IVF Acupuncture: How many treatments to get success?

Mariana Carranza's picture

Acupuncture Dose - How many treatments to improve fertility & IVF success

A subject that emerges frequently when addressing optimum fertility using acupuncture as an adjunct therapy, is that of dose. How many treatments are necessary to improve fertility and IVF success rates is an essential question that has been the subject of scientific research. It is sensible to think that if acupuncture has a physiological effect it is likely to have a dose, and it is crucial to determine what that dose is.

Current research & available data to understand acupuncture’s effect on IVF pregnancy outcomes

Current research on the importance of dose looks at a specific set of factors: the number of treatment sessions, the number of acupuncture needles used, the length of the session, mode of stimulation, and point selection based on a credible therapeutic rationale that links point selection to desired outcomes. These key components are cardinal when looking at dose because dosage matters just as much in every other medical intervention. We can look at this concept in the context of how the amount of milligrams used is crucial for an NSAID (anti-inflammatory medication) to deliver analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects, just like the number of gonadotropins (IVF stimulation drugs) is vital for ensuring egg development-so is the importance of dosage in acupuncture treatments.

A group of researchers recently published a study analyzing the currently available data to understand acupuncture’s effect on IVF pregnancy outcomes. In their meta-analysis, the researchers reviewed the best high-quality RCT’s and concluded that one to three acupuncture treatments did not significantly increase IVF outcomes. The reason for these results comes down to two things: The first consideration pertains to the question of what an adequate acupuncture dose is. One to three acupuncture treatments is inconsistent with usual acupuncture practice; what happens in clinical reality. For comparison, two acupuncture treatments given on the day of embryo transfer is comparable to trying to cook a five-course meal with only two ingredients. The second revolves around the concept of individualization as an essential component of Chinese Medicine methodology, which dictates a large part of the treatment plan. Treatments are highly individualized and for this reason, also highly effective. Consequently, using a standardized acupuncture treatment in a limited dose is not always the best treatment strategy to improve IVF outcomes.


A tertiary concept to consider is that of timing. Pertaining to women’s health and IVF research, the menstrual cycle adds another layer of complexity. The treatment administered at different times of the menstrual cycle has different effects. In assisted reproductive technology, it is paramount to think about the different stages of down-regulation, retrieval, and transfer.

Further analysis of the previous meta-analysis looking at 20 trials between 2002 and 2018 that met the inclusion criteria, found evidence of a statistically significant increase in pregnancies when acupuncture was compared with no adjunctive treatment. This positive effect was seen with ongoing pregnancies, live births, and reduced miscarriage. The clinical pregnancy rate also increased where more than three treatments were administered. This analysis found that a greater number of acupuncture treatments increases IVF success rate. Delivering treatment before or on the day of embryo transfer or prior to did show improvement. Another important finding was that acupuncture has a greater effect on women with previous sub-optimal response to IVF, making acupuncture a great adjunct treatment.


To come back to our question, how often should we be delivering treatment? We don’t have a definitive answer yet, however, research points to a clear correlation between dose and outcome: A sub-therapeutic dose will have sub-therapeutic results. Chinese Medicine theory supports this logic as well. The right amount of needles, enough stimulation, correct diagnosis, and frequency of treatment are pivotal considerations for any condition treated through this medical system-fertility and IVF-ET is one of them as well.

Pre-conception Care at Acubalance

At Acubalance, we recommend pre-conception care to maximize egg by following the follicular genesis (the maturation process of the follicle which contains the egg) by using the 100 days before an IVF cycle to work on your overall health through diet, lifestyle, meditation, acupuncture, supplements and laser for fertility therapy. Read more on the 100 Days to Peak Fertility >>


In Health,


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IVF Acupuncture Vancouver: Acupuncture Dose - How many treatments to improve fertility & IVF success