Stress and Fertility
One of the trials that investigated the effect of acupuncture on IVF pregnancy rates also 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.” Domar said nobody knows how exactly acupuncture might boost IVF success, although she suggests that it has something to do with a woman's mental state at the time of embryo transfer.
This qualitative study found that most women who had acupuncture as an adjunct to IVF treatment reported increased well-being, reduced anxiety, and an increase in capacity to cope with the stresses of IVF and infertility treatments.
Aim: There is interest in the use of acupuncture as an adjunct to fertility treatment. This study aimed to examine women's attitudes and beliefs in relation to the use of acupuncture for enhancing fertility or as an adjunct to ART.
Resilience is an interesting and important concept when applied to couples doing IVF. Studies of acupuncture involving women dealing with chronic health issues have shown that women experienced relief of presenting symptoms but also increases in energy, increase in relaxation and calmness, reduction in the reliance of prescription drugs (such as analgesics), quicker healing from surgery, and increased self-awareness and well-being.
These authors working in a fertility clinic in the UK surveyed 200 patients who attended the clinic in August, 2009. They discovered that there was a clear demand for acupuncture and that acupuncture may be valuable to improve the general well-being of women during infertility investigations and treatments.
This paper, which was included above amongst those describing the embryo transfer trials, also investigated cortisol and anxiety levels before and after acupuncture was administered at precise points with either needles which penetrate the skin or "placebo" needles which prick the points but do not penetrate. No matter how the acupuncture was administered, cortisol and perceived anxiety were significantly reduced after the treatment.
While this study did not involve IVF patients, its conclusions nevertheless have relevance to women trying to fall pregnant with IVF. The study showed a clear relationship with higher stress levels and reduced conception rates. This may be one of the ways that acupuncture, which reduces stress hormones, can improve fertility.
OBJECTIVE: To assess salivary stress biomarkers (cortisol and alpha-amylase) and female fecundity.
This study examined the outcomes of IVF cycles for 800 women and found that the chance of success was related to chronic stress levels. They surmised that chronic stress levels may have a negative effect on follicle development in an IVF cycle. Since acupuncture has been shown to reduce stress hormones, this may be the mechanism behind its benefit for IVF patients.
A group of researchers from Hong Kong hypothesized that women who received certain interventions would experience a lower level of anxiety during the IVF treatment and therefore have better mental adjustment and psychosocial functioning during IVF. This programme included instruction on principles of Chinese medicine emphasizing body-mind harmony and stress reduction techniques, including tai qi and meditation. However it did not include acupuncture. They found that anxiety was significantly reduced in the women who followed the programme.