Acupuncture Increases IUI And IVF Pregnancy Rates

Tracy Malone ND shared her latest data soon to be published on how her integrative fertility group looked at 10 years of data of women going through IUI and IVF cycles using an integrative fertility approach

The integrative care consisted of conventional fertility workups and treatments by medical doctors plus naturopathic medicine and/or acupuncture.

The women receiving a series of 3 or more acupuncture sessions in a cycle and before and after IUI or IVF transfer has the best increase in pregnancy rates compared to just conventional treatments alone.

I had the privilege to chair the 2021 Integrative Fertility Symposium and moderate Dr. Malone’s presentation to a large group of fertility experts from around the world. After her presentation, I was given the opportunity to interview her research to share with the public which is below.

Transcripts from Video

Acupuncture increases IUI and IVF pregnancy rates – New Data June 2021

Hello, my name is Lorne Brown and I’m the clinical director of Acubalance Wellness Center in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. And I’m also the chair of the Integrated Fertility Symposium, and I have with me now Dr. Tracy Malone, a naturopathic doctor, the co-founder and medical director of Conceive, located in Toronto, and she, recently gave an excellent presentation as one of the pop-up lectures for the I FS, and I asked her if she could create a little lecture or if I could interview her for you, the public. So you can understand what’s happening with respect to integrative care, with our goal to help you get pregnant faster and better, meaning healthy babies.

Tracy, can you give us a little background and then we’re gonna talk about how you have data for the last 10 years of your integrative practice that is showing an increase in pregnancies in an IUI setting. So in inter insemination, almost like a natural pregnancy and also in an IVF setting.

But can you just give us a little background and then tell us about your data? 

Sure. Yeah. Great. Thanks Lorne, for having me. My name’s Tracy Malone. I am a naturopathic doctor. I practice at a clinic called Conceived Health, which I co-founded with Dr. Jennifer Fitzgerald back in 2011.

We are one of the only clinics that involve an integrative care model. And so in this model, we put the clinic inside of the IVF clinic, because that’s where all the action happens. And basically over the last 10 years, we refined our adjunctive and preconception complimentary program such that we are sharing medical charts with our REI’s in the clinic.

And we’re collaboratively treating the patients towards their positive outcomes. And so in the most recent sort of two, three years, we retrospectively went back into our shared EMR and started collecting some data on pregnancy outcomes in both embryo transfers and intrauterine insemination.

And indeed we did see an increased pregnancy rate both in embryo transfers and IUI. And I think what’s even more interesting is that acupuncture specifically did stand out in the data of having a significant effect on both transfers and IUI success rates. And so that’s kind of where this data came from.

Do you want me to show some of the slides? 

Yeah. And, and as you look for the slide, so when somebody’s doing acupuncture, for example, and naturopathic care. Because our clinics have some similarities. We’re not inside the IVF center full-time like you are. We are on site for transfer days in Vancouver and we have that integrative model where we are.

Constantly sharing and discussing with the IVF clinic. So we have that integrative model, but we’re physically separate except for transfer day. With your transfer days and your acupuncture treatment. So let’s talk about that. Is it one treatment? Is it a series of treatments?

Can you share what that looks like? And then some of the people watching this may be new to what naturopathic doctor or, so what does that look like? What are you doing from the naturopathic side and from the acupuncture side, please? 

Yeah, so, on this slide it really shows this was in 2019 and 2020. We’re just looking at any touchpoint with a naturopathic doctor. So it could be an initial consultation, which would involve fertility assessment and testing, nutritional assessment and testing body composition. You would get a nutritional plan that’s personalized to you and your partner, as well as nutraceutical or supplement recommendations that suits your case.

And we also have an in-house acupuncture program, so for patients that are coming in and doing monitoring cycles, or IUI cycles, we’re actually able to see the blood work and ultrasound in real time when the patient comes in after they’re monitoring, and you could potentially change your acupuncture protocol as needed based on constitutional points.

And so when we started collaboratively doing this, what we ended up seeing was that when patients were coming for an embryo transfer, specifically on this slide, we saw between a five and a half and a six and a half increase in pregnancy rate. When you look at acupuncture alone with embryo transfers, this is where we started to really kind of tease out the data, is that, when patients were doing cycle acupuncture, which would be defined as having at least three treatments within a cycle, so three acupuncture treatments within a cycle monitor, an IUI or an embryo transfer.

When they did cycle acupuncture, which is more of the traditional practice, like, the more cumulative treatments, the better the effect. We saw a 13.2% increase in embryo transfer pregnancy rates. When we just did pre, we saw pre transfer acupuncture. So just on the day of transfer, and this would all be onsite inside their clinic, um, it was an 11.3% increase. Post transfer, just doing an acupuncture treatment after embryo transfer, we saw an 8% increase. So clearly the cycle, the full cycle acupuncture was the one who showed the greatest effect. 

If you go back to the slide, I wanna bring up one thing. It’s really interesting. There was a meta-analysis, the Australian group and the Smith and Armor looked at their data and they showed that if you did three, minimum of three, that’s where they saw the increase in pregnancy rates, not just transfer day. And you said in three? And I shared with you earlier, off camera, when the fertility clinic here in Vancouver all looked at our data for two years, it was when we did a series of treatments leading up to transfer plus transfer where they saw a significant increase in pregnancy rates and lower miscarriage rates as well. So yeah, we’re seeing this start to show that dosage matters when it comes to acupuncture, I think. 

