Studies show that acupuncture can reduce inflammation, regulate your hormones, improve blood circulation and calm your nervous system, so it is the perfect adjunct to your IVF protocol. Superfine needles are used at specific points on your body, which are usually below the elbows and knees, and on the abdomen. These needles work alongside your protocol to complement your medication.
When should I start acupuncture if I am having IVF? When you meet your partner and start planning your children, you don’t expect those plans to include tests, scans, injections, and all of the waiting. You may feel grief for the loss of the road to pregnancy that you presumed you would take. Acupuncture can give you the space to take a moment to acknowledge that grief and accept that you need medical support to help you on your journey. The ideal scenario would be to start your acupuncture 3 months prior to your treatment, but the next best thing would be to start as soon as you can.
It can take years of trying naturally before you get to the stage of researching IVF clinics. Some couples use acupuncture to prepare themselves for their protocol before they start their protocol. Your clinic will have tested your baseline hormone levels so they can decide which protocol will provide the best quality mature eggs. Acupuncture gives your body time to address any underlying health concerns, improve sperm parameters, boost blood circulation to the uterus, balance hormones and get your head into the right space for your journey ahead.
During your down-regulation phase (also known as the long protocol), you will take medication that sends a message to your pituitary gland to stop releasing Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). This hormone does what it says on the tin and stimulates the follicles in your ovaries. It will also suppress a hormone called Luteinising Hormone (LH) to stop you from ovulating naturally. These hormones are suppressed so that your clinic has more control over your cycle, and is a bit like turning off your computer and turning it back on again. You will have a period during this phase, and acupuncture can help to fully eliminate your uterine lining, and improve blood flow so that you can develop a fresh, thick healthy lining ready to implant your embryo. Acupuncture can also help to reduce any side effects of your medication such as headaches, bloating, hot flushes, or the feeling that you are going a little bit crazy.
During the stimulation phase, your medication will be asking your ovaries to produce lots of mature follicles. You usually stay on your down-regulation drugs at the same time as being stimulated because your clinic wants to prevent spontaneous ovulation. Acupuncture will help to optimise your uterine lining, increasing the blood supply ready for implantation. The medication can leave you feeling bloated because you are producing more follicles than you would during your own natural cycle. You will be scanned during this phase, so I can adjust which acupuncture points to use in accordance with the results of your scans. So, if one ovary was producing fewer follicles than the other, I might use a warming herb (moxibustion) on your abdomen to help increase the production of follicles. My role here is also to give you the space to address all of your worries. The nurses at your clinic will have heard everything and will be able to answer any question or concern that you have, but I find that because I have been working so closely with you, you find it easier to work through your anxieties during your therapy session.
When your follicles have reached the right size, you will have a ‘trigger injection’ which will mature the eggs in preparation for egg collection 36 hours later. Egg collection is the most invasive part of the protocol and will require sedation or a light anaesthetic, so post collection is when you need the most nourishing treatment. Your acupuncture session will help your body to recover from the egg collection, which may have left you feeling a little tender. I will also continue the work to prepare your womb for implantation, and I will be there for any worries you have about the number of eggs collected - but remember, it is always quality over quantity.
Embryo transfer is a very straightforward procedure, and even though you will still be taking some medication you have done most of the hard work now. You will not necessarily know when your transfer is because that will depend on how your embryos are developing, but your clinic will keep you up to date on their progress. It is optimal to have an acupuncture session just before and just after your transfer (on the same day) - but if it is stressful for you to be running around and squeezing everything in then book either a pre or post-transfer and I can give you self-care techniques and visualisations to work with.
The two-week wait before your pregnancy test can leave you feeling a little lost. You have had months of tests and scans and appointments, and will have been closely monitored by your IVF clinic, and now it may feel like you are on your own. You will likely go on ‘symptom watch’; sway between green smoothies and banoffee pie; fall in and out of love with Dr.Google; check the loo roll every time you have a wee, and generally lose your damn mind. If you feel a little anxious or untethered without any appointments in the diary, now is a good time to up the self-care or to book yourself a therapy appointment.
During this time, I will focus on nourishing your nervous system using CranioSacral Therapy. I will also give you the space to express all of your fears and hopes, so they are not simmering under the surface. There tends to be a sense of breath-holding while you wait for your test; booking a therapy appointment will help to alleviate your anxiety, and calm your nervous system.
Unfortunately, you are not guaranteed to get the outcome you want no matter how ‘good’ you have been or how much you want it. You will be able to talk to your IVF clinic to get feedback about why it didn’t work (although sometimes, science just doesn’t know why), and to talk about the path ahead. Having a therapy session will allow you to get real about how you are feeling. No emotion was ever successfully brushed under the carpet (believe me, I’ve tried), so at some point, you will need to feel your pain and disappointment. Processing your emotions will clear the path if you do want to continue along the IVF route, but taking care of your emotions is important for your mental health whether or not you want to try again. If you have been having acupuncture throughout your protocol then your general health will have improved as a side product of the fertility focus, which will put you in a better position if you did want to try again.
Congratulations! Depending on their journey, some of my clients are shouting it from the rooftops, and others are tentatively holding their breath waiting for the 6-week scan, or the 12-week scan, or the 20-week scan. Some won’t dare to believe it is true until they are holding their baby in their arms. Depending on your path so far, it may not feel safe to rejoice in the pregnancy, or to connect with your baby, and that’s normal. Working with a therapist will help you to acknowledge and normalise your fears and help you to connect to your baby in different ways. And, some women have such a difficult pregnancy with sickness or insomnia or physical pain that they are robbed of their radiant Instagramable pregnancy glow. Not every woman (or person) will get to bask in their pregnancy, but booking acupuncture treatments will help give you the extra physical or emotional support you need.
At Blossom Natural Health, you don’t just get the benefits of acupuncture, you also get a space to be free to express all of your fears and desires, specific self-care tools to use in-between sessions (most of our 12 tips for falling pregnant naturally will still apply even if you are on the IVF route), and my 20 years of experience to support you along every step of your journey.