for attachment, implantation, and growth.  In Chinese medicine this is often diagnosed as Blood stagnation (poor microcirculation in the uterus).  Blood stagnation is best treated during the menstruation to ensure a thorough discharge of the old endometrium and smooth remodelling of fresh endometrial tissue.

Some women have too thin an endometrial lining that cannot sustain a growing foetus.  Here herbs and acupuncture are given particularly after the period to aid the rebuilding of a thick uterine lining. Thin endometrial lining can be a very frustrating side effect both of the use of clomiphene/clomid particularly in older women and during an IVF cycle where a thin lining <7mm can stop the embryo transfer. Women who have this problem maybe advised to take Chinese herbal medicine and have acupuncture to improve blood flow and nourishment to the endometrium. Often we find a systemic ‘Blood or yin deficiency’ or 'heat' that may need to be resolved to improve the lining.

How to get the most out of Chinese medicine during an IVF cyce  


Ideally, patients come well in advance to their IVF treatment to have a consultation with us to see if any parts of their reproductive health needs to be improved. In some cases the women are only required to come back to us once their Western medicine treatment starts (see IVF support). In other cases a treatment plan is agreed. Particularly the process of sperm maturation and follicle recruitment takes about 70-90 days. Thus any treatment aimed at improving egg and sperm quality and quantity requires at least three months of treatment prior to an attempted IVF cycle. As well as the egg and sperm production, any correction of gynaecological conditions or abnormal symptoms takes time.

Support during IVF treatment

We recomend weekly acupuncture treatment when the woman starts her hormone treatment. The aim is to play a supportive role to the medication a woman takes. Blood flow to uterus and ovaries is thus improved and medication can easier act upon those organs. 

Any side effects such as headaches or mood swings and flushes can be dealt with as they arise. Women find the stress relieving action of acupuncture very helpful in this stressful time.

Many women also appreciate having someone professional to talk to about their experience or to answer any of their questions, as many IVF clinics are too busy to explain the IVF procedure in detail to their patient.

Acupuncture is very beneficial at enhancing the receptivity of the uterine lining, thus treatment to increase the thickness and blood supply to the endometrial lining is always included.

Embryo transfer

Acupuncture treatment using a selection of acupuncture points that has been well researched (German protocol) is carried out as near to the embryo transfer time as possible to enhance the chance of a successful implantation.

Treatment is given just before and just after the embryo transfer. Points are choosen to relax the uterus and improve blood flow to obtimize conditions for implantation.

Research has suggested that using acupuncture with IVF increases the pregnancy rate by as much as 50%. 


For the latest research please see research, case studies and testimonials.


Belgravia London Clinic

Central Bath Clinic

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