Acupuncture originated in China more than 2,000 years ago, it is essentially the use of tiny sterile needles used to stimulate points in the body. The positioning of the needles is key to moving "Qi" or energy in the body and has been shown to help reduce stress and be effective in supporting health and reproductive outcomes.
It is believed that electroacupuncture helps to connect your physical and spiritual self. The treatment is designed to help you feel better physically but also to help you understand your qi and the surrounding energy on a more spiritual level. Recent research has also shown that an extension of acupuncture "electroacupuncture" is beneficial in supporting women undergoing IVF cycles or frozen embryo transfers.
Similar to traditional acupuncture, electroacupuncture uses needles placed in the same spots, with the addition of a small electrode attached to the needles. A small amount of electricity is then run through the electrode to produce a slight vibration or soft hum. This mimics your acupuncturist activating the acupuncture point with their hands and ensures that the right amount of stimulation is applied throughout the entire treatment.
Electroacupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow to the reproductive organs and in doing so improves the oxygenation and nourishment of the ovarian follicles. More blood flow means a healthier uterine lining and according to recent research assists with uterine receptivity.
In someone undergoing frozen embryo transfers (FET), electroacupuncture may promote endometrial HOXA10 expression (encouraging the hugging between the embryo and uterus necessary for implantation) and markers of endometrial receptivity. Recent research has shown that the use of electroacupuncture and supplementing with CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10) significantly improves ovarian reactivity, increases the numbers of retrieved eggs, optimises embryos and improves endometrial receptivity. Another study found that women who received electroacupuncture twice for 3 cycles before their FET had higher implantation, pregnancy, and live birth rates.
Acupuncture has an accumulative effect, as such, two to three treatments per week for several weeks before a transfer is ideal. To complement this treatment, Chinese formulations and probiotics can be prescribed to assist with egg health and implantation. A holistic and integrative approach can optimise outcomes for fertility and IVF.
Electroacupuncture helps to relieve stress and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. It can also block pain by activating bioactive chemicals in your body, which can lessen the sensitivity to the pain you are feeling and has been shown to help reduce inflammation. Research has shown that electroacupuncture may help your body release mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to your bloodstream, which are mostly found in your bone marrow. These cells are what help your body to create different types of tissues and have many healing properties. Electroacupuncture has also been found to increase the blood flow to the reproductive organs.
1. Does electroacupuncture hurt? No, it is a gentle form of stimulation to the acupuncture points. The aim is not to feel any discomfort, it will a produce sensation that may feel like a mild pulsing at the point of stimulation. People often report feeling of relaxation during their treatment.
2. How often during and before my IVF cycle do I need to come for an electroacupuncture appointment? To improve the success of your IVF cycle, it is recommended that you have electroacupuncture sessions twice weekly for 3 cycles prior to egg collection and then post egg collection, one session within 2-3 days of the embryo transfer.3. How does it increase success rates? One of the reasons electroacupuncture improves IVF success rates is because it helps to improve blood flow to the reproductive system. This increase of blood flow to the ovaries helps to carry the IVF medications to the ovaries, which is important in a fresh cycle, and more blood to the uterus, which helps build lining and uterine receptivity. More and more research is supporting the use of a holistic approach to optimise egg quality, support uterine receptivity for implantation success.
Before trying electroacupuncture, you can speak with your doctor or health care professional, to determine if this is the right therapeutic treatment for you. If you’re looking for treatment, it’s important to find someone like myself, who is qualified and experienced in performing this technique.
Rebecca Tanner is an Acupuncturist, Naturopath and Midwife who enjoys blending eastern and western healing traditions and has decades of experience treating women with a wide range of health concerns.