Absolutely. And I think that’s really keeping in line with, you know, the traditional Chinese medicine parameters. It wasn’t something you did once and then stopped, you know, it was something that you did repetitively over a period of time that would change your constitutional sort of baseline. 

And then you said you had some data on just looking at an acupuncture in a… was it in an IUI setting? Are these non-medicated IUIs or medicated, or are they considered both?

It would be a collection of both. So we didn’t differentiate between non-medicated or natural IUIs or medicated. We grouped them all together. And so this, the data here was equally as good. So with IUI patients who did acupuncture…

And this one has a naturopath and acupuncture, right?

Sorry. Yes, that’s right. So this particular slide shows any touchpoint with an ND so it could have been an initial consultation plus acupuncture, or either or, or both. So if there was any type of touchpoint with an ND, they saw an 11% and a 9% increase in pregnancy rate in 2018, 2019. When you look just at acupuncture alone, again going into this is IUI and acupuncture alone, people who did cycle acupuncture, saw 15.2% increase. And so this was kind of the perplexing bit about the data was that people who did pre IUI saw 32% increase in pregnancy rate, people who did post IUI alone with 31%. I would also say that a lot of these two categories would also be in here.

So from now on that you’ve looked at data for over 10 years, are you now… in the IVF clinics that you’re working with, are you incorporating acupuncture or recommending it more based on what you’ve seen? 

Yeah, I, I’ve seen, well definitely in the past few years for sure, there’s been a massive uptick in. The amount of frozen embryo transfers that are being done, right? So now they estimate about 80% of transfers are frozen versus fresh. And that’s a real digression from where we were. I would say even five to seven years ago, we were doing maybe 50-50. And the perception really was that fresh is best.

Now that’s really changed. Um, our REIs are really looking at wanting to shed that particular endometrial lining that was exposed to IVF medication. And a lot of people are opting for genetically testing those embryos. And so we’re ending up with a lot more frozen cycles. 

The freezing technique changed too, right? Because back in the early days when I started in 2000, it’s been a while now, they didn’t have the vitrification, so they wanted the fresh because the embryo couldn’t do well with the thaw. And now that the embryo can thaw easily, they don’t have that loss of embryo in the thaw. They like it because the ovarian environment is normally not so stimulated like it is, right? 

Yeah, it does. And then there’s this advent of all of the endometrial receptivity testing, the microbiome testing. So these are all factors that, you know, if a patient might only land maybe with one or two genetically normal embryos, we wanna get the lining right. Right? And so, I think this, that acupuncture is a very, very effective way of non-pharmaceutical influencing that endometrial blood flow and receptivity. 

The uterus receptivity, I noticed here locally, and you mentioned the endometrial receptivity array in the microbiome. It seems like the IVF clinics now are taking a page out of the naturopathic doctor’s approach because you guys, when I think of probiotics, I think of naturopathic medicine, and it seems, I know in our clinic they’re doing a lot of probiotic work, vaginally, suppositories, and so are the IVF clinics. That’s new to the IVF world. But that’s not new for what you guys have been doing. 

No, for sure. You know, we’ve been on the probiotic train for a long period of time. What I do think is really interesting and new is that we used to think that the endometrial environment was like, I don’t know, sterile or whatever they thought, which is kind of ridiculous. It’s open to the world. That’s how people get pregnant. 

And it’s the spectrum of the microbes that we’re seeing and how much that varies per patient. Once you start seeing these microbiome tests come across, you recognize that there’s a massive variability in the species that are present. And once you get that particular, then you can really narrow down on what treatment is best for her. Because otherwise, a pathogenic  bacteria could go undetected for years and years and years and years. 

And then one last question for you is, what about the men? What’s your… I know you’re publishing about IUI and looking at the women. Is there any information that you know about from your data about the men or is that… chapter two? 

Well, this obviously spurred a ton of interest both in our clinic and with our doctors and our researchers. And so, we are currently, the male data is the next, kind of set that we’re gonna look at retrospectively, because it’s all in the chart. We just have to go back and collect it and manipulate it. And,  indeed, there is a strong significance in preconception care and improving semen analysis in men. 

And, you know, we have a decent relationship as well with Mount Sinai urology, and so, when men are, you know, it’s not anatomical or hormonal, then it  should be lifestyle, right? And so then we’re their next call. And so, it only makes sense, you know, they’re half the DNA of the baby and it only makes sense to treat them with equal care as we do our women. 

Takes two to make a baby. So in a summary, in a nutshell, if you’re looking for integrative care and you’re in the greater Toronto area of Canada, then checkout Conceive Health, for Dr. Tracy Malone’s clinics where they are literally practicing integrative care. If you’re in the Vancouver, BC Canada, lower mainland area, this is how we practice as well. So do check out Acubalance Wellness Center in the Vancouver, BC area and otherwise also look at who shared this video because there’s a good chance they’re somebody that’s practicing integrative care, where they’re looking at diet extra testing, supplements and the acupuncture, which we seem so beneficial with your data.

So if you’re looking to optimize your fertility, do check out somebody that’s practicing this integrative model. Dr. Tracy Malone, thank you very much. 

Great, Lorne. Thank you so much for having me and wishing you all well on this long weekend. 

Thank you.