Making the decision to start IVF can be a daunting one and acupuncture can be a helpful adjunct treatment to support you both emotionally and physically. Acupuncture treatments can be tailored to respond to each stage of your IVF cycle.
Some research has shown that acupuncture can increase your chances of success:
Acupuncture given with Embryo Transfer improves pregnancy and live birth rates
Acupuncture improves pregnancy rate after ART
Our collaborative experience has demonstrated that acupuncture has the ability to bring the body back towards normal functioning and help it to cope with the challenges of IVF.
Acupuncture works to support you in a number of different ways during IVF:
- Minimise the side effects of the drugs
- Increase the pelvic blood flow
- Balance the immune and nervous system
- Improve implantation rates
- Calm the mind
Each practitioner will vary their approach to treatment during the IVF cycle. Typically you will be asked to attend for treatment at various stages leading up to embryo collection and then pre and post embryo collection and transfer.
Although there has been much attention about receiving acupuncture within precise time frames around collection and transfer, it is important to remain flexible about this. The most important thing is that you remain as calm and relaxed as possible.
Acupuncture is a safe and effective method to support women in pregnancy who experience a range of symptoms, including:
- nausea and/or vomiting
- indigestion, digestive disorders
- haemorrhoids, constipation
- tiredness, lethargy, fatigue
- aches and pains
- high or low blood pressure
- dizziness, fainting
- oedema; swollen feet, legs, fingers
- headache, migraine
- back ache, sciatica
- pelvic girdle pain
- mood swings, depression
- poor appetite, food aversions and cravings, bitter taste
- rashes, itching, restless legs
- night sweats
- varicose veins
Labour with Acupuncture and Acupressure
Acupuncture for labour is not just about pain relief. An acupuncturist can help before, during and after labour. A birth partner can also help by learning useful acupressure points for labour (see below).
Labour is a process of many stages. The most wonderful aspect of acupuncture treatment is its great capacity to help to regulate and to balance the body’s functions. Labour is a normal bodily function, although it is an extra-ordinary experience. The labouring mother is in a very heightened state and her body is constantly adapting to the processes that allow the baby to move fluently down the birth canal and into being.
As obstetric acupuncturists, ACT members are specifically trained to use the acupuncture points to facilitate each stage of the labour and can help to progress and maximise function for a smoother and more efficient delivery.
Acupuncture is helpful for:
- augmenting contractions (promoting stronger more frequent contractions), especially when contractions slow down or stop due to emotional reasons
- Posterior cervix
- Cervical lip
- descending the baby through the birth canal
- Occipital Posterior position (OP), when baby is back to back
- smoothing the transition between the 1st and 2nd stage of labour
- improving stamina and energy during a long labour
- reducing shock in a fast labour
- preventing excessive blood loss
- promoting delivery of a retained placenta
It is well understood that acupuncture helps to increase endorphin release. Acupuncture in labour helps the mother to remain calmer and more focused, increasing her body’s capacity to produce endorphins and bringing a greater capacity to cope with the labour pain.
Acupuncture energises. This is an excellent adjunct to your labour, helping to refresh and revitalise your energy.
Using acupuncture during labour can often create time and space for the labour to progress of its own natural accord, without unnecessary medication.
In circumstances where an intervention is appropriate many couples find they appreciate the extra support of acupuncture.
ACT practitioners have a strong ethos of integrated care, and will always strive to complement the practice of your midwives and obstetricians. Decisions about how and when the acupuncture is used will always be based on the safest course of treatment for you and your baby.
All members of ACT London have undertaken extensive and ongoing training in treatment for antenatal, intra-partum and postpartum care and have a specific understanding of the use of acupuncture for pregnancy and childbirth.
One way of supporting the mother in labour is teaching her and her birth partner the acupressure points to use during labour. It is easy for the birth partner to learn how to find and stimulate the key points for labour.
This is helpful for the mother and also for the birth partner as it creates a feeling of usefulness, validation and involvement with the labour. Some couples have reported it a very bonding experience.
Acupressure can help stimulate endorphins, block pain receptors to the brain, dilate the cervix and increase the efficiency of contractions. It can also help with sickness and anxiety.
It is beneficial to have acupuncture treatment in the immediate days after childbirth. The demands of labour are significant, and acupuncture can help restore the body’s reserves of energy.
We strongly advocate that there be a full 40 days (6 weeks) of time to recover from childbirth. In Chinese Medicine, rest is considered the most vital nourishment to replenish the mother’s energy and to give her and her newborn the necessary time to bond.
Acupuncture treatment during these weeks can help with:
- restoring balance
- encouraging the uterus to contract
- minimising afterpains
- easing perineal discomfort
- balancing the hormone surges as the milk comes in
- ‘baby blues’ or post-natal depression
- breast feeding problems and mastitis
- post-partum bleeding
- regulating temperature swings, especially night sweats
- promoting healing of caesarean scar tissue, and any complications