Liz Richards, L.Ac., MAcOM has been treating fertility patients with Traditional Chinese Medicine in Portland, OR since 2002. Here are ten IVF tips based on her clinical experience with patients receiving acupuncture at Blossom Clinic while undergoing IVF at Oregon Reproductive Medicine.
As a general rule, the way you treat your body three months prior to trying to conceive is more important than anything you can do right now to boost your fertility and increase your chances of getting pregnant. This has been a clinical observation of mine for years, and I am lucky enough to have colleagues who are now documenting this statistically with clinical research.
Most of our patients visit us weekly, and as they reach their goals, the visits taper down. We recommend a minimum of three menstrual cycles of treatment for both women’s and men’s fertility support.
To find the practitioner that is right for you, here are some things to look for in a fertility acupuncturist:
- An acupuncturist who has specialized in and had continuing education in fertility. Most acupuncturists can use acupuncture points for fertility but not every acupuncturist can treat it well!
- An acupuncturist who has experience working closely with other healthcare practitioners like nutritionists, naturopaths, reproductive endocrinologists, OB/GYNs and midwives. And the experience to know when it’s appropriate to refer out to other healthcare professional.
- An acupuncturist who uses herbal therapy within the treatment plan.
- An acupuncturist who can also treat your partner (or at least can refer you to an acupuncturist who can treat male infertility).
- Does the acupuncturist have good reviews online?
- You can get a good sense of an acupuncturist with a simple phone call. Call around! We offer free phone consultations because we believe this step is incredibly important.
For more information on IVF and Acupuncture, click here.
At Blossom Clinic we run a successful fertility support group for women. According to Anne Dolan, who facilitates the group, “Repeatedly, group members have shared with me that they don’t feel so alone with their struggles with infertility anymore. They get so much from being with other group members who ‘get it’.”
Not only are participants giving positive feedback but the research supports the short- and long-term benefits of support groups. Alice Domar, who runs the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health associated with Boston IVF has done extensive research on how stress affects fertility. Her research has shown that support groups not only reduce stress but also lead to greater pregnancy outcomes.
According to the authors of Infertility Counseling: A Comprehensive Handbook for Clinicians, “Research has shown infertility group treatment to be both effective and cost-efficient.” Also, groups provide “Curative factors … especially the instillation of hope, universality, cohesion, information sharing, and catharsis.”
To find a list of infertility support groups, ask your RE for a referral, or visit RESOLVE’s website.
3. Have acupuncture on the day of your embryo transfer.
Embryo transfer day is crucial in IVF, which generally results in mixed emotions for patients, including excitement, anxiety, fear and stress. Research indicates that increased stress levels lead to a lower number of fertilized eggs, successful pregnancies and live births.
Here in Portland, acupuncturists go to the fertility clinic with you on the day of transfer and give acupuncture directly before and after the embryo transfer. Does your fertility clinic allow an acupuncturist there on the day of transfer?
This treatment stimulates the autonomic nervous system. From an energetic viewpoint, it also relaxes the muscles of the uterus, calms the mind, and increases the flow of Qi, or energy, in the uterus.
There are some things we don’t have control over, but we do have control over what we choose to eat! When you are nutritionally and energetically imbalanced, your body spends a lot of energy trying to get it back on track. This takes away from the energy your internal organs need to conceive. By eating nourishing foods you are helping your body to function more efficiently.
“Warm foods” in Chinese Medicine means limiting raw foods, like fruits and salads, and no ice water. Your diet should be leaning in an energetically warm direction with around 80% of your diet warm, especially in the Fall and Winter. This keeps the qi and blood coursing through your organs, allows your energy to go where it needs to go and keeps your “jing fires” burning.
Here at my clinic, I provide a list that breaks down warm foods into categories – your acupuncturist should have a similar list they use. My downloadable Nourishing Fertility e-book goes into more detail about “warm foods” and even provides a recipe!
5. Eat pineapple with the core before, during and after bed rest (around implantation).
If you are reading fertility blogs or talking with other women going through IVF, you have probably heard of eating pineapple around embryo implantation. You can cut the pineapple into fifths, cross section-wise, and eat 1/5 per day… with the core.
The main nutrient in pineapple that may contribute to this effect is bromelain. Bromelain is an enzyme, meaning it helps reactions take place in the body. When taken with food, bromelain helps us break down and digest our food. When taken on an empty stomach, bromelain has some other effects on the body including acting as a blood thinner, anticoagulant, and an anti-inflammatory agent, all of which may help an embryo implant into the uterus.
If you don’t fancy eating an actual pineapple, we recommend supplementing with bromelain capsules. Take it from Day 5 to Day 10 post-ovulation. The bottle will last you a whole year, but hopefully you won’t need it that long!
6. Give yourself at least two days rest post embryo transfer.
This is based on my clinical experience. It is very important to take a break from the daily grind and allow your body to focus on implantation without everyday life stressors. Also, keep your torso and feet warm during this post embryo transfer rest period. Think of yourself as an incubator.
7. Laugh during your post embryo transfer resting period.
Yes, you read that right. There was a funky little study done in Israel where they had “medical clowns” in the room for IVF patients. Patients with the clowns had higher success rates! Laughter has been shown to reduce stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine, and to enhance effectiveness of immune cells. No wonder this study came out the way it did.
Have your favorite funny movies on hand during your bed rest. There is plenty of comedy on TV – some of my favorite shows are Modern Family, Mindy Project and New Girl.
8. Receive acupuncture after your embryo transfer and continue acupuncture during the first trimester.
After you’ve had your two days of rest and requisite laughter, visit your acupuncturist! At this time, the acupuncturist can do lifting and holding points, like GV 20 and Si Shen Cong, to help keep the implanted embryo holding in place. They should keep it simple and not use points that are too stimulating.
Receiving acupuncture during the first trimester will relieve anxiety and can resolve digestive issues, like first trimester nausea. Sometimes herbs are indicated and should only be taken through the direct advice of your acupuncturist.
I am a huge fan of guided relaxation exercises. Basically, they teach you how to fully relax your body. And, if you listen to them regularly, you will eventually be able to bring yourself to that state of relaxation at will, and more quickly when needed. I know from personal experience that this works.
This practice is important for both males and females, since we know stress affects fertility in both men and women. My recommendation is to lie down for 10-30 minutes each day and listen to a guided relaxation like Circle and Bloom’s free trial download for fertility. Other favorites are Alice Domar, Belleruth Neparstek, and Leslee Kagan.
10. Expect the Unexpected and Use Positive Affirmations:
Remember that nearly every IVF cycle has something unexpected happen and usually everything works out OK despite the minor glitch. So when that thing happens, remember what I said and acknowledge that this is your “one thing”.
This is also where positive affirmations are beneficial. Here are a couple of affirmations that you can repeat every day. I recommend that you close your eyes and repeat each one several times using a variety of inflection. Really feel these statements in your body as you speak.
“I am fully capable of getting pregnant and holding a healthy pregnancy.”
“I am healthy and strong and my body is not broken.”
For more on this, check out the Nourishing Fertility: An A-to-Z Guide e-book.