More and more customers come for advice on IVF. I tried to summerize on how TCM helps with IVF today.
What is In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
Very basically, this is how it works. The woman’s ovaries are stimulated with drugs to produce a number of ripe eggs, which are then collected by a needle inserted through her vaginal wall. The eggs are then placed in a Petri dish in a special medium and mixed with a sperm sample that was provided while the eggs were being collected. Embryologists monitor the fertilization of the eggs and the development of embryos over the next 5 days. At the 5 day mark, one or two embryos will be returned to the uterus and any remaining embryos will be frozen for implantation during future cycles.
Couples using IVF have a pregnancy rate of 29 percent. Women younger than 38 have a slightly higher success rate (38% live birth rate) and those over 38 have a lower success rate (8-20% live birth rate depending on age). Women over age 42 have little chance of conception with IVF over natural methods.
How can TCM contribute to a good outcome in an IVF cycle?
According to TCM, various reasons cause infertility, mostly they’re “sheng xu” (deficiency of kidney), “gan yu” (depressed emotion),” tan zu” (stagnation of bad fluid), “xue yu”(stagnation of blood). TCM improves these conditions through traditional Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture to
-increase ovarian responsivity (and reduce FSH levels if they are elevated)
-increase estrogen levels if they are low
-enhance follicle/egg quality
-improve sperm vitality
-relieve side effects of drugs
-increase endometrium thickness where it is too thin
-increase implantation rates
Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine
Treatment with Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine does not influence the number of eggs ovulated but rather focuses on how well the eggs are nourished and stimulated to grow and travel down the fallopian tubes. It can also increase the number, motility, and genetic quality of sperm
The use of acupuncture has a very good effect and enhances IVF results. There is no restriction with its use. Acupuncture is useful in facilitating movement in the fallopian tubes and preventing spasm of the fine muscles in the walls of the tubes.
Acupuncture improves the outcome of IVF in four ways:
- Can alleviate the side effects of medical treatments and improve response to hormonal stimulation.
- Can improve the blood flow to the uterus and ovaries
- Can alleviate tension which is caused by these extremely stressful procedures
- Can calm the uterus to prepare it for implantation
When ovaries are functioning well, they are responsive to stimulation by FSH and the estrogen levels will be high. High estrogen levels prime endometrium development, stimulate more follicles and possibly contribute to better quality eggs.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for preparation of an IVF cycle:
TCM emphasizes quality over quantity in IVF clinics. Kidney-Jing (essence) is the quality of inheritance that is being ignored in IVF clinics. Some studies are showing an increased risk of low birth weight and birth defects in IVF and ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection) babies. TCM is free of side effects and risks to mother and baby, is time-tested, and holistic. One thing about TCM that patients should be patient with is the fact that it is a bit slower acting than most western medical procedures. Often women become pregnant in the few months that they are preparing themselves for the IVF procedure as a result of TCM.
Suggested Treatment Plan:
Time: 2 months of treatment at least, longer time is possible to be required based on patients’ condition.
Methods: Acupuncture together with Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine.
Frequency: 3 times in a week for 2-3 weeks at first.
1-2 times in a week afterwards.