Stress and anxiety levels can be significantly higher during IVF treatment, particularly if the woman has tried multiple times to conceive without success. This is because reproducing is one of our most compelling biological urgers and the inability to do so causes stress that can profoundly affect our wellbeing. If the stress is ongoing then the body starts to produce hormones and chemicals such as cortisol, adrenalin and inflammatory cytokines. This puts our body further away for the ideal state to fall pregnant. Unfortunately, like a vicious cycle elevated stress and worry during this period can further increase the chances of the IVF treatment being unsuccessful.
Does stress during IVF treatment reduce our chances of conceiving?
Research has shown that women who are more stressed during IVF procedures have lower embryo implantation rates (Gallinelli A et al. 2001), as well as higher chances of miscarriage (Demyttenaere K et al. 1988). Research has also shown that stress contributes to the development of menstrual problems affecting fertility including PCOS and other ovulatory disorders such as FHA (functional hypothalamic amenorrhea) (Kisdon W, 2011). Numerous research papers have demonstrated the negative relationship between stress and IVF outcomes and IUI outcomes (Demyttenaere K et al. 1988). It has been demonstrated that women who undertake measures to actively reduce their stress levels have a significantly greater chance of experiencing a successful IVF outcome (De Liz T et al 2005). Depression can also affect IVF outcomes with one research article revealing that women who do not feel depressed before starting IVF treatment conceive twice as often as women who are depressed before treatment (Al-Homaidan H. T. 2011).
The effect of stress on men can also affect the chances of a successful IVF treatment. For Example, studies have demonstrated that semen quality if greatly affected by stress during an IVF cycle (Clarke RN et al, 1999).
Can acupuncture help to reduce stress during IVF treatment?
Acupuncture is an excellent stress reduction therapy which can significantly reduce your stress levels and improve your general wellbeing to increase your chances of having a successful IVF treatment. Acupuncture has been shown to raise endorphin levels and reduce the stress hormones including adrenalin and cortisol (Jensen L et al.1982; So EW et al. 2009). Our patients frequently comment on how relaxed their mind and body feel following an acupuncture treatment giving them an increased capacity to cope with the stresses associated with IVF treatment.
One of the trials that investigated the effect of acupuncture on IVF pregnancy rates collected data on the subjective experience of these women. The authors write “Acupuncture patients reported significantly less anxiety post-transfer and reported feeling more optimistic about their cycle and enjoyed their sessions more than the control subjects”. Nobody knows how exactly acupuncture might boost IVF success, Domar said, although she suggests that it has something to do with a woman’s mental state at the time of embryo transfer. (Domar A et al. 2009)
Another research study aimed to determine if acupuncture affects the levels of perceived stress at the time of embryo transfer, and whether either acupuncture or changes in stress levels play a role in the success rate in IVF. The patients who received acupuncture in this study had both higher rates of pregnancy, and lower levels of stress both before and after embryo transfer. They postulated that reducing stress at the time of embryo transfer could result in less vasoconstriction and improved uterine receptivity. (Balk J et al. 2010)
One other qualitative study study found that most women who had acupuncture as an adjunct to IVF treatment reported increased wellbeing, reduced anxiety and an increase in capacity to cope with the stresses of IVF and infertility treatments (Smith C et al. 2008).
Are there any side effects from treating Stress during IVF treatment with Acupuncture?
No, acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine for sciatica is very safe. Some patients may experience some drowsiness or slight bruising. It is also safe and very effective for pregnant woman with sciatica.
How many sessions of Acupuncture are needed to help with stress during IVF treatment?
This depends on the individual but usually acupuncture is recommended once or twice a week before, during and after IVF treatment or as required.
How should I approach Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatments?
Approach Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine with an open mind and the knowledge that it has the power to open doors Western medicine may not be able to, by working with doctors to deliver the best treatment to you.
Al-Homaidan H. T. (2011) Depression among Women with Primary Infertility attending an Infertility Clinic in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Rate, Severity, and Contributing Factors. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 5(2): 108-115
Balk J et al, (2010) The relationship between perceived stress, acupuncture, and pregnancy rates among IVF patients: A pilot study. Complement. Ther Clin Pract; 16(3):154-7.
Clarke RN et al, (1999) Relationship between psychological stress and semen quality among in-vitro fertilization patients; Hum Reprod; 14(3): 753–758
De Liz T., Strauss B. (2005) Differential efficacy of group and individual/couple psychotherapy with infertile patients. Hum Reprod; 20:1324-32
Demyttenaere, K., Nijs, P., Steeno, O. et al. (1988) Anxiety and conception rates in donor insemination. J.Psychosom.Obstet.Gynaecol., 8, 175–181.
Domar A et al. (2009) The Impact of Acupuncture on in Vitro Fertilization Outcome. Fertil Steril; 91(3): 723-6
Gallinelli A, Roncaglia R, Matteo ML, Ciaccio I, Volpe A, et al. (2001) Immunological changes and stress are associated with different implantation rates in patients undergoing in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer. Fertil Steril 76(1):85–91
Jensen L, Jensen S, (1982) Effect of acupuncture on tension headache and urinary catecholamine excretion. Scand J Dent Res; 90(5):397-403
Kisdon W, (2011) Polysystic Ovary Syndrome. Autralian Doctor June 24th.
Smith C and De Lacey S, (2008) Understanding Women’s views towards the use of Acupuncture while undergoing IVF treatment. In press; FSA conference 2008
So EW. Ng EH. Wong YY. Lau EY. Yeung WS. Ho PC. (2009) A randomized double blind comparison of real and placebo acupuncture in IVF treatment. Hum Reprod; 24(2):341-8A